Press Releases

     

    GA/SHC/3757
    4 November 2003

    HIGH COMMISSIONER STRESSES NEED TO FIND DURABLE
    SOLUTIONS, ENSURE HUMAN SECURITY, AS THIRD
    COMMITTEE BEGINS REFUGEE DISCUSSION

    NEW YORK, 3 November (UN Headquarters) -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, addressed the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it began consideration of issues related to assistance to refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons, with delegations stressing the need to ensure human security for those persons and for the international community, to find durable solutions for their precarious predicament.

    Mr. Lubbers said deliberations during the “UNHCR 2004” process, which aimed to review the agency’s role within the United Nations and vis-à-vis States to better carry out its mandate, had centred on giving a higher profile to refugee issues.  It had been noted that the time limitation set for UNHCR’s mandate was anachronistic and no longer reflected today’s realities.  He proposed the removal of that limitation to strengthen the multilateral approach to refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons, to improve standards of protection and to find durable solutions.

    The UNHCR’s role remained to provide protection, assistance and durable solutions for refugees, he said.  That often included projects assisting other categories of people whose lives had been affected by violence and persecution, such as returnees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and internally displaced persons.  In fact, in today’s conflicts, more people fled within their own country than across international borders.  The situation of internally displaced persons was often extremely precarious.

    He reaffirmed his belief in the UNHCR-developed Framework for Durable Solutions and elaborated on its three main elements -- the promotion of Development Assistance for Refugees (DAR) to countries and areas hosting large number of refugees over protracted periods; the establishment of the “4Rs” programmes in post-conflict situations aimed at ensuring an integrated approach to repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction; and -- when a viable option -- Development through Local Integration (DLI).  Such initiatives had already led to concrete results in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Zambia.

    In the discussion that followed, delegations stressed the need to ensure human security for refugees and internally displaced persons.  Speakers also asked about the criteria used by the UNHCR to know when to intervene in situations relating to internally displaced persons, as well as about the “4Rs” initiative and development through local integration.  Reference was also made to the low levels of funding for the agency and its effects on national programmes, and the need to find innovative sources of funding.

    Addressing the need for cooperation to achieve durable solutions, the representative of the United States said the UNHCR had facilitated the voluntary repatriation of several large and longstanding refugee populations, including in Afghanistan.  He called on donors to provide adequate levels of funding for the agency and to support the recommendation that its mandate be extended with no time limitations.  The United States’ “plan A” for refugee care and protection was to support the UNHCR and its mandate.  There was no “plan B”; the task ahead was to make sure that “plan A” worked.

    Stressing the importance of the UNHCR, Norway’s representative reminded the Committee that the agency’s statute -- adopted by the General Assembly -- stipulated that administrative expenditures be covered by the regular budget.  Therefore, the Assembly’s current session had the opportunity to prove that it respected its own decisions by supporting the modest increases proposed by the Secretary-General.

    Even though refugees could eventually contribute to the economic development of a host country, several delegates said that voluntary repatriation was the most suitable and appropriate solution to deal with refugee situations.  The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, said that African countries, as hosts to the largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world, bore a humanitarian burden that placed an enormous strain on their already scarce resources.  He, like others, called for increased burden sharing among the international community.

    China’s representative said that many countries in Africa and Asia had for years received large numbers of refugees, putting enormous strains on their economies and societies.  In the context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, States were urged to help developing countries and least developed countries to develop their economies in order to eliminate the refugee problem at its root.

    Also speaking were the representatives of Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Switzerland, Canada, Sudan, Venezuela, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan (on behalf of Georgia, Ukraine and Republic of Moldova) and Mexico.

    In addition, the representatives of the International Organization for Migration, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the World Food Programme also spoke.

    The Committee will reconvene tomorrow, 4 November, at 3 p.m. to continue its general discussion on refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons.

     

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) will begin its consideration of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons.

    The Committee has before it a report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (A/58/12) that shows encouraging repatriation developments in 2002.  Major repatriation operations helped millions of people return to their homes in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste, and progress towards peace elsewhere brought new opportunities for return movements.  The report notes the sustainable reintegration of returnees hinges on the stabilization of peace processes and on the maintenance of security for returnees and local populations.  According to the report, an estimated 20 million people were of concern to UNHCR at the end of 2002, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia, Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, and Saharan refugees still in camps.

