High Commissioner's Opening Statement to the 63rd Session of ExCom
Palais des Nations, Geneva, 1 October 2012
Mr. Chairman, Ambassador Cousin, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this sixty-third session of the Executive Committee. I wish to extend a particularly warm welcome to our new ExCom members, Azerbaijan and Rwanda, and look forward to a fruitful dialogue in the coming week.
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We are here because we care. We care for some of the most vulnerable people in the world, people who have been uprooted and dispossessed, people who need our support to rebuild their lives and to restore their vision of a future.
I remember a Somali woman I met last year in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia. She had walked for two weeks to reach safety, losing three of her six children along the way.
I remember a teenage girl in Jordan who had witnessed her parents being killed.
And I remember the story of a man from northern Mali, struggling to support his family after most of his herd of goats - their only means of survival - died from lack of water during the long trek into exile.
They are the raison d'être of our collective commitment, a commitment which today is more necessary than ever.
Indeed, this year has seen a multiplication of new refugee crises unmatched in UNHCR's recent history. Today, we are facing four acute simultaneous emergencies.
These include the three powerfully conveyed in the film you have just seen, in Mali, Sudan/South Sudan and Syria, as well as the latest stage in the protracted and complex conflict in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Each of these has triggered large-scale movements of refugees, and significant internal displacement. This has made enormous demands on UNHCR's resources, and those of our partners, as it was so eloquently expressed by [WFP Executive Director] Ambassador Cousin.
All this is happening as we strive to manage the ongoing implications of the major crises in 2011, in Côte d'Ivoire, Libya, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. Don't forget that one million Somalis are still in need of assistance in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen. And we continue to support millions of Afghans, Eritreans, Myanmarese and other refugees in protracted situations.
Why are we seeing the proliferation of largely unanticipated crises?
The roots lie in part in a series of inter-connected global trends - accelerated demographic, climatic, social and economic change, incomplete democratization processes, a failure to address marginalization and inequality, and competition for scarce resources.
But they also lie in the limited capacity of the international community for the prevention and timely resolution of conflicts.
I began my engagement in Portuguese politics when we were living in a bipolar world. When I held office in my country, the unipolar world reached its apex. There was never a true global governance system, much less a democratic one, but there were clear power relations.
Today the world is no longer bipolar or unipolar, but neither are we witnessing a structured multipolar world. We still do not have an effective global governance system, but power relations have become unclear.
And as a result, conflicts emerge where they are least expected. Unpredictability has become the name of the game. Violence erupts, often under the most chaotic of circumstances, wreaking havoc and tearing whole societies apart.
And in the absence of a strong and effective international consensus aimed at their prevention and early resolution, new crises multiply and chronic ones persist. The humanitarian consequences are increasingly dramatic.
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Let me elaborate on what that means for UNHCR, its partners and host countries receiving those who flee.
Already in 2011, as crisis after crisis unfolded, more than 800,000 people crossed borders in search of refuge - an average of more than 2,000 refugees every day. And this was higher than at any time in the last decade.
And so far this year, more than 700,000 people have fled from the DRC, Mali, Sudan and Syria.
The most compelling aspects of this situation are reflected in the lives of the men, women and children forced to flee, or trapped in the midst of conflict and unable to do so.
But it also has wide-ranging consequences for the communities receiving them. For host countries, the large-scale arrival of refugees has a significant social and economic impact, on top of the security implications of a conflict nearby.
In all the major refugee emergencies in 2011 and 2012, States kept their borders open and respected the principle of non-refoulement. They also provided a safe haven and allowed refugees to stay. And this is a very visible and profound statement of their commitment to refugee protection.
The international community should recognize this effort and strongly reinforce it. We need genuine burden-sharing and effective solidarity to match the generosity of host States.
And this is a basic pre-condition to finding sustainable solutions for refugees and providing support to the communities that host them.
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This succession of crises has radically tested UNHCR's capacity to deliver on our mandate in an increasingly demanding environment.
As well as cooperating to assist and protect the internally displaced in the four countries concerned, UNHCR is leading the international refugee response in the eleven that surround them.
