ExCom: UNHCR chief calls for "New Deal" in managing the world's displaced

News Stories, 8 October 2010

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
High Commissioner António Guterres makes his closing address at the annual meeting of UNHCR's Executive Committee.

GENEVA, October 8 (UNHCR) High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres wrapped up his organization's annual meeting on Friday by calling for a "new deal" to help developing nations who shoulder the weight of 80 percent of the world's 43 million forcibly uprooted people.

Speaking of the support provided by these states, Guterres told UNHCR's governing Executive Committee (ExCom) "I think that what we really need is a new deal on burden sharing. It is the capacity of us all to work together in order to make sure that this generosity and this hospitality is fully matched by the solidarity of the international community".

International solidarity, he said, would improve protection and assistance for the refugees and internally displaced people that his agency is helping. It would also complement UNHCR's efforts at making returns sustainable, supporting local integration projects, regional development programmes for refugee-impacted areas and rehabilitation of former refugee settlements.

Noting that UNHCR had not been able to do enough, he said "it is also clear we do not have the capacity or the resources to do much more. So, in this kind of new deal, we need to make sure that others get involved."

The High Commissioner said UN development agencies, international financial institutions and regional organizations should all work "in order to make sure a true impact is felt by these populations and that they feel international solidarity in a strong way."

The annual five-day ExCom meeting reviews and approves UNHCR's programmes and budget, advises on protection issues and discusses a wide range of other topics.

Subjects discussed this year included the issue of accountability of the organization. During this debate, the United States and some other countries expressed reservations about expanding UNHCR's role in dealing with people forced out of their homes as a result of natural disasters.

The High Commissioner asserted that despite UNHCR's expertise in assistance and protection for the forcibly displaced, his agency's actions to serve other people in need would "never" undermine the "integrity" of its core mandates with respect to refugees and stateless people.

As part of the UN humanitarian reform process, UNHCR has been increasingly called upon to help internally displaced people, or IDPs, in partnership with its sister agencies.

Before concluding, Guterres renewed his call for states to step up accessions to the various conventions related to the protection of refugees and stateless people and voiced the hope that in 2011, "refugees, stateless persons and internally displaced persons will have a much stronger protection capacity in the international community than the one they enjoy today."

Throughout next year, UNHCR will be marking its 60th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the Reduction of Statelessness Convention as well as the 150th anniversary of the birth of Fridtjof Nansen the first High Commissioner for Refugees.

By Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba in Geneva

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UN Conventions on Statelessness

The two UN statelessness conventions are the key legal instruments in the protection of stateless people around the world.

Advocacy

Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

2010 Executive Committee Meeting

UNHCR's 61st Executive Committee met in Geneva from 4 to 8 October 2010.

The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Cameroon in late March to put a spotlight on the situation there of tens of thousands of refugees from Nigeria. These people have escaped mounting violence by insurgents in the north-east of their country. Among the places that Guterres visited during his March 24-25 visit is the Minawao Refugee Camp, where many of the uprooted have been relocated.

Situated some 120 kilometres from the dangerous border area with Nigeria in Cameroon's Far North region, Minawao camp is currently home to 33,000 Nigerian refugees, mainly from Borno state. Many of the arrivals are traumatized and in need of material and psycho-social help. They told the High Commissioner of losing their homes and belongings as well as members of their families. Some were injured. In total, an estimated 74,000 Nigerians have found refuge in Cameroon while cross-border incursions from Nigeria have displaced 96,000 Cameroonians. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux also visited Minawao to hear the individual stories.

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

On 1 August, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres travelled to northern Burkina Faso with the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BRPM), Anne Richard. In Damba camp, they met with Malian refugees who had fled northern Mali in the past six months to escape the ongoing conflict and political instability. To date, more than 250,000 Malian refugees have fled their homes and found refuge in neighbouring countries, including 107,000 in Burkina Faso alone. The UN refugee agency has only received one-third of the US$153 million it needs to provide life-saving assistance such as shelter, water, sanitation, health services, nutrition and protection to the refugees. UNHCR fears that the volatile political and humanitarian situation in Mali could lead to further outflows to neighbouring countries.

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined UNHCR chief António Guterres on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they met with boat people who have fled unrest in North Africa.

More than 40,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and descended on the small island since the beginning of the year.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Kenya: High Commissioner Visits Dadaab Refugee CampPlay video

Kenya: High Commissioner Visits Dadaab Refugee Camp

Last week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres completed a visit to Kenya and Somalia where he met with the Presidents of the two countries, as well as Somali refugees and returnees.
Mediterranean Drownings: The High Commissioner's CommentsPlay video

Mediterranean Drownings: The High Commissioner's Comments

The High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres expressed shock at news from the Mediterranean that hundreds of people were missing after their boat sank and called anew for urgent action to prevent such tragedies in the future. The latest incident involves the capsizing of a double-deck boat on Monday in waters about 120 kilometers south of Italy's Lampedusa Island.
Cameroon: High Commissioner Meets Nigerian RefugeesPlay video

Cameroon: High Commissioner Meets Nigerian Refugees

In Minawao camp, Cameroon, Nigerian refugees get a chance to tell their stories to High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres during his visit.