– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

24 September 2018

At The Global Compact on Refugees: a model for greater solidarity and cooperation

Mr. Filippo Grandi, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Please let me begin by thanking the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi and his colleagues for extending this kind invitation and for organizing this High-Level Panel. I am really looking forward to working closely with you and your colleagues in the busy months ahead and especially as we take up the Global Compact on Refugees.

I am confident that the spirit of the New Way of Working (NWOW), which influenced the consensus around the Compact, will similarly greet its consideration. Equally, important, I look forward to working with Member States to look at ways to support the envisaged Global Refugee Forum.

The compact will set in motion a spirit of humanitarianism that responds to the needs of refugees and host communities. And it will challenge us to make efforts beyond the language in the compact to aspire to create obligations, even as we accept the outcome on a voluntary basis. This is a big challenge, but I am confident that together, as Member States, as civil society and the UN family, we will meet it.

When I stood for election as President of the General Assembly, I made clear my determination to put tackling the world’s refugee crises at the top of my agenda. The road after Geneva may not always take us in a straight direction, sometimes it may even be rocky, but with your help we shall navigate it successfully and reach our destination. My own experience working to help refugees from Colombia in my own country of Ecuador, has also helped enormously to shape my outlook on the plight of refugees world-wide.

Refugees demand and need our assistance and our protection. We simply cannot stand by, and walk on the other side of the road. Not especially when the situation continues in a way that challenges everything about our values. Every day we continue to see people moving in all regions of the world.

I recognize the refugee-hosting countries extraordinary levels of generosity and commitment to refugee protection.

The 25 million refugees in the world today are urgently looking to us.

We urge to all Members States and communities, to share the responsibility and to support the necessary steps to save lives and ease the plight of refugees by providing them with the necessary assistance and protection.

Refugees demand and need our assistance and our protection. We simply cannot stand by, and walk on the other side of the road. Not especially when the situation continues in a way that challenges everything about our values. Every day we continue to see people moving in all regions of the world. 

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies,

Friends,

One of my key priorities is to bring the United Nations closer to the people. By supporting the global efforts required to ensure the proper assistance and protection of over 25 million refugees around the world, we show  that there is an urgent need for action.

The Global Compact on Refugees is the result of an extensive and often exhaustive consultation process. Its intent is clear; for it ensures that Member States are properly able to assist and protect refugees.

When it is adopted, help and support should at last be at hand for all Member States who continue to provide support for the refugees they host.

The General Assembly has already shown its commitment by adopting the New York Declaration and I want to congratulate Member States for having accomplished this first, very important result.

Refugees know all about journeys of course, and they need to know when and where those journeys will end. We may not be able to travel in their shoes on their journeys, but surely, we can signal our seriousness by taking the high road and uphold the Compact’s spirit of international cooperation to properly assist and protect the millions of refugees in the world.

I intend to encourage Member States to work together in a constructive and positive spirit during the next months at the General Assembly. With new and ongoing conflicts, and with the numbers of refugees increasing, inaction is simply not an option.

I thank you once again, Mr. Filippo Grandi, for your dedication and for the opportunity to hear from so many of our esteemed colleagues and friends. Knowing your commitment and enthusiasm, and the critical work that UNHCR does, I am confident that the promise of the Global Compact on Refugees will Asher in a new day for refugees.

Thank you.