City Councillor Omar Al-Rawi, Ambassador Dorothea Auer, Ms. Katha Schinkinger and Mr. Christian Kemmler, Distinguished staff of Habibi&Hawara restaurant, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Es freut mich sehr, hier im Habibi & Hawara Restaurant zu sein. [I am very pleased to be here in the Habibi & Hawara restaurant.]
I am delighted at this opportunity to meet all of you and say a few words of encouragement while many of you are going through a very difficult situation that this Syrian crisis, which has been continuing over the last six years, has caused many millions of people, who were forced to flee their home towns and country.
A minimum of 16 million people are now caught in the middle of this fighting and violence. I have been visiting many Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. It has been a quite heart-breaking experience for me to meet many young people, girls and boys, and old men and women, who lost completely their home and their livelihood. I have at least twice visited all these places and I have been meeting many thousands of such people and I fully, fully support what you are doing and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Austrian people and Government for their warm hearts.
While we have an uncontrollable number of refugees who had to flee their home towns, we are facing some unacceptable situations where leadership-level people and community people are showing discriminatory attitudes and politically very unacceptable remarks, xenophobic attitudes. All these are unacceptable in the name of humanity.
I have been urging world leaders particularly in Europe: Please do not erect walls. Please build a bridge between people, among people and between countries. They have no other choice but to flee to save their lives to other foreign countries. We are living in a small world. We are all the same human beings, whether you are Syrian, whether you are European or Asian. We are all one. We are the same.
That’s why, as a way to support and as a way to raise the importance of compassion and love for others who need or support, I launched this TOGETHER initiative, the TOGETHER campaign: Respect, safety and dignity for all. Respekt, Sicherheit und Würde für Alle in German. Gemeinsam – Togetherness. We are together. We are the same brothers and sisters. We are the same people, men and women. There is no difference at all.
That’s why I brought this issue to the United Nations.
While many people are helping, politicians are fighting.
I brought this issue to the United Nations. On 19 September we had a summit meeting. More than 150 Heads of State and Government participated and we discussed this issue. And we adopted the New York Declaration on two issues:
First: refugees, second: migrants. The free movement of migrants for their better future. At this time we are talking much more about refugees who had to flee their home towns. But at the same time we have to work for many millions of people, 16 million people who are living in Syria in besieged areas. We have 275,000 people in Aleppo who are just caught there. We have tens of thousands people in Mosul, Iraq. It is not only them. We have 65 million people around the world.
So we discussed this matter and adopted this declaration. We are going to work two more years to make sure that we adopt a Global Compact that will ensure that all refugees will be supported based on global responsibility-sharing principles. This is what the United Nations is doing.
The following day, 20 September, the President of the United States [Barack] Obama and I co-chaired another summit meeting with mostly European and some Asian leaders of key countries participating, on how we can share these burdens. That was a political decision on a framework, a legal and political framework that will be adopted in two years’ time. There will be global responsibility-sharing principles adopted.
But we cannot wait two years, until this is done. We have to support these people.
In that regard what the Austrian community is doing is remarkable and very commendable and I would like to ask not only Austrians but all Europeans and many people who can render their support as a part of Togetherness, the Together initiative, that’s what I’m asking you.
I was very impressed having met the master chef and chef from the Philippines and Syria. Many people, millions of people, are suffering because of the Syrian crisis. This is a good way of integrating into Austrian culture.
When refugees are coming, they are not coming with problems, they are coming with a different culture, different religion, different skills and different potential, so they can be a good mix with the Austrian and local community. So this society, Austrian society, can be much more diversified, much stronger, much more resilient. So this helps the community and at the same time, most importantly, it helps those people who need life-sustaining support. Respecting their human dignity, human rights. Regardless of what kind of belief and traditions, what languages you may have, you must be treated as an equal partner, an equal human being.
Again I wish you all the best and I am very much encouraged by such strong support. The United Nations will continue to do that.
It is quite fortunate that my successor who will take over from 1 January has been serving as High Commissioner for Refugees: Antonio Guterres. He has been travelling, sometimes with me, meeting refugees, going to refugee camps. So he is the man who really has been helping you and has known everything when it comes to refugees.
So let’s expect for the better. But at the same time I hope you shall be strong, brave, courageous and resilient for a better future. You can count on the United Nations. Thank you very much. Danke schoen.