UN Refugee Agency chief seeks to deepen cooperation with China
China can play a key role in steering development efforts to help resolve refugee crises, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, as he concluded his first official visit to Beijing today.
Grandi was here for a two-day visit to deepen UNHCR’s global partnership with China. He met with top officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Commerce, Public Security and Civil Affairs, and gave a talk to future diplomats at the China Foreign Affairs University.
“UNHCR and China have been cooperating for 40 years. During that time China has become a major actor on the global stage,” said the High Commissioner. “The global refugee issue has also grown bigger and more complicated as factors causing people to flee are increasingly mixed.”
More than 65 million people are forcibly displaced as a result of conflict, human rights violations, under-development and the effects of climate change, among other factors. UNHCR works with governments and partners in 128 countries to protect, assist and seek solutions for these refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people.
Beijing’s contribution to refugee programs has increased significantly in recent years – from $2.8 million last year to $12.5 million so far in 2017, much of it on the sidelines of the recent Belt and Road Forum.
Led by China, the Belt and Road initiative envisions shared growth around the world through five major priority areas – policy coordination, connectivity, trade, financial integration and people-to-people exchanges. It spans more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa – some of which are producing or hosting refugees.
“The Belt and Road initiative is about international cooperation for peace, prosperity and inclusion,” said Grandi. “We hope that China can invest some of those resources directly in countries hosting large numbers of refugees and displaced people. In doing so, it can empower refugees and their host communities in a win-win situation for all.”
This new and expanded “Silk Road” also has the potential to pave the way for refugee solutions. “Through its many development projects, China can help to stabilize areas in conflict and address the root causes of displacement,” said the High Commissioner.
He noted that soft power was equally important in changing attitudes towards refugees, as UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador Yao Chen has done. Through her 80-million-strong social media following in China, the actress has been a strong voice for refugees in the Chinese-speaking world for the last seven years.
During their meeting on Wednesday, High Commissioner Grandi thanked her for advocating on behalf of refugees and renewed her tenure as Goodwill Ambassador for an additional two years.
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