Amid Record Numbers of People Displaced by War, Humanitarian Actors No Longer Able to Provide Core Assistance, Protection, Top Official Tells Third Committee

GA/SHC/4149
3 November 2015
Seventieth Session, 39th & 40th Meetings (AM & PM)

Amid Record Numbers of People Displaced by War, Humanitarian Actors No Longer Able to Provide Core Assistance, Protection, Top Official Tells Third Committee

Until donors ramped up contributions, humanitarian actors were no longer able to provide core assistance to the record number of displaced people worldwide, the head of the United Nations refugee agency told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it concluded discussions on racism and began consideration of humanitarian questions.

“The international multilateral humanitarian community, even when combining all its resources, is no longer able to provide the core protection and basic life-saving assistance,” António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told the Committee during an interactive dialogue.  Between 2010 and 2014, the number of people that had been forced from their homes every day had nearly quadrupled and now more than 60 million people worldwide had been forcibly displaced as a result of war and persecution.

The corresponding increase in humanitarian needs, therefore, had overwhelmed the global capacity to respond, he said.  In 2014, UNHCR’s focus on emergency response had strained capacities and resources across the Agency.  As the explosion in humanitarian needs had inevitably outpaced the support of the donor community, there was a growing gap between requirements and resources.  Most urgently, he said, the Agency had a $205 million deficit in Africa.

“Money moves freely, but people still face enormous obstacles,” he continued.  As a cruel paradox, few movements were as tightly restricted as those of human beings, leading to hundreds of thousands of people having no other option but to put their lives into the hands of unscrupulous smugglers.

That desperation could be seen in the growing number of displaced persons.  Since January, 750,000 people had arrived on Europe’s shores and the number of daily arrivals, on Greek islands alone, stood between 6,000 and 8,000.  The European Union, he noted, had the capacity to manage the crisis, but a united and comprehensive regional approach was essential.  Furthermore, Europe and Africa needed a common strategy to allow people to have a future in their own countries.

One key element in effectively responding to humanitarian crises was development actors working side by side with humanitarian actors to help prevent further conflict, support host communities, and pave the way for durable solutions.  But, “more than anything else, we must be able to understand and address the root causes of displacement” from conflict over resources, poor governance, human rights violations, unequal access to development benefits, or climate change, he said.

“Migration should be an option, not a necessity; an expression of hope, not of despair,” he noted. 

Indeed, all countries must meet their obligations under international refugee law, and political solutions must be found to conflicts that had prompted refugee flows, Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly, told the Committee.  With a humanitarian and refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War, no region or country could address that crisis on its own. 

To address those grave challenges, he said the Assembly would hold a plenary meeting 20 November to discuss global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin, with specific emphasis on Syrian asylum seekers.  It would be preceded by an informal meeting on 19 November on ways towards a comprehensive approach to the humanitarian response to the global refugee crisis.  Additionally, a high-level thematic debate would be held on 12 and 13 July 2016 on the United Nations and human rights, with particular attention being given to the needs of the millions of people who had been affected by conflict and disaster.

During the ensuing general debate on refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions, statements were delivered by representatives of Madagascar (on behalf of Southern African Development Community), Ukraine (on behalf of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova), Brazil, Thailand, United States, Egypt, Syria, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, Turkey, Iran, United Republic of Tanzania, Myanmar and Mozambique, as well as the European Union.

Earlier today, the Committee concluded its general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, hearing interventions from representatives of Eritrea, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iceland, Albania, India, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Jordan, Niger, Gambia and Senegal, as well as the Holy See and State of Palestine.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were delegates from Israel, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, India, Armenia, Latvia, Estonia and Russian Federation, as well as the State of Palestine.

The Third Committee will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 4 November, to continue its work.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its discussion on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and of the right of peoples to self-determination.  For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4148.

It also began consideration of its agenda item on the maintenance of international peace and security, including the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions.  Before it were the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/70/12), the Report of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/70/12/Add.1) and the Report of the Secretary-General on Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/70/337).

Statements

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said there were currently more than 60 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons.  Fully aware of the legal and other complexities of migrations, he said “we must fight the temptation to turn inward, labelling the ‘other’ as a threat to our way of life.”  In many of the countries of origin of refugees, the most heinous crimes against religious freedom were being committed, including executions, forced conversions and the imposition of “religious taxes”.  He appealed to the international community to do all it could to stop violent non-State actors who “wantonly violate fundamental human rights”.  He then called on Governments to reconsider national laws that were susceptible to fomenting xenophobia and religious and ethnic discrimination, and on those of all religions to respect one another and leave open channels of dialogue to foster mutual knowledge and appreciation.

