Grandi calls for more efforts to solve conflicts

UN refugee chief says global community is letting down millions of refugees and displaced people

Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, addresses the annual meeting of UNHCR's Executive Committee.  © UNHCR/Jean-Marc Ferré

GENEVA – Calling for renewed international efforts to prevent and resolve conflict, the UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said today that the global community was letting down millions of refugees and internally displaced people and urged a “rapidly changing world” to adopt a new focus on protection and solutions.

“Without the shared sense of purpose needed to prevent, stem and solve conflicts, the world will continue to face new refugee flows, and must reinforce its capacity to respond,” Grandi said in his opening address to the annual meeting of the Executive Committee of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

Detailing crises from Bangladesh to Yemen, Grandi presented a bleak picture of record numbers of people worldwide forcibly driven from their homes – 65.6 million at the end of 2016 – and he pointed out that the situation was getting worse.

 “So far in 2017, more than two million people have fled their countries."

“So far in 2017, more than two million people have fled their countries as refugees… They often arrive sick, traumatized and hungry, in remote border locations, in communities affected by poverty and underdevelopment,” he said.

UNHCR staff are working tirelessly to help them, often in circumstances where their own security is at risk, but the needs are immense.

“Many have urgent protection needs – children separated from their families, men, women, girls and boys exposed to sexual and gender-based violence, people with disabilities or facing other risks,” he stated.


Grandi stressed that refugee protection and security walk hand in hand and need to be tackled together.

“This is not only a matter of principles and values, but also of building regional and global stability. Refugee protection and security are complementary goals, and must be pursued in tandem,” he stated.

Grandi, who last week was in Bangladesh to witness at first hand one of the fastest-growing humanitarian emergencies in living memory, noted that “in just five weeks, half a million Rohingya refugees have fled terrifying violence in Myanmar, their rights progressively eroded over decades.”

UN refugee head Filippo Grandi addresses the opening session of Excom 2017.  © UNHCR/Jean-Marc Ferré

Even more distressing was that while this was happening, a further 50,000 refugees had fled South Sudan, where the dreams which had accompanied independence lay shattered, and another 18,000 people had tried to escape fresh fighting in Central African Republic.

“Ongoing crises are deepening. And for many refugees, the search for safety and protection has become more dangerous,” he declared.

"The international character of refugee protection has taken on new forms."

Grandi praised what he termed a groundswell of solidarity with refugees rooted in civil society and often reinforced through strong leadership by mayors, business leaders, and other public figures and welcomed how individual and collective acts of compassion and welcome had countered “widespread measures to deter and exclude”.

“And the international character of refugee protection has taken on new forms – through networks of cities, civil society organisations, private sector associations, sport entities and other forms of collaboration stretching across borders, he said.

In a wide-ranging speech, Grandi praised the generosity of “major refugee-hosting countries – some of whose leaders have their own experience of flight and exile”, but said it was time to take more action globally.

“Measures to shore up their efforts, strengthen protection, mitigate the impact of a large-scale refugee presence, and genuinely share responsibility remain essential. This is the fundamental challenge before us," he declared.

Click here for full speech.