Panafrican News Agency

UN chief urges countries to transform their response refugee situations

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - The world needs to transform the way it responds to refugee situations and do more for the struggling countries that shelter almost all of them, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday, at a high-level forum seeking solutions to a decade of extraordinary mass displacement.

More must be done to protect refugees, respect their rights and address the reasons why people leave their homes in the first place, Mr. Guterres told the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, meeting for the first time.

“Now more than ever, we need international cooperation and practical, effective responses. We need better answers for those who flee, and better help for communities and countries that receive and host them.” he said, according to a UN statement.

Speaking a year after countries signed the Global Compact on Refugees in New York – described by Mr. Guterres as the “blueprint” to reaffirm their human rights – the global forum comes after what experts have called “a decade of displacement”.

In his appeal for joint action, Mr. Guterres described the Global Compact on Refugees as “our collective achievement and our collective responsibility. It speaks to the plight of millions of people. And it speaks to the heart of the mission of the United Nations.”

More than 70 million people are forcibly displaced – double the level 20 years ago, and 2.3 million more than just one year ago, according to UN data.

More than 25 million of them are refugees, having fled across international borders, unable to return to their homes.

In reference to the main international agreements that have for decades underpinned assistance to refugees, the Secretary-General said that there is a need today to re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime”, based on the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol.

“Indeed, at a time when the right to asylum is under assault, when so many borders and doors are being closed to refugees, when even child refugees are being detained and divided from their families, we need to reaffirm the human rights of refugees,” Mr. Guterres said.

As event co-host, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called on the international community to “reboot” its stance on people in need of protection.

“Injustice, conflict and violence. This is why we are here,” said the UNHCR chief. “Our world is in turmoil, and 25 million refugees are looking to us for solutions.”

Assessing the global action on refugees as “piecemeal and unbalanced”, Mr. Grandi added that with “71 million people uprooted from their homes globally, inside and outside their countries, it's time to reboot our responses”.

But rather than displaying solidarity for people in need, “countries with more resources” had shifted the burden to the poorest nations.

This meant that “refugees are pushed aside too…often in camps, cut off from the social and economic life of the communities hosting them”, Mr. Grandi said. “Humanitarian aid helps, and remains vital, but is not enough and not adequate to turn the tide from despair to hope,” he added.

Encouraging support for greater burden-sharing by all countries, Switzerland Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis said that his country had committed around $125 million over the next four years to refugee protection.

Although around eight in 10 refugees were hosted in developing countries, Swiss towns and cities were contributing to their protection by helping them to integrate into their communities Mr. Cassis maintained, in his capacity as co-host of the Global Refugee Forum.

“Life is like a bicycle; you have to move forward to avoid losing your balance…This applies to all of us, we must not lose our balance and look ahead,” Mr. Cassis said, recalling a saying by Albert Einstein, one of the country’s most famous refugees.

-0- PANA MA 18Dec2019