SEMERE AZAZI (Eritrea), aligning with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia continued to cause unacceptable hardship and tragedy.  The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action of 2001 was a milestone for humanity.  Yet, the experience of colonialism and slavery based on racial prejudice was a phenomenon with deeply rooted economic and social consequences that continued to affect many people today.  Greatly concerned about the racism and hostility migrants currently faced in some countries, he demanded that their rights be respected by all States, including providing them and their families with the necessary legal, economic and social protection.  With regard to national concerns, he said Eritrea had been denied its right to self-determination and had endured decades of war to assert it. In that regard, his delegation unequivocally supported that right and the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and territorial integrity.

LIANG HENG (China) said that racism trampled on basic values of equality, freedom and justice and seriously violated human rights, endangering the progress of human civilization and the harmonious development of societies.  At present, many countries were witnessing resurging racism, including Islamophobia and neo-Nazism, through the abuse of freedom of speech.  All forms of racism had deep historical, economic and social causes that needed to be addressed in order to realize genuine equality, human rights and basic freedoms for people of all races in all countries.  He called upon all parties to expedite the implementation of the Durban Declaration and other international standards to create a world free of discrimination, hatred and bigotry.  Turning to the right to self-determination, he underlined China’s support to the Palestinian people in their just cause for establishing their independent State.  At the same time, the exercise of that right should not be arbitrarily distorted and abused as an excuse to break up sovereign States and incite hatred between ethnic groups.

JOHAN ARIEF JAAFAR (Malaysia) said his country fully respected the principles of sovereign equality, political independence, territorial integrity and non-interference in domestic jurisdiction.  Malaysia welcomed the report of the Secretary-General on the right to self-determination.  Fully believing in the two-State solution, he said, Malaysia would continue to advocate for the establishment of a sovereign State of Palestine that could live side by side with Israel in peace and security.  Thus, his country supported all efforts by the international community to find a just and lasting peaceful settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Furthermore, as a Security Council member, Malaysia had organized the first Arria-formula meeting on Palestine, which aimed at highlighting the unsustainable situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to provide an impetus to end the longest occupation in modern history.

ACHSANUL HABIB (Indonesia) strongly condemned the manifestation of religious intolerance and racism based on ethnicity.  It was a State’s responsibility to combat racial discrimination and related intolerance and to create national mechanisms to protect their citizens from such acts.  His country was particularly concerned about the use of social media by political parties to promote extremist ideologies.  For its part, Indonesia had facilitated inter-faith dialogue between States and organized numerous meetings at regional and international levels.  In conclusion, he called upon Member States to step up their efforts to address racism phenomenon.

NADYA RASHEED, of the Observer Mission of the State of Palestine said the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination had long been undermined by Israeli policies and practices, most notably the building of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  Every year, Israel had intensified its settlement building, causing serious doubts on the prospects for a two-State solution.  Israel’s illegal settlers, many armed and fanatical, had meanwhile violated, with impunity, the human rights of the Palestinian people.  Israel’s construction of settlements was illegal, unsustainable and destroying prospects for peace.  The Palestinian people would never stop demanding the fulfilment of their human rights, including the right to self-determination, she said, urging the international community to undertake real efforts in that regard.

NIKULAS PETER JOHN HANNIGAN (Iceland) said the fight against racism had been made all the more urgent by the massive movement of people fleeing conflict.  For strong resilient societies in Europe to be built, it was vital for racism and intolerance to be confronted.  Education systems, the world of sport, the media and politicians all had their role to play, as did individuals with their use of social media.  With regard to self-determination, the realization of that right for the Palestinian people, including full membership in the United Nations, was supported by Iceland, which also supported efforts towards a long-overdue solution to the situation in the Western Sahara.