    The UNHCR has sought to promote recognition of the potential self-reliance and productivity of refugees through a framework called “Development Assistance for Refugees” (DAR), which incorporates two concepts:  the “4Rs” integrated approach and the Development through Local Integration (DLI) strategy.  The “4Rs” approach addresses the processes of repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction in post-conflict situations, and the DLI strategy helps States that wish to promote refugees’ self-reliance and integration within a local population.

    Successful implementation of these strategies requires the cooperation of the governments concerned and of development partners, including those within the United Nations system.

    There is also a report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Assistance to Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons in Africa (document A/58/353).  The report contains an overview of recent developments and activities, information about inter-agency cooperation on thematic issues, and an overview of cooperation with regional organizations in Africa.

    The report notes that as of early 2003, Africa was hosting 3.3 million refugees, about 32 per cent of the global refugee population.  The largest refugee groups in the continent continued to originate from Burundi, the Sudan, Angola, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Eritrea, followed by Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    A series of peace initiatives in 2002-2003 have raised hopes for solutions to refugee situations in a number of African countries.  The report urges the mobilization of more resources for rehabilitation and reconstruction activities. Also urgently needed is the integration of conflict-affected communities within programmes for socio-economic development, income-generation and capacity-building.  It concludes that governments, civil society and the international community in general must demonstrate increased awareness of the many complexities affecting refugee problems in Africa, in order to realize lasting solutions.

    There is a report of the Secretary-General on the follow-up to the Regional Conference to Address the Problems of Refugees, Displaced Persons, Other Forms of Involuntary Displacement and Returnees in the Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Relevant Neighbouring States (document A/58/281). The report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 56/134 of 2001, which recognized the ongoing acuteness of the migration and displacement problems in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The resolution invited those countries to intensify bilateral, subregional and regional cooperation in maintaining the balance of commitments and interests in such activities. 

    The report concludes that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is committed to continuing to work in partnership to address outstanding elements identified as part of the 1996 Geneva Conference follow-up process, and to supporting a review mechanism that is adjusted to the evolving environment in which the 12 Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries coexist and which affects their relationships both within and beyond their geographical borders. 

    A report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on strengthening the capacity of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to carry out its mandate (document A/58/410) aims to review how could be better positioned to meet the “challenges of modernity”.  These challenges include responding to changes in the nature of armed conflict and its effects on patterns of population displacement, to globalization and the need for greater international cooperation on refugee protection, to the growth in the number of actors involved in humanitarian assistance activities, and other trends related to migration, asylum policies, and development strategies.

    The report stresses multilateralism as a key element in making UNHCR more effective and the importance of the Office to forge closer relationships with States to ensure that a maximum number are co-owners of UNHCR policies and actively participate in their implementation.  The report also notes the importance of UNHCR establishing better links with the United Nations system and enhancing interaction with the Office of the Secretary-General, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  In addition, it recognizes the continued importance of non-governmental organizations and the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their roles as advocates, humanitarian actors and operational partners.

    The High Commissioner urges States to support additional incremental increases in the allocation of funding from the United Nations regular budget to reach a level consistent with the Office’s Statute, which states that the Office shall be financed under the budget of the United Nations with respect to its administrative expenditures.  The report notes that currently only some $23 million are funded each year through the United Nations regular budget so that the UNHCR budget still shoulders a sizable proportion of administrative expenditures.

    Finally, there is a report of the Secretary-General on assistance unaccompanied minors (document A/58/299, which states that children are at increased risk of becoming separated from their families and caregivers in the turmoil of conflict and flight.  Unaccompanied and separated children are entitled to international protection under international human rights law, international refugee law, international humanitarian law and various regional instruments.  They require immediate protection and assistance, as they are facing increased risks, notably, those of military recruitment; sexual exploitation; abuse and violence; forced labour; irregular adoption; trafficking and discrimination.

    The report stresses the need for stronger, more persistent attention on the part of all actors involved with unaccompanied and separated refugee children to achieve more effective identification, registration, tracing and family reunification systems.  Effective inter-agency cooperation and the involvement of the community, including the children themselves, are indispensable to the success of those efforts.  

