Opening of the High-level meeting to address large movements of refugees and migrants. Remarks by Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. New York, 19 September 2016.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Listening to refugees is a sobering experience.
Last week, the number of refugees uprooted from South Sudan – in less than three years – surpassed the one million mark. I met some of them three weeks ago. They told me a harrowing story of loss – of family, of home, of homeland, of hope. I heard similar stories in many other countries I visited this year.
This Summit could not be more urgent.
It is important that we talk about both refugees and migrants. There are many common features that we must join forces in tackling. But refugees have – and must retain – a distinct status, because conflict and persecution mean they cannot go home.
And with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced globally – as refugees or within their own countries – it's time to recognize that we cannot go on as before.
Today we have an extraordinary opportunity to change gear. Addressing forced displacement is a humanitarian challenge, but it requires global solutions engaging a full range of instruments and actors in the political, security, humanitarian and development spheres. So far, so good – but this has been said before. What's different now?
The difference is that the New York Declaration marks a political commitment of unprecedented force and resonance. It fills what has been a perennial gap in the international protection system – that of truly sharing responsibility for refugees, in the spirit of the United Nations Charter.
And the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, which is part of the Declaration and which you are asking UNHCR to help develop and initiate, for the first time – and this is very important – sets out a blueprint to make this happen.
In emergencies, in protracted crises, in our search for solutions, we must now become able to trigger the engagement of a much broader range of actors, through predictable – and this is the key word – predictable, cooperative arrangements, activated even before a crisis hits.
This can be done. In Uganda – for example – the government maintains an open door policy, which I saw myself just a few days ago, and has mobilized a broad range of partners and institutions in an innovative response centered on education and livelihoods, including for host communities. And this is key – earlier, stronger engagement by development partners and international financial institutions – as just explained by the President of the World Bank – is a fundamental game changer. And there is immense potential in the role of the private sector.
For all this to work, we are looking at you – for political engagement, for funding, for technical support, for concrete acts in support of host countries – that bear the greatest responsibility – and in pursuit of solutions.
The world – shocked by images of people fleeing in huge numbers and dying at sea – does not want our intentions to remain on paper. It demands practical action and results, so that forced displacement can be managed in a principled manner, and resolved with courage and vision.
I pledge to work with you to achieve this.