Ms. RASHEED, of the Observer Mission of the State of Palestine, taking the floor a second time, said racism and discrimination “in its most barbaric form” had been institutionalized in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967 by the occupying Power.  The illegal attempt to Judaize the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was the most glaring example of that.  A report from the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia had confirmed that many of Israel’s settlement policies amounted to de facto segregation.  Israeli settlers who attacked Palestinians and their property enjoyed impunity, while incitement by Israeli officials had fuelled anti-Arab racism within Israel.  Palestinian citizens of Israel, who made up one fifth of the population, had meanwhile been made second- and third-class citizens as a result of racist laws.  An important step would be for the international community to end all Israeli violations and pursue justice for crimes against Palestinian civilians, and for Israel to end its occupation and let the Palestinians live freely in their own independent State.

ERVIN NINA (Albania), aligning with the European Union, said that measures to address multiple discriminations still faced by the Roma community remained high in his Government’s agenda, with measures aimed at ensuring their inclusion through education, empowering vulnerable local communities and facilitating civic registration.  As a result, social and public services such as health care, employment services, economic aid and access to pension schemes had become more accessible.  Continuing, he said anti-Semitism could not and should not be considered as only a Jewish problem, but as a global one that went against the very principles of respect for culture.  All expressions of such ideologies should be tackled within the framework of the comprehensive efforts aimed at eliminating all forms of racism and xenophobia by taking effective measures at national, regional and international levels in particular, through the full implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

RATTAN LAL KATARIA (India), aligning with the statement of the Group of 77, said there had been a disturbing recrudescence of racism and xenophobia in parts of the developed world.  The surest guarantee against racial prejudice, discrimination and xenophobia were the nurturing of multicultural, democratic and pluralistic traditions, tolerance and respect for diversity and the implementation of educational and legislative strategies.  India was perhaps the best example of a multireligious, multi-ethnic and multicultural State.  The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was an opportune time to renew commitments made at the 2001 Durban Conference.  Turning to the right to self-determination, India supported a negotiated solution that resulted in a State of Palestine.  Unwarranted references had been made by the delegate of Pakistan with regard to Jammu and Kashmir, which was an integral part of India and whose people had regularly participated in free, fair and open elections.  Pakistan should stop human rights violations in the part of Jammu and Kashmir that it continued to illegally occupy, and ensure the right of self-determination of its “victims” there before making sermons to others.

HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA (Azerbaijan) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the right to self-determination.  Her country continued to preserve its multi-ethnic and multinational heritage by guaranteeing the equality of its citizens.  It was unfortunate that racism, xenophobia and related intolerance continued to persist in many societies.  In particular, her delegation was concerned about the continuous violation of human rights, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and discriminatory practices in the immediate neighbourhood.  She regretted that Armenia had threatened the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

SAHAK SARGSYAN (Armenia) said there was a linkage between the manifestation of racial discrimination and the right to self-determination.  Indigenous Armenian populations living in Nagorno-Karabakh had been struggling for more than two decades to end acts of discrimination, harassment, arbitrary rule and the denial of their rights.  The only viable way to end such acts was to achieve self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh.  A peaceful settlement of the conflict continued to face challenges such as war mongering, hate propaganda, an arms race, and the refusal to implement confidence-building measures.  His country was hopeful that peace would eventually prevail.

MUAZ MOHAMAD A-K AL-OTOOM (Jordan) said the right to self-determination was one of the most important principles of international law and enabled the enjoyment of other human rights.  People could not be denied their right to self-determination under any pretext.  The Palestinian cause remained at the heart of the troubles in the Middle East, he said, while reiterating Jordan’s support for the creation of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  He condemned violations committed against the Palestinian people and called on the international community to further its efforts in favour of the Palestinian people.

AICHA ISSOUFOU (Niger), aligning with the Group of 77, reiterated her country’s commitment to combating all forms of racism at the national level, to implementing the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and to collaborating with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  Ethnic-based discrimination was prohibited under national law and the penal code had criminalized hate speech.  She reiterated her support to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which was the appropriate international framework to combat racism, xenophobia and related intolerance.

OUSMAN F. NJIE (Gambia) acknowledged and welcomed measures by the United Nations as contributory factors to end colonialism and those for the remembrance of the victims of slavery.  The debate on slavery and its negative effects on Africa, Africans and people of African descent had to be escalated with full consideration given to the moral and sociological dimensions on that matter.  We must move away from rhetoric, statements and declarations, she said, and embark on a resolute path to articulate and pass resolutions to direct relevant United Nations bodies and call on States to take concrete actions.  Gambia had prepared a draft resolution addressing slavery, colonialism, reparation and restitutions, to correct that great historical injustice, she said, underlining the need for a second review of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action as part of the activities leading up to the commemoration of its fifteenth anniversary in 2016.

