2 November 2016, New York – European Union Statement delivered by H.E. Ms. Joanne Adamson, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, General Assembly Third Committee Item 60: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA countries Iceland and Liechtenstein, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
We thank the High Commissioner for his remarks and for the report we have before us. The report highlights the enormous scale of forced displacement worldwide, with the number of people who have fled their homes reaching 65 million in 2015, another highest number ever recorded. This includes 21.3 million refugees, fleeing war, violence, human right violations. The European Union Member States alone have received more than 1.3 million asylum applicants in 2015 with a similar trend in 2016.
In view of the scale and complexity of current displacements one of main problems is its protracted nature – on average a person is displaced for over 10 years.
Nearly nine in ten refugees live in host countries in the global south. We therefore wish to commend the enormous generosity of those States, and the solidarity of the host communities which accommodate refugee populations, in many cases over long periods of time. The EU and its Member States reaffirm their commitment to support host countries and communities, both worldwide and within the European Union itself. At the same time, we underline the need to strengthen protection, improve the situation of persons of concern, and facilitate durable solutions.
As the world moves from crisis to crisis, we must do more to prevent forced displacement, address its root causes and reinvigorate our efforts to look for solutions for those affected by it. And as it has been stressed repeatedly, these problems cannot be solved by the humanitarian community only. A comprehensive long-term approach is needed and political and development actors have a crucial role to play. At the World Humanitarian Summit, the EU reconfirmed that resolving and preventing conflicts, and preventing relapses into conflicts, is a primary objective of EU’s external action.
The EU also proposed a new, development-oriented policy framework to address forced displacement, together with humanitarian assistance. This approach is set out in the Commission Communication ‘Lives in Dignity: from Aid-dependence to Self-reliance: Forced displacement and development’. Its aim is to foster the self-reliance and resilience of the displaced and their host communities through securing sustainable livelihoods and access to basic services, including education at all levels.
We have started implementing this new approach in concrete projects and programmes with the objective to use it systematically and in all displacement crises. It is already being implemented through the Regional Development and Protection Programmes (RDPP) and joint humanitarian-development frameworks, as well as resilience programming under the EU Trust Funds.
As needs increase, humanitarian organisations, like UNHCR, are under enormous pressure to deliver. In addition, aid delivery has become increasingly complex. In this context, we take the opportunity to express our deepest appreciation for the humanitarian relief workers and volunteers who regularly put their lives at risk to assist those in need. Let us collectively strive to reconfirm the core humanitarian principles and underline the importance of respect for international humanitarian as well as refugee law.
While needs have reached dramatically high levels, it has nonetheless been encouraging that financial support for UNHCR is at its highest ever level, with more than 3.7 billion USD contributed to UNHCR activities in 2015. This signifies a clear recognition by donors of UNHCR’s competence, knowledge and skills, and demonstrates our trust in the High Commissioner and his staff. Also the EU remained committed to the work of UNHCR and continued their generous support to UNHCR. However, the needs-based budget for the next year, amounting to 7.3 billion USD, is a clear indication that substantial needs remain unmet.
This funding gap points out to the need to reflect collectively on how to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of UNHCR operations. It is all the more important in the follow up of the World Humanitarian Summit and the endorsed commitments of the Grand Bargain. The bargain emphasises that an equal share of reforms is needed on the side of both donors and implementers. The objective is to ensure renewed trust, transparency and efficiency of our operations.
We echo the High Commissioner’s renewed call for action to address the needs of asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless persons. The New York Declaration adopted at the occasion of the Summit on large movements of refugees and migrants gave a new impetus to our work. It reasserts the validity of the International Refugee Law and underlines the centrality of global responsibility sharing and international solidarity among States when addressing the refugee situations. It has also launched the Global Campaign against racism and xenophobia that should sensitise the citizens of countries receiving asylum seekers, including EU countries, to the core human values which guide our commitment to protect those who flee conflict and persecution.
The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework adopted at the Summit is an expression of a concrete commitment to address the refugee situations in a more comprehensive and dignified manner based on the principles of international cooperation and burden- and responsibility-sharing. The EU and its Member states are committed to contribute to putting the elements contained therein into practice.[Finally, Mr Chair, we support the draft resolution on the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees presented by Norway under this agenda item].
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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