    Statements

    RUUD LUBBERS, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said he had set up a process known as “UNHCR 2004”, aiming to review how UNHCR was situated within the United Nations system vis-à-vis States and partners, and to determine how it could be better positioned to carry out its mandate.  The result of that process was a report that he hoped the General Assembly would endorse.  The report supported the goals, objectives and commitments contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, as well as the Secretary-General’s efforts to strengthen the United Nations.  He counted on governments to endorse the proposed Assembly resolution resulting from the report, since that would help strengthen UNHCR’s multilateral character and ensure that it was adequately equipped to carry out its mandate in the context of a changing international political environment. 

    Deliberations during the “UNCHR 2004” process centred on how to give a higher profile to the refugee issue, he said.  One of the outcomes was the recognition that the time limitation on UNHCR’s mandate was anachronistic and no longer reflected today’s realities.  The proposal to remove the time limitation must be seen as a way of strengthening the multilateral approach to managing global challenges relating to refugees, returnees, and internally displaced persons, those affected by statelessness and other persons of concern to his office.  The removal of the time limitation would translate into a stronger commitment from States to UNHCR’s mandate, thus leading to improved standards of care and protection and opening up more opportunities for finding durable solutions. 

    Concerning categories of persons of concern to UNHCR, he said the primary function of the Office remained that of providing protection, assistance and durable solutions for refugees.  In line with UNHCR’s Statute, however, the scope of its activities was wider than that and often involved programmes to assist other categories of people whose lives had been affected by violence and persecution, such as returnees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and internally displaced persons.  In many of today’s conflicts, there were more people fleeing to places within their own country than across international borders. Their situation was often extremely precarious. While primary responsibility for ensuring their protection lay with national and local authorities, in many cases, particularly where a vacuum of authority existed -- other agencies, including UNHCR, had an important protection and assistance role. 

    In that connection, he said that his office supported the collaborative approach to addressing the needs of the internally displaced and the special role of the Emergency Relief Coordinator.  However, he was concerned that the collaborative approach left too much to be decided on an ad hoc basis.  More needed to be done to strengthen that approach, to ensure more rapid agreement on the inter-agency division of labour, better planning, faster operational deployment and improved funding.  His reports also stressed the importance of enhancing prospects for finding durable solutions for refugees.  With that in mind, UNHCR had developed a Framework for Durable Solutions.

    The Framework consisted of three elements, he said.  First, the promotion of Development Assistance for Refugees (DAR) through better targeting of such assistance to countries and areas hosting large numbers of refugees over protracted periods.  Second, through the establishment of the “4Rs” programmes in post-conflict situations aimed at ensuring an integrated approach to repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction.  And finally, through the promotion, in cases where local integration of refugees was a viable option, of a strategy of Development through Local Integration (DLI).  Those initiatives had already led to concrete projects in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Zambia.    

    One of the indirect outcomes of both the “UNHCR 2004” process and the Global Consultations on International Protection that had ended last year was the “Convention Plus” initiative, he said.  That initiative was about strengthening and complementing those instruments through the development of multilateral special agreements aimed at enhancing burden sharing and sharpening the focus on achieving durable solutions.  A dominant part of the report was the need for effective coordination and partnership.  His office needed to strengthen its engagement with the peace and security pillars of the United Nations, and had recently joined the United Nations Development Group.  He hoped that would help ensure that durable solutions for refugees and other persons of concern to his office were firmly on the development agenda.

    On funding, he had proposed new measures to broaden the funding base and diversify its sources, including through the private sector.  He had also proposed a 30 per cent base level model for those States that wished to apply it.  At present, eight donors continued to provide over 80 per cent of UNHCR’s funds.  He had, therefore, also proposed an incremental increase in UNHCR’s share of the United Nations regular budget. 

    Concerning staff security, he said that security was not only about security procedures, it was about having staff in the field that were well trained and able to communicate effectively with local interlocutors, to enhance understanding of the humanitarian principles that guided the work.  It must be remembered that ultimately, the answers did not lie in only tightening up United Nations rules, but in improving the political environment in which the United Nations worked. 