PIERRE FAYE (Senegal) attached great importance to addressing the phenomenon of racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance.  While the principle of self-determination was clearly enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the international community was still unable to find a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Drawing attention to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, he said that Senegal had always believed in a two-State solution, based on the borders of 1967, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.  His delegation was also concerned about the issue of migration through the world, which required a viable solution through the cooperation of States.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, exercising the right of reply, regretted that the Palestinian delegate had omitted to refer to indiscriminate attacks against Jews and Israelis.  She detailed cases of Israeli citizens murdered by Palestinian terrorists, sometimes even children sent as suicide bombers.  The narrative of victimization used by the Palestinian delegate would not help to resolve the conflict, she said.

Also exercising the right of reply, Pakistan’s delegate highlighted efforts by India to mislead the international community with regard to the situation in Kashmir.  He underlined that Kashmir was internationally recognized as a disputed territory.  Elections in Indian-occupied Kashmir were not recognized by the United Nations Security Council and had also been rejected by the people there.  Baseless allegations of terrorism by the Indian delegation did not divert the international community’s attention to the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination.

Exercising the right of reply, Azerbaijan’s speaker categorically rejected the statement delivered by Armenia’s representative, who had attempted to mislead the international community.  She stressed that Armenian claims were not consistent with the international law.  Nagorno-Karabakh was a part of Azerbaijani territory, and Armenia must respect that, she said, adding that practices of racism and racial discrimination conducted by Armenia had been well documented.

India’s delegate, also exercising the right of reply, said the statement delivered by the representative of Pakistan on Kashmir was incompatible with the universally accepted principles underlined by those of the United Nations Charter.  To that end, he rejected such comments.

Exercising the right of reply, the State of Palestine’s representative said Israel was distorting the truth.  The root cause of current violations was the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel.  The occupation was well known by the entire world, yet systematically ignored by Israel, she stressed.

The delegate of Armenia, responding to comments made by Azerbaijan’s speaker, strongly rejected lies and baseless allegations.  He encouraged that delegation to address the situation of minorities in their country and reprisals against those who dared speaking up against abuses.  He then referred to hate speech by Azerbaijani authorities and to the arbitrary detention of political prisoners and peace advocates in the country.  For its part, Armenia had been recognized by international monitors as a country that respected and protected the rights of minorities.

Taking the floor again, the representative of Pakistan reiterated that Kashmir was recognized as a disputed territory under international law and recalled United Nations Security Council resolutions that rejected the elections that had been held there.  Pakistan was not interfering in the internal affairs of India and allegations of terrorism were obviously politically motivated to divert the international community’s attention from the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir.

The speaker from Azerbaijan recalled that the principle of self-determination did not apply to Armenian-speaking minorities under international law.

India’s delegate, taking the floor again, regretted that Pakistan attempted to mislead the international community.  Nobody should distort the meaning of the right to self-determination and undermine the sovereignty of any State, he stressed.

The representative of Armenia, exercising the right of reply, said Azerbaijan continued to violate Security Council resolutions and was targeting civilians at the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  Unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia had never politicized internally displaced persons and refugees.

Israel’s speaker, taking the floor a second time, said Palestine was trying to portray the current situation as a religious conflict.  She said efforts should focus on providing better education to Palestinian children.

Taking the floor for a second a time, the speaker from the State of Palestine said that for decades, occupation had been the source of Palestinian suffering.  Israel was responsible for the situation on the ground.  Its war crimes had led to the death of innocent Palestinians, including children.  The Israeli Government incited violence and racial hatred.

Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons

MOGENS LYKKETOFT (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, underlined the importance of the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights for all people, without discrimination.  The world was experiencing a humanitarian and refugee crisis of a magnitude that had not been seen since the Second World War.  No region or country could address that crisis on its own.  A plenary meeting would be held on 20 November to discuss global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin, with specific emphasis on Syrian asylum seekers.  It would be preceded by an informal meeting on 19 November on ways towards a comprehensive approach to the humanitarian response to the global refugee crisis.