Inside the States affected, hundreds of thousands of people are without access to food, medical care and basic needs, and exposed to acute protection risks. Many civilian lives have been lost. The ability of humanitarian agencies to reach the populations most severely affected is dramatically constrained, increasing the number forced to flee internally or across borders.
We are operating in increasingly challenging and dangerous environments. Conflicts are becoming more complex, with multiple actors and drivers. Maintaining the independence of humanitarian action from political and security agendas is more necessary, but also, unfortunately, more difficult, than ever.
Here, I wish to pay tribute to the extraordinary work of UNHCR staff and the staff of our partners around the world. Tragically, five UNHCR staff members have lost their lives since last year's Executive Committee meeting, in Afghanistan, in the DRC and in Syria.
I would like to express my profound solidarity with their families, and to recognize the very tangible contribution they made to the protection of the people we care for.
Whether working through the night to receive hungry, injured and frightened families fleeing a conflict just across the border, waiting on a jetty or a beach to receive the survivors of a perilous trip across the sea, or exposing themselves to significant personal risk in contexts of persistent insecurity, UNHCR staff members, and the staff of our partners, are the true symbols of humanitarian commitment.
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All this is occurring in the context of a global economic crisis, in which budgets are increasingly stretched. We are enormously grateful to our donors, who have demonstrated significant and consistent commitment to supporting our operations.
Fortunately, we ended 2011 in a solid financial situation. We have spent US$2.18 billion last year, with an implementation rate of 96% of the operating level that was fixed together by me and our budget committee. The carry over into 2012 was almost equal to that with which we started the year, a clear indication of financial stability.
And thanks to our donors' generosity, we are now projecting for 2012 a level of voluntary contributions similar in dollar terms to 2011. The problem is that the needs in the field, especially for emergencies, have significantly increased.
For several years until late 2010, the biggest humanitarian emergencies were the result of natural disasters, such as the Haiti earthquake and the Pakistan floods, or large-scale internal displacement caused by conflict, such as in Sri Lanka, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan.
But in 2011 and 2012, the most significant crises have been refugee emergencies, or have had a large refugee component. This puts enormous pressure on our human and financial resources, as we have to fully assume our responsibilities as global coordinators of the refugee response, and, if all else fails, providers of last resort, in accordance with our mandate.
As a result, we are at a moment when the demands on us are rising while the means available to respond have remained at a similar level to last year. Our operations in Africa, in particular, are dramatically underfunded.
I'll give you just an example: In Chad, where we still have more than 260,000 refugees from Darfur and about 60,000-70,000 refugees from Central African Republic, Chad, that until recently was one of our best-funded operations, our needs-based budget approved by ExCom for 2012 is $177 million. The budget committee has authorized our Chad office to spend at the level of $95 million. But the funds received for this operation are only $44 million - $177 million of needs, $95 million of authorized expenditure, and $44 million of earmarked funding for Chad.
We know, even with a conservative estimate of needs until the end of the year, that our total expenditure in 2012 will clearly exceed last year's. At this moment, we have no room for any unforeseen needs. No reserve available. In today's unpredictable operating environment, this is a cause for deep concern.
At this time of economic crisis, I am aware of the pressures on humanitarian aid budgets. Yet curtailing humanitarian assistance will turn out to be more costly in the long run. I therefore appeal to all our donors - both traditional and non-traditional - for additional support at this critical juncture, in which our financial capacity has been stretched to the limit.
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As well as appealing for donor support, I have made it a key priority to find additional savings at
Headquarters and, wherever possible, within our regular operations, and to ensure that we are making the most responsible and efficient use of the resources entrusted to us.
In this regard, we have taken the following steps.
First, so far this year we managed to achieve some $60 million in savings that have been diverted to new emergencies.
In so doing, we sought to ensure that agreements with our implementing partners were not disrupted, and that core protection activities and life-saving assistance were unaffected.
We undertook a robust review of procurement plans, limiting this to mission-critical procurement only. Stockpile replenishment is being carefully controlled. Any exchange rate gains in the field are being captured and applied to emergency operations. Travel and training have been cut back.
