New York

20 September 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at High-Level Leaders' Meeting on Refugees [as delivered]

Thank you, President Obama, for your strong and compassionate leadership in organizing this meeting, and the announcement you have made to accommodate so many refugees, and also financial support. I do appreciate your organizing this very important summit meeting, right after our General Assembly summit meeting yesterday. I again thank you for your and the American people’s compassion and solidarity for refugees, who are at this time a most vulnerable group of people. This is in line with what the SDG’s – ‘Leave no one behind’. We should get all the refugees on board on sustainable development. 

Yesterday, the General Assembly’s Summit for Refugees and Migrants recognized the imperative of collective action to more equitably share responsibility. 

I hope that yesterday’s summit and this summit will reinforce our common effort in addressing this very important and serious issue.

Countries of first asylum are under immense strain.  

Ninety per cent of the world’s refugees are hosted in low- and middle-income countries. Remarkably, just eight countries host more than half of the refugees under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee’s care. 

I commend those eight countries.  And I thank all of you for being here today and committing to do even more. More children in school, more refugees with access to livelihoods, more progress overall.

Today’s Summit aims to broaden the base of responsibility-sharing. 

Resettlement and other forms of admission are critical tools for protection. Nearly 1.2 million of the most vulnerable refugees need resettlement.  Yet last year, just over 100,000 were resettled in fewer than two dozen countries. 

More countries must open resettlement programmes.  

We must also increase the pool of humanitarian funding.  

In April, a new concessional financing facility was launched for countries in the Middle East and North Africa.  The initiative aimed to mobilize $3 to 4 billion – with an additional $1 billion in grants. It can create jobs, provide services, and strengthen resilience for Syrian refugees and their hosts.  

As President Obama has just mentioned, I am very encouraged that we have expanded this initiative in the form of the Global Concessional Financing Facility. I am very grateful for the visionary leadership of President Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank and the World Bank Group for their strong partnership in this important initiative. President Kim of the World Bank and I travelled to refugee camps in the Middle East – starting in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq and Tunisia. There, he proposed this Global Concessional Financing Facility. This will be very helpful, and I thank him for his leadership and commitment.

Our summit yesterday set critical deadlines.  In 2018, we will meet for an intergovernmental conference on international migration to adopt a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.   

That year, we also plan to adopt a global compact on the world’s refugees to optimize our global response. Not a single country, however powerful and resourceful it may be, can handle this alone. The United Nations cannot handle this one alone. We need solidarity, we need unity in addressing this issue.

    Yesterday, I met Yusra Mardini, a teenage Syrian woman.  She was a member of Team Refugees at the Olympics, as you just heard. This is quite moving. When her crowded boat [had a broken] engine, she just came out of the boat and pushed by swimming to the shore. What courage. What strength and resilience. This is a human story.

Even though she ran in the Olympic Games, of course she didn’t get a medal, but I think she is a real winner. 

You could compare that boat to our human family. Solidarity brings us to safety. 

Again, I really count on your strong leadership, and in particular, compassion. Your compassion will really help these helpless people.  If not us, who can do it?

Let us work together to make this better for all people including refugee people.

Thank you very much for your commitment.