All countries must meet their obligations under international refugee law, and political solutions to conflicts that had prompted refugee flows must be found, he said.  The 2030 Agenda offered an infinite scope for action and moving forward, it would be important for the General Assembly, especially its Second (Economic and Financial) and Third (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) Committees and other parts of the United Nations, to adapt to the 2030 Agenda and its follow-up processes.  A high-level thematic debate would be held on 12 and 13 July 2016 on the United Nations and human rights, with particular attention being given to the needs of the millions of people who had been affected by conflict and disaster.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), Third Committee Chair, underscored the close inter-relation between human rights and development.  He thanked Mr. Lykketoft for his address, then welcomed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, whose leadership had made it possible to establish a new strategy, structure and bolder, more decisive approach, particularly at a time when so many refugees were crossing the seas in search of protection and dignity.  Over the years, he had shown great courage and foresight, he said.

Delegates then asked questions about the situation of Sahrawi peoples, security, donor response in Iraq, education, gender-based violence and census-taking of migrant populations.  Speakers also raised questions about ways that the international community could improve its response strategy.

Mr. GUTERRES first addressed the floods that had dramatically affected refugee camps in Algeria.  Immediate assistance had been extended, based on what was available on the ground, and in the next two days more supplies would be provided, including tents, plastic sheeting and blankets.  Attempts were being made to mobilize other agencies and donors to support that effort.  There had been excellent cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination, but that was not always easy, as had been seen in the Balkans.  UNHCR was doing its best, going into winter, to provide as much assistance as possible.

The international community, however, was not doing enough to fight human trafficking and human smuggling, which were often being carried out in an open way, he said.  Everyone knew who the operators were, and it would be difficult for the equipment that they used to go undetected.  The moment had come for the international community to crack down on human trafficking in the same manner in which it was combating drug trafficking, with assistance given to victims.

A difficult situation existed in Iraq, he said.  Because people thought Iraq was rich in oil, humanitarian action in that country had been dramatically underfunded.  Not enough had been done to support the people of Iraq and it was hoped that the donor community would give more priority to that situation.  What was being done to address gender-based violence was “a drop in the ocean”.  Cameroon had been playing an exceptional role in protecting refugees from Nigeria and Central African Republic.  Programmes for urban refugees had been gaining ground in UNHCR planning, and donors would be contacted with regard to strengthening such programmes in Sudan.

The High Commissioner was very grateful for the recent decision by Iran to open its schools to Afghan children, both refugees and those not legally in the country, and to opening its national health system to Afghan people.  With regard to census-taking among refugees, such work could only be done with the agreement of the host country, as it was a matter of national sovereignty.  The recruitment of asylum seekers by armed groups and the use of refugee settings for recruitment were matters of concern.  Turkey now was the largest refugee host country in the world and it was hoped that, as Chair of the Group of 20, guidance would be provided to better link humanitarian assistance and development.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Algeria, Norway, Iraq, Cameroon, Sudan, Libya, Iran, Morocco, Eritrea, Congo and Turkey.

HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), expressed deep concern about the fact that at the end of 2014 nearly 60 million people, the highest number ever recorded, were in situations of forced displacement.  The situation in the member countries was troubling.  Conflicts such as the one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighbouring countries had led to the movement of thousands of people.  The region hosted more than 130,000 refugees, 270,000 asylum seekers and more than 1,500 returnees.  There was a need to tackle the root causes of the issue and the role of regional and international cooperation was central in that regard. 

Commending UNHCR for its assistance, he said the Community remained fully committed to the July 1996 memorandum of understanding between them.  It also recognized that peace, security and political stability were essential for socioeconomic development, he said.  The SADC strategic indicative plan for politics, defence and security cooperation for 2010-2015 addressed the social reintegration of refugees and specified the need to harmonize policies related to them in line with the United Nations and Africa Union.

CHARLES WHITELEY, of the European Union Delegation, said the fact that Europe had been sought out as place of refuge and exile was something to be proud of, yet it also brought challenges, with over 750,000 persons having applied for asylum in the first nine months of 2015.  The European Union had taken steps to address the phenomenon of human trafficking, including through the reinforcement of its joint maritime operations which had directly contributed to rescue the life of over 208,000 persons in distress at sea.  The European Union also cooperated closely with its partners, including countries of origin and of transit.  Addressing the root causes of forced displacement remained however a key priority, he continued.  In that regard, a comprehensive long-term approach was needed and political and development actors had a crucial role to play.  Addressing the current migration crisis required joint action and true partnership among host, origin and transit countries based on cooperation, ownership and shared responsibility.