    On UNHCR’s key operations, he said that in Africa, much focus was on the repatriation of refugees to Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.  In Asia, finding long-term solutions for displaced Afghans remained a priority.  More than 2.2 million Afghan refugees had returned to their homes since December 2001.  Other key areas, which would continue to demand active engagement in 2004, included the Northern Caucasus, where displaced Chechens in Ingushetia had recently come under pressure to return to Chechnya, and Colombia, where the number of internally displaced persons had risen in the last year to well over two million.

    Interactive Dialogue

    The representative of Pakistan sought clarification on the High Commissioner’s remarks regarding the strengthening of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.  He also asked the High Commissioner to address development issues related to the local integration of refugee communities, noting such communities placed enormous burdens on developing countries that already had difficulties meeting development targets, making it impossible for them to increase the allotment of resources for assisting refugees.  The situation was especially critical for countries hosting long-term refugees, who faced little likelihood of returning to their countries of origin.

    Mr. LUBBERS, responding, said the UNHCR intended to come to specific agreements to complement the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol through two avenues of action.  There would be country-specific agreements for States to make commitments to work together more effectively towards burden sharing and durable solutions, so as not to push out refugees.  There would also be generic agreements to get countries to implement development assistance projects for refugees, in a way that would also benefit the development needs of the host communities.  The generic agreements would also address resettlement efforts.  He said the country-specific efforts could be developed in parallel with generic agreements.

                                                                                                                                                 

    Turning to concerns raised about local integration, he said it was up to host countries to decide what approaches to take to handle refugee populations.  They must choose to what extent they would provide support for those communities in terms of land allotments and other support mechanisms.  He pointed out that the whole reality of refugees being a burden would be different if the international community was willing to give more development assistance to countries hosting refugee communities.  He stressed the value to the local economy of those refugees, who became self-sufficient to the extent that they did not need assistance from the host country and were contributing to the economy of host country.  That was not a bad thing.  The promotion of self-reliance and development assistance for refugees were both positive aspects in the process of local integration of refugee communities.

    A representative of Japan said the new approach of development assistance for refugees was very important for durable solutions.  The representative also stressed the need to include concepts of human security and asked about effective collaboration.

    It would have been useful if the report of the High Commissioner had elaborated further on issues related to immigration and asylum seeking procedures, and stressed the need to strengthen international cooperation in that regard.

    A representative of the Russian Federation asked when the UNHCR should and should not intervene in situations involving internally displaced persons.  The High Commissioner had said that Chechen internally displaced persons in Ingushetia had been pressured to return to Chechnya.  The Russian Federation refuted that statement 

                                                                                                                                                 

    Responding, Mr. Lubbers said it was indeed necessary to ensure human security.  Last week, he had attended a meeting chaired by the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on how to cooperate for durable solutions within the United Nations Development Group. 

    Concerning remarks made by the representative of Mexico, he said it was important that governments and States were treating refugees and asylum seekers in a fair manner. 

    Responding to the representative of the Russian Federation, Mr. Lubbers said internally displaced persons were people on the move as a result of their interpretation of violence against them or their lack of rights.  The UNHCR could not involve itself in all such situations, since people often moved because of natural disasters or poverty.  Sometimes, there was a combination of factors.   The criteria for the UNHCR were the country itself, and whether the government was assisting internally displaced persons.  There also needed to be a “green light” from the donor community.  The UNHCR would also get involved when it had a competitive edge and could provide better assistance and care than other agencies.  Concerning the situation of Chechen internally displaced persons, he said the UNHCR was available to come back to Grozny to facilitate their voluntary return.  Return must be voluntary and would best be carried out with the help of  the UNHCR. 

    The representative of Bosnia Herzegovina said that with the refugee repatriation process almost completed, he would like to know if the UNHCR planned to conclude its operations in his country / the Balkans in the summer of 2004, as stated in the High Commissioner’s report.  He also asked the High Commissioner to comment on the issue of durable solutions for returnees as it related to Bosnia Herzegovina in particular. 

    The representative of Sudan, noting repatriation was the preferred solution for the problem of refugees, stressed that refugees coming back again found no help from the UNHCR in instances when the cessation clause had been applied too quickly.  Such refugees still needed and deserved support.  She also welcomed the High Commissioner’s plans for a visit to Sudan next week to visit refugee camps in the eastern and southern regions of the country.  Regarding the issue of funding for the UNHCR, which affected national programmes in each country, she wanted to know if the High Commissioner had any ideas to attract more funding to ensure continued support for national programmes.