We have undertaken measures to ensure that staffing costs are streamlined and that geographic and functional coverage are aligned to organizational priorities. In that context, we have decided to undertake a limited workforce reduction in 2013.
This means that some staff serving on fixed term and temporary appointments may not have their contracts extended, and for the first time, through the introduction of special measures for a reduction in the international professional workforce, some indefinite contract-holders without posts may also be affected.
This has created great anxiety for those staff members, and their families. I am committed to ensuring that this process is managed in a fair manner, and that we are responsive to the concerns and needs of staff, and that we do all that we can to find solutions and mitigate the impact on those affected - as we have done in the past, for example with the outposting for Budapest.
But after a period of rapid expansion, due to a multiplication of crises, consolidation is needed. And I believe that at a moment of tightened public spending in many countries, and expanding humanitarian needs, we have a paramount obligation to ensure that available resources are applied as effectively as possible to directly benefit the people of concern to UNHCR.
Second, we continue to make good use of the flexibility provided by un-earmarked funds, particularly in launching the response to new operations and in funding forgotten crises. Un-earmarked funds continue to play a critical role in enabling us to cover ongoing and new needs.
But now, these also have been exhausted. Even the buffer that we set aside for potential exchange rate losses has also been allocated for life-saving activities.
Only 13 percent of un-earmarked funds were spent on headquarters costs in 2011. As such, you can be sure that any additional un-earmarked funds we receive will be applied in field operations, where they are most necessary.
Third, we have reinforced measures to reach out to non-traditional donors, including the private sector. Private donors provided $111 million to UNHCR in 2011, an increase of 53 percent over 2010.
Our partnership with the private sector also encompasses technical cooperation and the fostering of innovation, including through a dedicated team working directly under the leadership of the Deputy High Commissioner.
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I have already made reference to the significant contributions made by host countries in today's refugee operations.
A major refugee influx has a substantial economic impact, entailing the diversion of human and financial resources. It can lead to complex social consequences. And it makes major demands on local infrastructure and the environment.
It may also present complex security challenges, particularly in relation to maintaining the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum.
In situations where an early solution to crisis is not achieved, and the refugee presence becomes protracted, the impact becomes more complex over time.
Globally, the largest refugee populations are the result of chronic crises, often persisting over decades. Host countries in protracted refugee situations make significant long-term contributions which are complex and multi-dimensional, and for that reason, less visible than other forms of assistance.
I am committed to finding ways in which these contributions can be more tangibly recognized, and am encouraged by the work of the Steering Committee of ExCom members which has been working to develop a framework for more comprehensively understanding and capturing them.
I am also aware of the costs of asylum systems and integration programmes in the industrialised world, but I still believe we need increased international burden-sharing and solidarity to enhance the efforts of refugee-hosting countries, through financial and political support and enhanced resettlement programmes.
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I am extremely happy that Ms. Ertharin Cousin, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, was able to join us as our guest speaker today. As you have seen, she brings enormous energy and commitment to the job. And her commitment is the best guarantee we can have for the people we care for. In their support to refugee populations WFP has never failed. And this is something that has a value that indeed cannot be over-estimated. Thank you very much Ambassador Cousin.
We are privileged to have a deep and longstanding relationship with WFP. We are currently conducting joint operations in some 37 countries, serving some 9.7 million refugees, returnees and internally displaced people.
In the deep field, in the most dangerous locations, wherever you see UNHCR, WFP is there with us. Partnership is a cornerstone of UNHCR's work. In recent years, the capacity and architecture of the humanitarian system has evolved significantly.
We remain firmly committed to the responsibilities we have assumed under the humanitarian reform process, and have contributed actively to the development of the Transformative Agenda, under the leadership of the Emergency Relief Coordinator.
But the changing humanitarian landscape also has important implications for how UNHCR can best fulfill its mandated responsibilities in refugee situations.
We will continue to seek synergies between refugee coordination mechanisms under UNHCR's leadership and broader humanitarian coordination arrangements, including under the cluster approach. The recent examples of Syria and Mali show that this can be successfully achieved.
