– Check against delivery –
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, as well as Ukraine 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 65.6 million by the end of 2016, the highest number ever recorded. This includes 22.5 million refugees, fleeing war, violence, persecution and human rights violations. The European Union Member States alone have received 1.2 million asylum applicants in 2016 at the high level of 2015.
In view of the scale and complexity of current displacements one of the main problems is its protracted nature – on average a person is likely to be displaced for over a decade and many have to put their lives on hold for much longer.
As noted by the report low and middle-income countries are hosting 84 per cent of the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. 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 for 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 alone. 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, are primary objectives of EU’s external action.
We also echo the High Commissioner’s renewed call for action to address the needs of asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless persons. Now, more than ever it will be key for UNHCR to work in partnership with others to meet these increasing needs and fulfil its strategic direction goal of more decisive and predictable engagement in situations of internal displacement, as the report notes. 2018 should be a showcase for collective action on IDPs as we commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on IDPs.
The European Union and its Member States stand firmly behind the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants of 2016 that gave a new impetus to work on displacement within the European Union. The Declaration reaffirms the International Refugee Law and underlines the centrality of global responsibility sharing and international solidarity among States when addressing refugee situations; reaffirms humanitarian principles as well as the centrality of international cooperation and solidarity to the refugee protection regime. The New York Declaration also launched the Global Campaign against racism and xenophobia, aimed at sensitising citizens of countries, including in the EU, receiving asylum seekers, , to the core humanitarian 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 refugee situations in a more comprehensive and dignified manner, based on the principles of international cooperation and burden- and responsibility-sharing. We thank UNHCR for its leadership in rolling out the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and call on all States to fully use its potential. The EU and its Member states are committed to contribute to putting the elements contained therein into practice.
The EU has 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 of using 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. This also includes significant support to the roll-out of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).
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 uphold the core humanitarian principles and underline the importance of respect for international humanitarian, human rights 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 level, with more than 3.9 billion USD contributed to UNHCR activities in 2016. 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. Although the UNHCR expenditure has quadrupled in the past10 years to reach almost 4 billion USD in 2016, there remains a significant funding gap to address all the needs identified by UNHCR field offices. However, the needs-based budget for 2017, amounting to 7.8 billion USD, is a clear indication that substantial needs remain unmet.
This funding gap points to the need for donor countries to consider increasing their support, but also to reflect collectively with the UNHCR on how to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of 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.
Finally, the EU remains committed to the work of UNHCR and continues ourr generous support to UNHCR. The EU and its Member States are together the biggest humanitarian donor, accounting for over half of the global humanitarian funding, and also to UNHCR for the first time.
We support the draft resolution on the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees presented by Finland under this agenda item.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.