Remarks by António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, TICAD V, Theme V "Enhancement of Peacebuilding"
Statements by High Commissioner, 2 June 2013
Yokohama, Japan, 2 June 2013
Check against delivery
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. Over the past 20 years, TICAD has become one of the largest international platforms for cooperation with Africa, and I am very pleased that issues of forced displacement and durable solutions for its victims remain high on the agenda.
Focus on the Sahel this year is natural, and I am honored to complement the very pertinent remarks of the Presidents of Burkina Faso and Senegal with my perspective on some of the humanitarian aspects of the crisis.
Nearly half a million people have been forced from their homes in the 15 months since the beginning of the conflict in Mali. More than 175,000 refugees have sought safety in neighbouring countries, and over 300,000 Malians are internally displaced.
In a region where drought and prolonged food insecurity had already caused one acute humanitarian crisis, the large-scale displacement brought about by the conflict in Mali has added an additional burden on often impoverished and fragile communities. Many of the displaced are staying with host families who were already struggling to make ends meet and whose resources are now wearing thin.
Mali's neighbours – especially Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria – have generously taken in tens of thousands of refugees. They need continued international support to help them manage the additional strain the refugee influx has put on their economies and societies, already impacted by prolonged drought.
A sustainable political solution must be found to the crisis in Mali, including free, fair and inclusive elections, stronger institutions at all levels, and a successful reconciliation process that involves all ethnic groups. These are prerequisites for creating the conditions for all Malians to fully participate in a reformed state and in the socio-economic development of the region.
Many of the steps required to achieve this can only be taken by Malians themselves. But for their efforts to succeed, countries of the region and the international community will have to be fully engaged in an effective future development strategy that is fair, equitable and fully inclusive. Recovery and resilience-building efforts must focus on ensuring the human security of all members of society, and they must also include the dynamics of displacement. The potential for the safe and sustainable return of those who fled is one key concern to be firmly anchored in any roadmap for the future of the region. Adequate support to countries hosting refugees is another, including for example the rehabilitation of refugee-impacted areas once the displaced are able to return home.
We cannot look at Mali in isolation. The entire Sahel region is among the main victims of the accelerating effects of climate change, with drought and desertification likely to get worse in the future as a potential source of conflict over scarce resources and a new driver of forced displacement. To help communities build resilience, in this context, represents a fundamental contribution to peace-building and a clear moral obligation for the whole international community, and especially for those countries that contribute more to global warming and its consequences.
In addition, the region's remote, sparsely populated territories have made it an ideal operating theatre for actors engaged in highly lucrative organised crime including drug and arms trafficking and people smuggling, and in activities linked to terrorism. This entails security risks at the national and sub-regional levels, but also beyond.
If these factors are not properly addressed, including at the regional and global level, we face the risk of a series of interlinked crises from Libya to Nigeria and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Aden – a clear threat to peace and stability that would also have devastating humanitarian consequences.
For all of these reasons, the Sahel region needs the attention and the support of the international community. Japan has played a leading role in this regard through the strong support it has provided to the region, including through humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced persons. In addition, Japan's International Cooperation Agency JICA is stepping up its engagement in the Sahel countries, and I hope that, in collaboration with UNHCR, some of its projects will also benefit the displaced and their host communities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The pressing need for the international community to support resilience-building efforts and durable solutions to forced displacement in Africa is not limited to the Sahel zone. There are more than 14 million people of concern to UNHCR on the continent, most of them refugees and internally displaced persons. The human and economic impact of forced displacement is enormous, especially when displacement situations become protracted.
Leadership by African regional and sub-regional institutions is crucial in paving the way for durable solutions, and in addressing some of the problems underlying forced displacement on the continent. The African Union's Kampala Convention is one illustration of this, having set a global example for the protection of millions of internally displaced persons and aiming at addressing the root causes of displacement. UNHCR will continue to work with the AU to support its member states in transforming these positive legal developments into tangible improvements for uprooted people on the ground.
But solutions also require adequate international support, and I cannot overemphasize the importance of robust, effective partnerships with development actors in this context. UNHCR has been expanding its partnerships with other organizations, as well as host and donor governments, so as to bring together additional expertise and resources to improve livelihood opportunities, create more resilient communities and bring displacement situations to an end. I very much hope that these partnerships can be further expanded, so that protracted situations of displacement can be brought to an end in a sustainable manner, to help uprooted people to find protection and dignity and reclaim membership of society. This is an essential part of peace-building.
Thank you very much.