In dialogue with partners, we are now applying a flexible model in refugee operations that enables them to make them have an enhanced role in planning coordination and delivery. Our growing cooperation with UNICEF and IOM are also aimed at this objective. A structured dialogue on the strategic dimensions of our relationship with NGOs is also well-advanced.
Refugee emergencies frequently unfold in the context of broader humanitarian crises affecting a range of population groups, including the internally displaced, returnees and others who may be equally as vulnerable and have similar needs.
We cannot manage refugee operations in isolation from this broader environment, and need to ensure a coherent and impartial response to needs, which at the same time takes into account the specific legal status and characteristics of refugees, and their need for particular forms of protection and support.
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We are nearing the completion of three years of reforms to strengthen our emergency response capacity.
The concept of corporate responsibility for emergencies has now taken root. Our rosters, both internal and external, have been strengthened. Preparedness and response have been embedded as core responsibilities in all parts of the organization.
A roster of senior managers is in place, available for immediate deployment in major crises.
NGO and government partners continue to play a direct and critical role. Personnel mobilized through standby arrangements with external partners currently constitute around half of our emergency deployments.
We also continue to reinforce our national partnerships, recognizing that the existing humanitarian architecture does not sufficiently engage and foster national and local involvement. We are currently developing a new project to strengthen the emergency response capacity of eleven national NGOs, who would be available to deploy both locally or elsewhere in the region.
Reinforcing the capabilities of national NGOs is a key instrument for humanitarian response, but also an important contribution to strengthen civil society in their own countries.
But we also recognize the need to strengthen our partnerships with States, particularly at the outset of major emergencies in which the capacities of the humanitarian system are stretched to breaking point, and we witness unacceptable levels of suffering and mortality. At these moments, we frequently face acute logistical and other challenges which need the engineering and technical capacity that only governments can provide.
In this respect we are deepening our cooperation with national civil defense agencies including through the international humanitarian partnership.
In parallel with the measures I have just described, we have significantly strengthened and professionalized our supply service, including our airlift capacity. Over the last 18 months, in 92% of UNHCR airlifts, delivery took place within 72 hours of the request being made.
In line with the auditors' recommendations, we are also improving our compliance and risk management, as well as strengthening our procurement and contracting procedures.
I have already referred to the daunting challenges we continue to face in operating in areas beset with risks. We continue to invest heavily to enable staff to operate safely.
This includes protective hardware and equipment, but has also meant overhauling our cohort of field safety staff to ensure that they have strong analytical capacities and the skills to reach out to communities and support colleagues in the field.
We continue to focus strongly on training, aimed at strengthening a culture of security throughout the organization.
But the best way to ensure staff security is by developing positive relationships with communities, and building acceptance through adherence to the humanitarian principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality.
For the first time in sixty years, we also have now a manual on addressing threats to the security of people of concern. This is currently being rolled out, with the objective of helping UNHCR protection and security staff to support host governments in ensuring a safe and secure environment for those we care for.
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At the same time as new humanitarian emergencies multiply, chronic crises persist, with tragic human consequences.
They have created global refugee populations, such as Afghans, Somalis or Eritreans.
We are all aware that the political resolution of conflict and instability lies at the heart of durable solutions, and that this goes beyond our mandate.
But I firmly believe that there is much that we can do to advance the prospect of solutions from the early stages of an emergency, through to when a peace process begins to take place.
First, we can contribute to preventing the escalation of crisis, through advocacy highlighting its humanitarian consequences, and by using conflict-sensitive approaches in our own operations.
Second, we can always find ways of enhancing human dignity and self-reliance from the outset. In current emergencies, where appropriate, we have sought to find ways of facilitating access to existing services and supporting alternative settlement options, rather than defaulting to traditional camp-based approaches. Examples such as the new 'out of camp' policy for Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia also promise to facilitate greater self-reliance.
In Dolo Ado, Ethiopia, within a year after a major influx of Somali refugees, UNHCR had already established a unique joint project with the IKEA Foundation, aimed at enhancing the self-reliance of refugees through a range of interventions in education, livelihoods, environmental activities and support to the local community.