    The representative of Pakistan asked the High Commissioner what changes he envisioned in the streamlining of the reporting requirement to the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. 

    Responding, Mr. Lubbers said the repatriation of refugees in Bosnia Herzegovina was indeed a success story and that the UNHCR was reducing its presence and activities. 

    Regarding Sudan’s concerns about the application of the cessation clause, he said that if there was to be peace in a country, the UNHCR had to be prepared to use the cessation clause.  The clause was not applied abruptly and assistance continued through a phasing out process. 

    He said reports from his office would continue to go through the Third Committee, where the critical debates on refugee issues would continue to take place, even if reports also went to the ECOSOC.`

    A representative of Yemen asked about measures taken to offer assistance to countries hosting refugees that were affected by HIV/AIDS.

     Mr. Lubbers and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were thanked for its important work by the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    Responding, Mr. LUBBERS said that it was necessary to look at the HIV/AIDS issue in a broader context.  Many refugees came from war zones and violence, so one would expect a high HIV/AIDS risk.  Generally speaking, the levels of HIV/AIDS in refugee camps were lower than that of the host country.  That was partly due to information campaigns undertaken and medical assistance given in the camps by UNHCR employees. 

    ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said refugees represented one of the most pressing issues facing the international community today.  The European Union greatly appreciated the sizeable number of activities being carried out by the UNHCR and supported the agency’s emphasis on transitional needs in post-conflict and protracted refugee situations.  The framework for promoting self-reliance of refugees and returnees, and supporting the economies of the communities in which they were living, required the full involvement of governments and development agencies.  He welcomed the recent launch by the UNHCR of guidelines on preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence, and the implementation of a code of conduct for its staff.

    Of particular importance to the Union was the asylum and migration nexus, he continued, saying it was necessary to treat asylum and migration as distinct processes to avoid any abuse of asylum for migratory purposes.  He shared the UNHCR’s concerns and agreed with its efforts to establish efficient status determination mechanisms aimed at identifying persons genuinely in need of international protection, while detecting unfounded applications lodged by economic migrants.

    Regarding resources, he said the underfunding of UNHCR’s budget had sadly become routine.  The budget presented by the High Commissioner was based more on the level of resources he expected to be able to raise, rather than a reflection of the assessed protection and assistance needs of refugees.  The Union looked forward to the presentation of a needs-based budget that would present an accurate picture of the costs of meeting basic humanitarian needs.

    SICHAN SIV (United States) said a key effort of the UNHCR had been facilitating voluntary repatriation of several large and longstanding refugee populations.  In Afghanistan, over 2 million refugees had been repatriated since 2002.  The UNHCR had not only assisted in their return, but had also supported efforts to reintegrate them back into society.  In Angola, an estimated 150,000 refugees had returned home since the end of the war.  The UNHCR, working with the International Organization for Migration and other partners, was currently making a valiant effort to return as many refugees as possible before the onset of the rainy season.  He hoped to say the same for Iraqi refugees in the not-so-distant future.  In addition, he looked forward to increased cooperation with the Iraqi people, the United Nations, and other peace-minded actors to bring stability to Iraq, and to allow for the eventual return of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees. 

    Unfortunately, for millions of refugees, lasting solutions were not expected any time soon, and in some places, the international community faced new refugee outflows, he noted.  Much work remained to be done in that regard.  He continued to believe that a multilateral approach to refugee protection and assistance was paramount and called on other donors to provide the UNHCR with the funding it needed to do the job.  He supported the recommendation that UNHCR’s mandate be extended with no time limitations.  The United States’ “plan A” for refugee care and protection was to support the UNHCR and its mandate.  There was no “plan B”.  The task ahead was to make sure that “plan A” worked.

    PATRICK EGLOFF (Switzerland) said the High Commissioner’s report confirmed the relevance of UNHCR’s mandate.  There were many obstacles to finding solutions to refugee problems.  Closer cooperation among agencies while ensuring respective mandates of all those involved was critical.  It was necessary to look at tangible effects on the ground.  His delegation invited UNHCR to strengthen its ties to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and to non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  Also, the UNHCR must have sufficient resources to continue implementing its mandate.  In that regard, he suggested a more optimal use of resources and planning to both maximize savings and continue to meet the needs of refugees.  More disciplined methodologies should be developed in transparent ways.

