Global Refugees Forum opens in Geneva: Grandi (UNHCR), world must ‘reboot’ approach to refugees

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GENEVA, DECEMBER 17 – 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.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is co-hosting the Forum together with Switzerland, and it is being co-convened by Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Germany, Pakistan, and Turkey – some of the countries hosting the largest refugee populations globally. The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Emanuela Del Re leads the Italian delegation: “Honored to represent Italy at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva. I shall share Italy’s best practices: humanitarian corridors, evacuations from Lybia and voluntary and assisted resettlements”, she said on Twitter.

Over three days, the Forum aims to generate new approaches and long-term commitments from a variety of actors to help refugees and the communities in which they live.

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 today’s 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.

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, who served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for a 10-year period (2005-2015) prior to his election as Secretary-General of the United Nations,  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.”

The Forum is meeting in Geneva at a moment when 70.8 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide, including 25.9 million refugees. Some 3,000 people are taking part, including refugees, heads of state and government, UN leaders, international institutions, development organizations, business leaders and civil society representatives, among others.

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. (@OnuItalia)