Early investments are needed to help refugees retain and reinforce their social and economic capital, and the skills they need to build a vision of a future. Without this, disillusionment and despair can easily set in.
In many operations, we are now using cash and voucher-based support mechanisms which empower refugees and internally displaced people to determine and address their own priority needs. We have been working closely with WFP, as Ambassador Cousin so eloquently explained.
We also continue to pursue new ways of ensuring that displacement is firmly on the development agenda, including through the Transitional Solutions Initiative. This is currently being piloted, together with UNDP, in response to the protracted refugee and internal displacement situations in Eastern Sudan and Colombia. We hope to add Nepal as a pilot country, subject to the Government's final endorsement of the joint programme.
We are also working closely with UNDP, OCHA and other partners to implement the recent decision of the Secretary General's Policy Committee on Durable Solutions.
Third, we can be ready to take advantage of windows of opportunity, particularly for voluntary repatriation. The majority of those who fled Côte d'Ivoire last year have already returned home. In Myanmar, I hope that positive developments will pave the way for a resolution of the plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Thailand and other countries in the region.
And I also strongly hope that next year will be one of opportunity for Somalis, enabling us to leverage potential solutions in ways which have never been possible for the last two decades.
Regrettably, the current pressure on resources means that we are not able to take full advantage of opportunities to help refugees return home. As a result, tens of thousands of refugees from Liberia, Angola and the DRC are at risk of remaining stranded in exile.
Fourth, we can continue to examine complementary approaches to the three traditional durable solutions, such as through temporary migration management arrangements, alternative legal stays and other mobility-related initiatives, provided that a protection safety net is maintained. The recent decision of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to regularize the status of all undocumented Afghans provides an opportunity to be explored.
Fifth, together we can reinforce our collective commitment to achieving progress towards solutions in situations of protracted displacement, including, where appropriate, the timely invocation of cessation clauses.
In this regard, we continue to pursue comprehensive strategies, in which a range of solutions are implemented in tandem, rather than in sequence.
A significant breakthrough was made in securing solutions for those displaced in the western Balkans, through the conclusion of a regional plan to resolve displacement stemming from the 1991-1995 conflict.
And the new Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees, developed by the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan together with UNHCR, was endorsed at an international conference in May, and marks an invigorated drive towards securing solutions to their long-standing plight. The strategy also provides a multilateral framework for the robust engagement of development stakeholders in addressing issues related to sustainable return and reintegration, as well as support to host communities.
We also remain extremely grateful to the 26 States, led by the United States, Australia and Canada, with a growing number of European and Latin American countries, who continue to accept refugees for resettlement. Almost 80,000 refugees were admitted last year, some 61,600 with UNHCR's assistance.
The three emergency transit centres in Romania, the Philippines and Slovakia continue to play a key role in urgent evacuations and in facilitating access to refugees by resettlement countries.
But we should never forget that preserving asylum space for refugees, creating the conditions for self-reliance, and allowing for solutions to be implemented, require strong international solidarity with host communities. Many of these have made extraordinary gestures of generosity, opening their homes and their hearts and sharing their meager resources with those who have come to them in search of refuge.
The foundation to securing progress towards solutions lies, as ever, in collective resolve and international solidarity. I remain unswerving in my commitment to pursuing durable solutions to displacement and appeal to all ExCom members to reinforce their support for the programmes and initiatives I have just described.
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In last year's ministerial-level meeting, 92 States made pledges relating to refugees and asylum-seekers, including on the protection of women and children, and on durable solutions. This was a landmark in the reinforcement of the international protection regime.
Twenty-two States made pledges in relation to internal displacement, including ten African countries who committed to ratify the Kampala Convention, or to incorporate it into national laws and policies.
And during the ministerial meeting, Norway and Switzerland, with the support of three other States, signaled their readiness to lead an important and timely global debate to explore how to address protection gaps arising from cross-border displacement linked to sudden-onset disasters, including those triggered or aggravated by climate change. The 'Nansen Initiative' will be launched by them at a side event tomorrow.
