In Geneva, UN chief stresses central role of human rights in global humanitarian efforts

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the annual meeting of UNHCR’s governing Executive Committee in Geneva. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

1 October 2014 – Amid mounting crises, a warming planet and the spread of contagious diseases, the world is being consumed by “many troubles,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he pressed the international community to engage in “unprecedented cooperation” as it faces a slew of global predicaments.

In his remarks to the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNCHR) annual Executive Committee meeting held in Geneva, the Secretary-General warned the gathered Member States that the “snapshot” of the state of the world is “not a pretty picture,” adding that never before has the UN had to confront “so many refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers” and provide “so many with emergency food assistance and other life-saving support.”

“The world must do more to prevent forced displacement, address its root causes, and support solutions for those affected by it,” Mr. Ban stressed. “This requires greater resources and more political leadership. It also requires unprecedented cooperation by the international community.”

Pointing to the multitude of global crises, spanning from Iraq and Syria to the Central African Republic and Horn of Africa, he urged “an earlier and greater focus” on human rights for the millions of refugees displaced by the conflicts and reminded Member States that human rights should be the centre point of their humanitarian assistance.

“That is what we call Human Rights Up Front,” Mr. Ban continued. “Human rights should be put at the centre and the front when dealing with refugees and asylum seekers.”

UNHCR’s Executive Committee reviews and approves the agency’s programmes and budget, advises on international protection and discusses a wide range of other issues with UNHCR and its intergovernmental and non-governmental partners on an annual basis.

Addressing the 94-member body yesterday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, cast a similarly foreboding picture of the global humanitarian situation, declaring that “the adequacy and sustainability of the resources available for humanitarian response” has been called into question by the accelerating demands made by a turbulent international political climate. In addition, he also urged more comprehensive prevention and conflict-resolution measures to be initiated by State actors in order to inhibit humanitarian crises altogether.

At today’s meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon echoed Mr. Guterres’ remarks, emphasizing the need to combine the efforts made by Member States on development and humanitarian issues.

“Unresolved displacement can upend a country’s path to posterity. That is why the needs and potential of displaced populations must be reflected in national development plans and based on joint analysis,” noted Mr. Ban. “There should be no separation between humanitarian and development – it’s all part of development issues.”

As he reminded the Committee to continue to ensure that the humanitarian system is “fit for purpose,” the Secretary-General also applauded UNHCR’s 10-year plan to eliminate statelessness in the world and called for “concrete action for changing nationality laws, resolving the plight of stateless people and ensuring no child is born without citizenship.”

“We must reaffirm the universality of humanitarian principles which, when respected, protect both the victims and those who came to their rescue,” he proclaimed. “We simply cannot accept the erosion of these fundamental principles – anywhere, at any time, for any reason.”


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