Reception needs continued to be enormous, he acknowledged, and unaccompanied minors were particularly vulnerable.  In that regard, he underlined the need to adequate reception of persons of concern and to effective protection of their human rights.  He insisted on the specific needs of civilians trapped in protracted situations, including in areas such as access to education health, labour and infrastructure.  Allowing productive individuals to contribute to economic and social development of host countries should be further enhanced including with the expertise of development actors.  It was important to tackle racism and xenophobia by sensitizing the citizens of countries receiving asylum seekers to the core human values which guided the international community’s commitment to protecting those who fled conflict and persecution.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), speaking on behalf of GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, said the global community should redouble its efforts to resolve conflicts based on international norms such as the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.  It should also help affected countries restore sovereignty over their territories.  As conflict-affected countries, most GUAM States were confronted with large-scale displacement.

The regional group appreciated the political and financial support afforded to GUAM in that regard and urged for the international community to find sustainable solutions for millions of refugees.  In the meantime, Governments in the region had taken measures to strengthen national response mechanisms such as enhanced access to health care, education and shelter for displaced populations.  A more consistent approach by the international community was needed to address practices such as the impact of conflict on property and the violation of the principle of non-discrimination of internally displaced persons and refugees.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said his country was doing its part to address the global issue of refugees, recently welcoming Syrians and Haitians.  In October, Brazil had signed a cooperation agreement with UNHCR to enhance and formalize cooperation on the country’s visa programme for refugees affected by the Syrian conflict.  The majority of refugees in Brazil, more than 8,000, were from Syria.  Other Latin American countries were taking similar measures.  In December 2014, Brazil had hosted a ministerial meeting to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees during which participants had adopted a plan of action to enhance protection and harmonize policies across the region.  In the coming months, Congress would consider a draft bill that would grant the right of residence to individuals recognized as stateless by the National Committee for Refugees after they had lived in the country for four years.

VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand) said his country was gravely concerned about the possible resumption of irregular migration movement in the Indian Ocean after monsoon season.  Government agencies were working to resolve the issue comprehensively and sustainably at national and regional levels.  Turning to the issues of smuggling, trafficking and irregular migration, he said Thailand had declared combating such phenomena as a national priority.  The Government had adopted a new law that increased the severity of punishment and suspended operations of businesses suspected of using trafficked victims.  The new regulations had established complaint and monitoring mechanisms aimed at preventing trafficking.

KYLIE HOLMES (United States) said her Government was a committed partner of UNHCR, would continue to support its work and had made contributions in 2015 to assist it with its tasks.  Only with strong coordination and communication between partners would the full protection of such people be achieved, she said.  Furthermore, the Agency must continue to pursue a human resources policy that delivered strong performances in emergency situations.  Her Government was also pleased to see UNHCR shifting from a resource-driven planning process to a performance-based one.

Mr. MOUSA (Egypt) said the root causes of the largest displacement of refugees since the Second World War needed to be addressed by the international community.  The shrinking asylum space in some developed countries was a matter of concern, as was the treatment of refugees, whose protection was imperative.  The 2030 Agenda provided a solid foundation for approaching development and humanitarian assistance in a complementary way.  Egypt was concerned by the situation in Syria, which posed a challenge to neighbouring countries.  Some 400,000 Syrians were now hosted by Egypt, in addition to Sudanese and Palestinian citizens, and they were entitled to education and health services regardless of status.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) said the conflict in his country had been militarized by a range of States.  Those same countries had been using the humanitarian situation in Syria to blackmail the international community.  They wanted to see the Syrian State fail and the hopes of its people destroyed.  With regard to Syrian refugees going to Europe, walls had been set up along borders and they had been attacked with sticks and batons.  The answer to the situation was to halt terrorism targeting the Syrian people that was being financed and sustained by known States, and to stop unilateral coercive measures that had been imposed by some Governments.  Sorrow was felt for every Syrian who had left the country and he hoped that they could return home in peace.

GALINA KHVAN (Russian Federation) said that as the number of refugees reached almost 60 million, the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its Optional Protocol should remain the basic international regime for their protection.  For its part, the Government continued to cooperate with the High Commissioner to provide effective protection for refugees and internally displaced persons.  Drawing attention to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, she said that the political settlement was the only possible way to overcome such a situation.  To that end, the international community needed to engage in a constructive dialogue.  Otherwise, she said, the crisis would continue to exhaust international donor resources.  In conclusion, she thanked the Agency for following a non-politicized approach.