We also witnessed an unprecedented expression of concern about the situation of millions of stateless people around the world. Sixty-one States made pledges, including accession to one or both Statelessness Conventions, law reform and improvement of civil registration and documentation systems. Last week, the European Union made an additional pledge before the United Nations that all of its Member States would become parties to the 1954 Convention.
Seven countries have acceded to one or both Conventions since the ministerial meeting, and two have introduced statelessness determination procedures. This process is gaining momentum.
We need decisive action to resolve the situation of millions of people around the world who have been stateless for generations, with profound implications for their human rights. These protracted statelessness situations are not a problem to be addressed at some future date. Solutions are needed now, and I call on all States to make a firm commitment to ending statelessness within the next decade.
In addition to the ministerial meeting, we were also extremely pleased to co-organize an International Ministerial Conference on Refugees in the Muslim World, together with the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation and the Government of the Republic of Turkmenistan. This took place in Ashgabat in May.
Next December, our Dialogue on Protection will focus on faith and protection, building on the importance of shared common values in all religious traditions and the valuable role played by faith communities in caring for people of concern.
Here, I would also like to make reference to the important concept of temporary protection. States have been using this for some years, and UNHCR also recognizes that temporary protection arrangements can be an important tool for delivering international protection, as recently demonstrated by Turkey in the Syrian crisis.
The challenge is to locate this tool within a broader international protection framework built on the 1951 Convention, and predicated on responsibility and burden-sharing. We would like to start a process of consultation on this with States in certain regions over the coming period, to understand better the practice of temporary protection and its place in addressing contemporary cross-border displacement challenges.
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We have also continued to make progress in reinforcing UNHCR's own protection capacities. There has been an increase of 70% in the number of protection positions worldwide since 2005.
Protection staff now constitute 26 percent of our workforce, as against 19 percent seven years ago. We have also recently advertised a number of positions to further strengthen our work in key areas such as sexual and gender-based violence, refugee status determination and statelessness.
I am particularly pleased with the advances we have made this year on a number of key protection priorities.
We are currently supporting the roll-out of our updated strategy on preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence, through a range of targeted measures.
These include additional funding for special projects in 15 key operations, with a particular focus on providing a safe environment, access to domestic energy, protecting groups at particular risk, including children, and engaging men and boys.
I also have high expectations that our reinforced cooperation with UN Women will lead to an increase in protection capacity for women and girls.
Another important advance was the launch of a new education strategy for 2012-2016. This was developed in broad consultation with our partners and is now being rolled out in 13 priority countries.
The significance of education has been amply demonstrated in the context of our ongoing emergencies. As well as a key right in itself, it has a broader child protection role. It also plays a part in stabilizing communities which have been subject to significant disruption and upheaval. Education paves the way for durable solutions, by educating the potential peace-builders of tomorrow.
And here, I would like to salute the work of Hawa Aden Mohamed, this year's Nansen Refugee Award laureate, with women and girls in north-eastern Somalia, and to invite you to hear more about her inspiring story at tonight's Nansen Refugee Award ceremony.
I am also pleased that we have elaborated, together with our partners, a new framework for the protection of children. We are now working to strengthen our capacities in this area, particularly in emergencies. On both education and child protection, we are committed to working closely with UNICEF and our NGO partners, as well as national child protection and education authorities.
UNHCR is also currently undertaking a number of measures to implement the new urban refugee policy that we introduced three years ago. This has posed a range of challenges, especially in contexts where refugees are living alongside others affected by urban poverty. Experience has demonstrated the importance of providing technical support and advocacy to encourage the incorporation of assistance to refugees within existing central and local government programmes rather than creating parallel structures.
We continue to work on expanding our access to and knowledge of urban populations, and developing more effective communications methods, using new technologies. A number of the recent crises have had a significant impact on the security and well-being of refugees in urban areas. In Damascus, we are currently striving to reach out to Iraqi refugees affected by insecurity and disruption of basic services, through telephone hotlines and community outreach.
Further details of our progress in implementing the urban refugee policy will be provided at a side event that will take place at lunchtime today.