    He said Switzerland would begin a dialogue on issues related to international migration to be based on studies of specific cases. Dialogue among the various actors involved was critical to meet the challenges of international migration.  He was concerned about the deteriorating conditions of humanitarian personnel, and noted in particular the recent attack on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Baghdad.  Such acts were unacceptable and all perpetrators must be punished.

    HU BIN (China) said it was clear from the report of the High Commissioner that the period under review had seen continued challenges and problems for the protection of refugees.  The present situation was characterized by a preponderance of refugee flows in less developed regions.  Massive flows of refugees now, more than before, originated from developing countries and least developed countries.  Those countries were also often hosts to large inflows of refugees.  Many countries in Africa and Asia had for years received large numbers of refugees that had put an enormous strain on their economy and society.  Those countries had made important contributions to the protection of refugees.  Today, the international community must, in accordance with the principle of international solidarity and burden sharing, increase its assistance to such host countries.  The international community must also, in the context of implementing the Millennium Development Goals, help developing countries and the least developed countries to develop their economy, so as to eliminate the refugee problem at its root. 

    Voluntary repatriation must be the preferred long-term solution to the refugee problem, he said.  Resettlement and local integration could also be considered where appropriate and feasible.  In cases involving large numbers of refugees, voluntary repatriation played a role that the other two approaches could not match.  He supported the “4Rs”, “development assistance for refugees” and “development through local integration”, as proposed by the UNHCR.  He hoped that the above-mentioned development-based approaches would make a real impact on, and provide new impetus to the resolution of the protracted refugee problems in various parts of the world. 

    NDUKU BOOTO (Democratic Republic of the Congo), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said Africa had experienced some of the world’s longest and most deadly conflicts, which had hampered stability and socio-economic development and displaced millions of peoples.  The member States of the SADC had hosted and continued to host a large percentage of refugees in Africa.  As host to the largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world, African countries bore a humanitarian burden that placed an enormous strain on their already scarce resources.

    He would like to see the strengthening of assistance to host countries in line with the agreed principle of burden sharing.  It was imperative that the international community continued to address the root causes of conflict that gave rise to refugee movements.  That implied the elimination of the scourges of war, poverty and injustice.  He emphasized the importance for all State and non-State actors to abide by the principles of the United Nations Charter and related norms of international law, and to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.

    Voluntary repatriation was the most desirable and durable solution, he added.  He welcomed the UNHCR’s efforts to protect and assist unaccompanied refugee minors, and urged the agency and its implementing partners to ensure that appropriate systems to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence were in place.

    JOHAN L. LOVALD (Norway) said recent developments, including both the progress made and the shortcomings and challenges, had been described in UNHCR’s report.  The “Reform Report” must be seen in light of the High Commissioner’s ambitious agenda for meeting the many challenges in the refugee area and the need to re-examine the tools at his disposal for carrying out his mandate and responding to the “challenges of modernity”.  It was noteworthy that on the crucial issue of finances, the High Commissioner had to be bold enough to go beyond the lowest common denominator and present some new ideas.  The UNHCR’s ability to operate was hindered by a funding structure that was not adapted to the Office’s worldwide responsibilities, or to the expectations of the international community. 

    Unfortunately, too many States, particularly developed ones, seemed to feel that their responsibility had ended with their participation in the adoption of UNHCR’s budget.  They had been too comfortable for far too long, leaving the actual financing of the budget to a small group of willing donors.  The first test was coming up soon.  The UNHCR’s statute, adopted by the Assembly, stipulated that UNHCR’s administrative expenditures were to be covered by the regular budget.  The Assembly had the opportunity to prove that it respected its own decision by supporting the modest increase proposed by the Secretary-General.  The refugee issue was a universal one and affected practically all States in one way or another.  One must not forget the absolutely essential contributions made by host countries in the developing world, often at a great economic, social and environmental expense.

    GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said significant progress had been made in resolving protracted refugee situations.  States and United Nations agencies must work together to ensure repatriation efforts proved durable in the long term.  The UNHCR must continue to play a catalytic role in encouraging inter-agency cooperation to ensure development programmes addressed refugee needs.  He deplored the fact that some States did not fulfil their obligations to provide assistance to refugees.  He was also greatly concerned about humanitarian staff working under difficult and dangerous situations, and encouraged the UNHCR to review its current approach to security management, in order to consider options on how it might need to be reinforced as part of United Nations system-wide efforts. 

    In the context of developing durable solutions, he said the UNHCR rightly emphasized the need to see refugees as agents of development. He called on the UNHCR to enhance its collaboration with the United Nations system and other partners.  Also, he strongly supported the inter-agency collaborative approach as the most effective way to meet the needs of displaced persons.  His country would continue to work with the UNCHR and other States in pursuing reforms aimed at making the organization more effective and providing it with the financial resources it needed to carry out its mandate. 

    LUCA DALL’OGLIO, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that for IOM -- whose core function and mandate was to promote international migration governance and orderly migration -- a recognition of the multifaceted aspects of international migration was a precondition for attaining a common knowledge base to provide a foundation for maximum complementarity.  In today’s world, international migration had achieved a degree of prominence on the international agenda that it had not achieved before. That was not only because of the estimated 175 million international migrants, but because all indicators pointed to migration as a continuing structural component of contemporary socio-economic development.

    He said the International Organization for Migration and the UNHCR were developing shared tools to address the link between migration and asylum, and to find mutually agreed responses in their respective fields of competence and expertise.  While international and national laws differentiated between asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants, the reality of the situation was more blurred.  Migration flows were often mixed and the origins, routes and methods used by asylum seekers and job seekers were frequently the same.  As a result, the capacity to preserve an effective asylum regime was linked with the mutual reinforcement of migration and asylum law and practices.  New approaches were being explored to address that interlinked challenge in a comprehensive and diversified manner, including the strengthening of the protection regime and capacity-building in migration management in the regions of origin. 

    BEKELE GELETA, representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said that body looked forward to working more closely with governments to enhance the opportunities of its member societies as trusted interlocutors on issues relating to population movement.  The Federation was working through its national societies at regional levels to raise awareness about the scope and scale of population movement issues.

    He said the report of the High Commissioner on strengthening the capacity of the Office and mandate had posed good questions, and the Federation looked forward to contributing to the search for solutions at the national, regional and global levels.  It also looked forward to opportunities to contribute with a Red Cross and Red Crescent approach to population movement, focusing on the vulnerability of those concerned.

    Closing Remarks

    Making concluding remarks, Mr. Lubbers stressed the importance of neutrality and impartiality in the work of the UNHCR.  He said one of the most important developments in recent years was the increasing recognition of the framework for durable solution.  Concerning internally displaced persons, he said he had reported to the Secretary-General that, indeed, UNHCR could fulfil a specific and defined role for a certain number of internally displaced persons.  There were however many situations where internally displaced persons remained in that category one year after the other.  In such situations, it would be best to determine which organization was most useful to get involved.  He said the UNHCR informed the humanitarian relief coordinator about all such situations.

    He said that non-state actors, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), also served up-rooted peoples, including in war zones.  Their roles were complementary to that of the UNHCR, which operated at a little bit more distance.  The work of International Organization for Migration and that of the UNHCR was also complementary in determining when it was safe for people to return in safety and with dignity.  There was an increasing interest in the phenomenon of migration within the United Nations, he said.     

    MOHAMMED OSMAN AKASHA (Sudan) said his country had for three decades faced flows of refugees, which had an impact on social affairs and the environment.  His Government would like to see a sharing of the load and was concerned about declining international aid for refugees in the Sudan.  There was a critical need for aid to redevelop areas where there were refugees, and where natural resources and health had been impacted.  Voluntary return was the best possible solution for refugees.  Sudanese refugees had faced substantial problems with respect to their rights.  Sudan supported the strategy of the UNHCR for voluntary return, rehabilitation and reconstruction. 

    The decline in the financial resources being made available to the UNHCR, as well as discriminatory treatment of some refugees were of concern, he added.  His Government was also concerned about the safety of United Nations personnel to carry out humanitarian activities and about sexual exploitation and abuse. 

