17 December 2019

Opening remarks at joint press conference with Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

António Guterres

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.  It is a true pleasure to be back in Geneva.  Having worked as High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years, it is heartening to see the international community come together today in support of refugees and host communities.  Global forced displacement has been rising steadily in recent years.  When I started in 2005 as High Commissioner for Refugees, there were 38 million people displaced in the world and we were helping one million people go back home every year.  And for many of our colleagues, there was a sensation that soon UNHCR would have no reason to exist anymore. 
Unfortunately, things have changed quite dramatically.  Global forced displacement has been rising steadily in recent years.  Today, more than 70 million people are forcibly displaced -- double the level of 20 years ago, and 2.3 million more than just one year ago. Moreover, the growth in displacement is outpacing the rate at which solutions are being found.  Conflicts have become more complex and interlinked.  Combined with the megatrends of climate change, population growth, rapid urbanization, food insecurity and water scarcity, forced displacement and humanitarian needs will likely continue their troubling rise.  Our system of international protection is one of the defining successes of the past century.  But it is clearly feeling the strain.  This is the moment to ensure that the human rights of refugees are upheld, to re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime and to address the root causes that lead people to flee in the first place.  At the same time, we must change the way we respond to refugee situations so that we can better cope with present realities and prepare for future challenges.
And the Global Compact on Refugees offers a path forward.  I pay tribute to the generosity of the developing and middle-income countries that have been hosting millions and millions of refugees, sometimes with an enormous impact in their economies and their societies.  And we need more international cooperation by all relevant partners, and a genuine commitment to sharing responsibilities among Member States.  International solidarity is also necessary in order to allow refugees greater access to jobs, livelihoods and education in host countries.  Pending a durable solution, this will not only promote refugee self-reliance but will also contribute to the host country’s economy and help refugees to thrive alongside their host communities.  And this was exactly the lines of the discussions and pledges made in this conference.
The pledges announced this morning by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank and by the private sector are welcome examples of the crucial role that these entities play in responding to refugee situations.  Together with others, ongoing or planned investments, by the private sector and other bilateral development entities and other financial institutions, all these have ensured tangible results for refugees and host communities.  We hope that with today’s conference, these will quickly accelerate in the near future.  I want to express my deep gratitude to the many partners that have shown great solidarity with refugees and host communities and also to tell you how proud I am to have been a member of UNHCR for 10 years in the past, and how much I envy the new High Commissioner for Refugees.