New York

20 November 2015

Secretary-General's Remarks to the General Assembly Meeting on Global Awareness of the Tragedies of Irregular Migrants in the Mediterranean Basin with Specific Emphasis on Syrian Asylum Seekers [as delivered]

I thank the General Assembly President for convening this important meeting.

A record 60 million people have been forced from their homes. Tragedies are multiplying – especially for the Syrian people.

Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and all first asylum countries have generously supported millions of desperate people. I applaud them – but having such few countries bear the global responsibility is simply not a sustainable solution. 

We need a new approach to manage the challenges of global mobility, built on equitable responsibility sharing.

Today I will underscore five priority areas for our response. And I will set out our roadmap ahead.

First: Addressing root causes.

We are doing everything possible to address the conflict in Syria. At the same time, we are working to prevent, mediate and resolve violence and tensions in the region and beyond. I ask that we invest more resources, and political will, in our prevention tools.

It is also time to break the silence surrounding poor governance, growing inequalities and human rights violations – including the oppression of women. These are major factors pushing people from their homes.

The 2030 Agenda can dramatically advance progress. I call on all countries to see development as a moral imperative and strategic bulwark against instability.

Second: Managing large flows.
We need to develop better ways to receive large groups of migrants and refugees –
and to process their claims for protection and refugee status.

Criminal networks must be brought to justice. And we must end the demand for their services. That means shorter and better-managed transits. It demands more safe and legal paths such as family reunification, student visas, humanitarian visas, private sponsorships and labour mobility schemes. And more places for resettlement.

Third: Protecting human rights

We must uphold the human rights of migrants and refugees – especially in the face of rising xenophobia and discrimination.

In the wake of terrorist attacks, I am deeply concerned about misplaced suspicions about migrants and refugees, especially those who are Muslim. We must be on guard against such distortions and discrimination, which only play into the hands of terrorists trying to sow divisions and fear. We must respond not by closing doors but by opening our hearts with unity, tolerance, and pluralism and compassion. This will foster true security.

We cannot cede any ground – legal or moral– in countering violent extremists.  The rights to asylum and non-refoulement must be upheld.

Any fears about terrorists hiding among refugees only support the argument for a managed approach.

Millions of refugees who have lost everything to violence and oppression want to end those threats more than anyone. They can potentially be a major constituency in combating violent extremism.

So can the world’s youth. I must recall that almost half of the 60 million forcibly displaced are children.  I repeat my call to empower today’s young peacebuilders.

Fourth: Increasing financing.

Needs vastly overwhelm resources. That is why I have set up the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing. I count on its experts to provide recommendations to mobilize more resources – and use them more efficiently.

In the meantime, I appeal to member state to be generous at this time of immense need, to fund all underfunded humanitarian appeals. Such donations should not come at the expense of development aid, which remains essential.

Fifth: Adopting a global approach.

No country alone can solve the problem that is inherently international.

We will find answers through a collective push that transcends narrow, short-term interests.

We are building on our cooperation with the African Union, ASEAN, the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

With the right global arrangements, we can make the most of regional resources.

The road ahead is full of challenges, but we have a map to navigate them.

The Vienna negotiating track is moving forward in addressing the key root causes:  the catastrophic conflict in Syria.

On February 4 in London next year, I will co-host – together with the governments of United Kingdom, Norway, Kuwait and Germany – a conference on the Syria humanitarian crisis. Our goal is to raise significant new funding for all those affected within the country while supporting Syria’s neighbours. The London Conference will also seek ways to create jobs and provide education to foster hope.

Following that, I have asked the High Commissioner for Refugees to convene a Resettlement Plus conference in March. It will galvanize pledges to resettle or otherwise help place the more than 3 million people who have been displaced as a result of the Syrian conflict and violence in the region.

Then at the end of May 2016, World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey will offer a chance to reshape the global humanitarian agenda. The Summit will address financing, including by the private sector, while addressing humanitarian challenges.

And in September next year, I propose to the Member States to convene, just one day before the General Debate, a High-Level Summit on managing large-scale movements of migrants and refugees.

I understand that the President of the General Assembly is also considering convening a high-level thematic debate on these issues.

We need a new global compact on responsibility sharing.  This would help prevent future destabilisation of whole nations and regions. 

To guide the discussions at this Summit, I would like to submit a report to the General Assembly on models for comprehensive solutions based on global responsibility sharing, which I would develop in close consultations with you.  

I count on the Member States’ support for this proposal and on their political will to craft a response that respects international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.

By doing so, we will advance global progress on a fundamental issue in international cooperation and help secure our common future in a troubled world.

Thank you.