    ADRIANA P. PULIDO SANTANA (Venezuela) said the problem of refugees was becoming more dramatic every day.  Millions of people were displaced throughout the world, both internationally and internally.  It had therefore been very interesting to hear the thoughts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, on the need for cooperation to find durable solutions earlier this morning.  It was important to meet the real needs of displaced persons, she said.  The UNHCR played a fundamental role in that process and required the full support of the international community.  In that connection, she stressed the need to harmonize and optimize resources for the UNHCR. 

    Concerning asylum seekers and refugees, she highlighted that it was important to create an enabling social and economic environment allowing the implementation of the “4Rs” of repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction. The international community must share that responsibility.  She said that even though asylum seeking was a fundamental institution protecting refugees and displaced persons, there were other tools that could be used to ensure their protection, as elaborated in “Convention Plus”. She told the Committee that in July, her Government had established a National Commission for Refugees that aimed to apply fast and effective procedures to help displaced persons, such as those persons having arrived in Venezuela from Colombia. 

    DMITRY V. KNYAZHINSKIY (Russian Federation) said the humanitarian component to prevent crises in post-conflict settlements remained an imperative of the times.  It was necessary to plan for a model to make the link between international assistance, emergency assistance and promoting development to adequately address the disconnect among efforts in those areas. 

    He said one of the greatest threats leading to the mass movement of people was terrorism.  It was critical that the international community continued to combat that scourge. 

    Regarding UNHCR reform, he said the agency should take a balanced approach to increase the effectiveness of its work within the current mandate.  It was necessary to apply caution to provide UNHCR personnel safety, he added.  The insufficient attention of the international community to migrants in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) territory was also of great concern. 

    YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan), also speaking on behalf of Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, also known as the GUUAM countries, said that millions of people violently expelled from their homes constituted the least developed and most vulnerable groups of the population of three GUUAM States.  It was a heavy burden for those countries to properly take care of the most immediate needs of the affected population, given that the eventual resolution of their troubles was closely linked and dependent on the settlement on the armed conflicts in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, Abkhaz and Tskhinvali regions of Georgia, and the Transdniestrian region of Moldova.  The allocation of vast resources to meet their very basic requirements significantly curtailed the capacities of countries concerned to develop their market-based economy.

    Therefore, while fully understanding that the primary responsibility for addressing those issues rested with the State concerned, he believed that the issue of protection of refugees and internally displaced persons must be viewed as an international responsibility.  That necessitated a shared commitment to multilateral actions to ensure timely and effective responses to humanitarian crises.  It was of paramount importance to strike a clear-cut balance between the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance and activities for recovery and development.  Development projects ought not to be carried out at the expense of emergency humanitarian assistance.  He hoped that today’s deliberations would pave the way for a clearer definition and understanding of what should constitute humanitarian responses to meet the needs of refugees and displaced persons.   

    ALEJANDRO NEGRIN (Mexico) said his Government had insisted on the continued development of lasting solutions to the problem of refugees and supported the “4Rs” approach of repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction, proposed by the High Commissioner.  Other initiatives of the Commissioner, specifically the “Convention Plus” proposal, needed further study.  Mexico had recently initiated efforts to adopt a national agenda for the protection of refugees, including the improvement of procedures for granting asylum in individual cases and the strengthening of ties with civil society, including NGOs, with a view to realizing a more equitable burden sharing and the development of long-lasting solutions.

    JUDY CHENG-HOPKINS, of the World Food Programme (WFP), said the WFP and the UNHCR were two of the main United Nations front-line agencies in emergency situations and had enjoyed a longstanding, fruitful collaboration.  That was mainly due to the fact that both were cognizant of the crucial importance of linkages between peace and security, humanitarian work and development.  Guided by a dynamic and effective Memorandum of Understanding, the two agencies would increasingly work together to support the search for durable solutions wherever and whenever possible. 

    The WFP strongly supported the involvement of the UNHCR in activities such as the Common Country Assessment and the United Nations Decade Against Drug Abuse (1991-2000), linking the UNHCR and the issues of refugees, returnees and IDPs more closely with the United Nations country team.  The WFP looked forward to working with the UNHCR to support the relevant recommendations outlined by the High Commissioner on strengthening the capacity of the office to carry out its mandate. 

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