Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to be with you, on behalf of the Secretary-General, to mark the United Nations General Assembly’s overwhelming affirmation of the Global Compact on Refugees.
I congratulate Member States on this landmark achievement.
The Global Compact on Refugees, and the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular Migration adopted last week in Marrakech, deliver on the promise made by all governments in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants two years ago.
At a time when the principles of global cooperation are being put to the test, it is heartening to witness this historic success.
Throughout history, countries near crisis zones have hosted the vast majority of the world’s refugees, despite often contending with economic problems of their own.
In the Lake Chad Basin, for example, some of the poorest people in the world have opened up their homes and their hearts to people fleeing Boko Haram.
Sadly, this level of humanity and solidarity is not universal. In recent years, we have seen a contagion of closed borders, contrary to international refugee and human rights law. Millions of refugees are facing years in exile, or risking their lives on dangerous journeys to an uncertain future.
That is why this Global Compact is such an important step.
It is a global commitment to step up and shoulder our responsibilities towards refugees; to find solutions that respect their human rights; to provide them with hope; and to recognize the legal responsibility to protect and support them.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
Strengthening the response to refugee situations, and supporting host communities, are not only important goals in themselves.
They are also a critical piece of the global response needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and to leave no one behind.
Refugees are among those furthest behind. Persecuted, isolated and marginalized in their home countries, and too often their countries of destination, they have struggled to be counted -- and to count.
Four elements of this Compact are particularly important to achieving the SDGs.
First, the Global Compact on Refugees sets out concrete measures to share the responsibility and ease the pressure on the small number of countries that host the majority of refugees.
These include partnerships between humanitarian, development, financial, private sector and civil society groups.
Second, the Compact seeks to bring humanitarian and development action closer together, building on the Secretary-General’s reform of the UN Development system. This will strengthen the provision of vital services like education, water and health to refugees and to all members of the community.
Third, as the Compact sets out ways to create jobs and livelihoods, it recognizes that refugees and host communities themselves must be at the centre of decision-making on refugee issues. And among refugees, women and girls must be fully engaged as leaders and participants in decisions that will affect their lives.
Fourth, the Global Compact goes beyond host countries to call on the international community as a whole to take broader initiatives to prevent conflict and build sustained peace.
While we must respond to the immediate needs of refugees, this is merely treating the symptoms unless we also deal with the root causes of the record numbers of people displaced by conflict and persecution around the world.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
Today is a day for celebration.
But we are always conscious of the women and girls, men and boys who have fled their homes and have little to celebrate.
This Global Compact has the potential to change their lives – and their children’s future.
I call on all of you - the international community as a whole - to implement the Global Compact on Refugees as soon as possible.
Together, we can achieve its enormous potential: to better protect and support refugees and the countries that host them.