MATTHIAS HALTER (Switzerland) said humanitarian challenges were tearing apart the Middle East and Africa.  To preserve dignity and guarantee the protection of displaced persons, Member States must collaborate, he stressed.  For its part, Switzerland had made a contribution towards the protection of refugees and internally displaced people, as well as to provide assistance to host communities.  Finding a lasting solution to the Syrian conflict was a priority for his country and a political solution was the only way forward, he underlined.

Mr. KANG (Republic of Korea) said the importance of addressing root causes could not be overemphasized.  In that regard, “the international community should get its act together” to prevent and resolve conflicts and displacement.  Reaching forcibly displaced persons first would be an important step towards the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Forging greater partnerships between humanitarian and development actors when crises emerge was imperative, and UNHCR was called upon to play a constructive role in the run-up to the World Humanitarian Summit to be held in Turkey in May 2016.  He appreciated the Agency’s lead role in the provision of international protection for refugees and other persons.

YIĞIT CANAY (Turkey) said the international community might only be seeing “the tip of the iceberg” with regards to refugees.  Addressing root causes remained a key priority.  Problems could not be solved by humanitarian action alone.  A comprehensive long-term approach, with joint action and shared responsibility, was needed.  In that regard, the World Humanitarian Summit represented an opportunity.  Turkey had become the world’s largest refugee hosting country, but that had not been the choice of either his country or the refugees themselves.  Turkey was not asking for assistance for itself, but for the Syrians who needed it, and it looked forward to the upcoming debates on the issue that the President of the General Assembly was organizing.

MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said his country had hosted a huge population of refugees and displaced persons, and provided basic services with the highest possible standards despite its limited resources.  In 2015, more than 400,000 students, including refugee children, had been registered in Iranian schools free of charge.  Voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity was the best and most viable solution to the refugee problem.  To that end, Iran continued to support the Afghan Government in their strides toward establishing peace and stability, which facilitated voluntary repatriation.  To that end, he urged the international community to play a constructive role so that proper grounds for sustainable voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees would be created.

HARRISON WINGIA MSEKE (United Republic of Tanzania) said his country had pursued an open door policy, offering asylum and protection to those fleeing persecution.  In 2015, the Government had welcomed more than 110,000 new refugees from Burundi.  Addressing the needs of refugees should be a collective responsibility, he continued.  Despite continuous efforts of Member States, his delegation was concerned about the critical shortfall in the funding gap.  Accordingly, he called upon the international community to increase their support.

YEMINN THEIN (Myanmar), referring to the suffering and life-threating fate of boat people in the Andaman Sea, said bilateral and regional cooperation needed to be enhanced with regard to smuggling and trafficking.  Saving lives was a priority for Myanmar, which had rescued about 1,000 people who had been economic migrants or had fallen victim to trafficking.  A number of preventive measures had been taken by Myanmar, including the exchange of intelligence with neighbouring countries and awareness-raising campaigns in areas most at risk of human trafficking. 

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique) said that 1 in every 122 people in the world were refugees, internally displaced or seeking asylum, at a time of dwindling funding for humanitarian operations.  Funding for UNHCR emergency appeals for Africa, for example, had barely surpassed 30 per cent of projected needs.  More comprehensive approaches had to be established, premised on strong international cooperation, particularly at the regional level.  Efforts to facilitate safe, orderly and responsible mobility, as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda, had to be redoubled.  With developing countries hosting 80 per cent of the world’s refugees and displaced persons, the issue should no longer be viewed as solely a humanitarian one.  More opportunities had to be provided by States for safe and legal migration.  In addition, the root causes of conflict and drivers that forced people to move had to be addressed.  Political solutions were needed and the role of the United Nations as a peace-making body had to be reinforced.

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, Latvia’s speaker regretted the statement delivered by the delegate from the Russian Federation, which was not even party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Person.

Estonia’s delegate, exercising the right of reply, said her country attached great importance to the integration of stateless persons into society, and had undertaken necessary measures to determine their citizenship status.

The representative of the Russian Federation, also exercising the right of reply, said States must implement the recommendations made by international human rights experts and mechanisms to resolve mass statelessness.

For information media. Not an official record.