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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

Mr. Chairperson/Madame Chair,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The following countries align themselves with this statement:

The candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* and Turkey, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

The EU thanks the High Commissioner for his commitment to refugees, internally displaced and stateless persons and for the comprehensive report on the activities of the Office during 2009. The EU pays tribute to the staff of UNHCR for their important work and expresses our condolences for staff members who have lost their lives on duty.

At the end of 2008 there were an estimated 15 million refugees and 26 million internally displaced persons in the world as a result of violence and armed conflict. These displaced populations are adversely affected by a number of overarching trends and challenges such as climate change, environmental degradation, population growth, urbanisation, food insecurity, economic crisis and shrinking humanitarian and asylum space.

We must all take our responsibility to face these challenges and contribute to an effective and efficient humanitarian response system that can meet the humanitarian needs of affected populations.

Mr. Chairperson/Madame Chair,

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions. The promotion of International Humanitarian Law is arguably more important than ever against the backdrop of blatant violations that occur in various conflict settings. The humanitarian space is shrinking and access to civilian populations in need of assistance is denied. Direct attacks on humanitarian actors are on the increase. Steps need to be taken to address these violations. We must all advocate for the respect of international humanitarian law as well as respect and promote the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. We urge all parties to any conflict to respect international humanitarian law.

Mr. Chairperson/Madame Chair,

The EU is concerned with the conditions of internally displaced that are detained in camps in Sri Lanka, and calls for freedom of movement, an overall plan for the return process and unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations. Unhindered humanitarian access is crucial in many countries today, not least in the DRC, Yemen and Somalia and we call on all parties to the conflicts in these countries up-hold the humanitarian space. The serious humanitarian situation in Somalia has triggered an inflow of refugees to Kenya. While we deeply appreciate Kenya’s generosity in hosting refugees, we urge the Government of Kenya to expeditiously provide additional land in the Dadaab area.

Mr. Chairperson/Madame Chair,

The 1951 refugee convention and its 1967 protocol provide the basis for the international refugee protection regime. Violations of the principle of non-refoulment needs to be addressed, for example in the context of mixed migratory flows. The EU believes that UNHCR’s so called 10-point plan to deal with mixed flows is a valuable instrument in this context. We also welcome an active participation of UNHCR in the Global Migration Group.

Within the EU the development towards a Common European Asylum System continues, with emphasis on practical cooperation. Asylum will be an important part of the next five-year plan for EU cooperation in the area of freedom, security and justice – the Stockholm Programme – aimed to be adopted by the European Council in December.

Mr. Chairperson/Madame Chair,

We note with deep concern the situation of millions of refugees trapped in protracted displacement and we look forward to the adoption of protection conclusions on the theme of protracted refugee situations. The EU expresses its deep appreciation for the host countries’ invaluable contributions in protracted refugee situations. The EU welcomes the proactive efforts of the High Commissioner to contribute to finding durable solutions and urges all countries to equally contribute both in addressing the root causes and in resolving existing protracted situations through the application of voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement. Within the EU, work is on-going to establish a common resettlement program with a view to increasing the number of places available for resettling refugees with individual protection needs, and making it possible for Member States to use resettlement more strategically.

In terms of repatriation, voluntary return is often hampered due to insecurity and lack of economic and social infrastructures in the country of origin. To address this it is important to fill the gaps that often occur between emergency relief and development assistance. UNHCR’s active involvement in the UN delivering as One initiative is important in this context.

There is a growing number of persons of concern to UNHCR that reside in urban areas which pose specific challenges in the areas of protection, assistance and solutions. It is important that this is reflected in the needs based budgets of UNHCR. The EU welcomes the release of the UNHCR policy on refugee protection and solutions in urban areas, and we look forward to the High Commissioner’s dialogue on this issue in December.

Mr. Chairperson/Madame Chair,

Inter-state conflicts are less prevalent today than internal conflicts and,. the people of concern to UNHCR now includes a higher number of internally displaced persons than refugees. The EU welcomes that UNHCR has expanded its protection and assistance programs for internally displaced populations and we hope to see continuous efforts by the Office to meet the protection and assistance needs of these populations and to finding durable solutions.

The EU welcomes that 17 African Union States signed the AU Convention on Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons in Africa at the recent AU-summit in Kampala.

Mr. Chairperson/Madame Chair,

Partnerships and coordination with other humanitarian actors are fundamental for an efficient and effective humanitarian response. The EU is a staunch supporter of the humanitarian reform efforts, and strongly supports the cluster system and the common humanitarian financing mechanisms. The EU appreciates UNHCR’s lead role for three of the clusters and note the importance of mainstreaming the cluster activities in budgets and programming. We urge UNHCR to continue to be a constructive partner in the humanitarian reform efforts and to support the Emergency Relief Coordinator at the global level and Humanitarian Coordinators at the country level.

For the delivery of humanitarian assistance to be efficient and effective it has to be evidence based. The EU welcomes the establishment of the IASC Needs Assessment Task Force and encourages UNHCR to continue to be an active partner within this group.

Mr. Chairperson/Madame Chair,

The EU pays tribute to the comprehensive structural and management reform undertaken by UNHCR. The reforms now need to be consolidated. In this consolidation phase we underline the importance of the efforts to establish gender parity in staffing and recruitment.

Finally, the EU supports the draft resolution under this agenda item and expresses its continued commitment to support UNHCR.

Thank you.

* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

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