We have also just released new Detention Guidelines, which reflect the current status of international law, have a particular focus on alternatives to detention, and make it clear that detention of asylum-seekers should in principle be avoided. Their detention should always be the exception and not the rule.
We also remain fully committed to the enhanced responsibilities we have assumed in relation to the protection of internally displaced populations, and to remaining a reliable and predictable partner in the framework of the cluster approach.
In 2012, we are mobilizing an increasing volume of un-earmarked funding for operations for the internally displaced, despite being under considerable pressure due to the growing number of refugee emergencies. And this demonstrates our corporate commitment to internally displaced people.
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The challenges we have faced this year have underscored the value of our sustained investment in institutional reforms to ensure that resources are channeled more effectively towards the people we care for.
Over the years, this has included a strong programme of decentralizing and outposting, more recently through the establishment of a new information and communications technology service centre in Amman.
I continue to abide by the principle that a performing organization needs a robust central governance capacity. But a robust central governance capacity does not mean a huge central bureaucracy. We have driven down costs and shrunk our Geneva headquarters, by reducing bureaucratic processes and transferring functions and responsibilities that could be better assumed elsewhere. This has enabled a sharpened Headquarters focus on strategic direction, accountability and control.
I remain steadfast in my commitment to improving organizational performance, efficiency, and improved delivery, and to placing accountability at the heart of our relationship with the people we serve, with States, and with our partners
In response to weaknesses identified in the 2010 auditors report, we are investing significantly in improving our capacity for financial management and programme control.
At the beginning of this year we adopted the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) for the recording and reporting of financial transactions.
We are committed to enshrining a culture of personal responsibility and accountability throughout the organization, through the implementation of our Global Management and Accountability Framework.
We are introducing an enterprise risk management system to ensure a more analytical and consistent approach to managing risk across the organization. The rollout plan stretches into 2014.
Through the simplification initiative, working in consultation with Representatives, under the leadership of the Deputy High Commissioner, we are working to streamline our planning and reporting methodologies, postings and other processes.
We are striving to make Focus, our results-based management software, more user-friendly to colleagues in the field. It has been a difficult obstacle to overcome but we are now moving in that direction. And we have now launched a pilot Global Focus platform accessible to ExCom members.
An Independent Compliance and Accountability Committee was also recently established.
And I am committed to ensuring that UNHCR is an accountable and performing organization, built on strong foundations and with the capacity to adapt to a changing landscape. There is still a lot to improve, but we are determined to do so.
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The demands of the new refugee emergencies will not deflect our attention from the long-term endeavour of reinforcing the international protection regime. We must remain forward-looking.
We cannot abandon people living in protracted despair simply because their plight has fallen off the radar of the media, because political priorities have shifted elsewhere or because it simply seems too difficult to do otherwise.
Of course, we all know that there is no humanitarian solution to a displacement crisis. The solution is always political. But the current lack of a collective capacity to generate sustainable political solutions means that humanitarian action is needed more than ever.
There are still significant gaps in our response. Political interest is also patchy and funding levels variable. And while the collective response of the international system, and in particular, of host countries, has been commendable in relation to refugee crises, we are not doing so well in relation to the internally displaced, or those who are trapped or do not have the means to flee.
It is here, in countries where violence is ongoing, that the challenges are the most great. Humanitarian access may be restricted for security reasons, in part because of the indiscriminate nature of violence, and in some areas because the political aspirations underlying conflict become folded into the activities of criminals or foreign-sponsored radical movements.
Some parties to conflict may also try to block humanitarian access because they wish to avoid witnesses to their activities.
We must nonetheless continue to engage with all relevant actors to enable people in need to secure protection and assistance, in accordance with international humanitarian law.
And we must reject attempts to link the language of humanitarianism to political agendas and to undermine the neutrality, the independence and impartiality of humanitarian action.
We live in dangerous times, in an unpredictable world. More and more people are forced to flee in search of refuge.
I urge all ExCom members to renew their collective commitment to addressing their plight, and that of all those who find themselves uprooted from their homes and communities, as the crises of today and tomorrow continue to unfold.