Statement by Mr. Poul Hartling, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the Informal Meeting of Permanent Representatives in Geneva of States Members of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom), 4 June 1985
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Members of the Executive Committee.
Allow me to thank you all for reserving this day in a particularly busy period of meetings in Geneva to meet with my colleages and me to take stock of the current world refugee situation as we see it in UNHCR. As usual at these informal meetings between regular session of the Executive Committee, we are meeting without an agenda, without official records, without formal decisions or documents. I very much value these opportunities to meet with the Permanent Representatives of Member-countries of the Executive Committee, to keep them informed and to hear their view on the activities of my Office as we approach the half-way mark in a difficult year . as usual, your constructive comments will serve to guide us along the difficult path of providing protection and assistance to millions of human beings who share a common burden of suffering imposed upon them by events and elements beyond their control.
When we last met four and a half months ago, Mr. Chairman, I had two major worries to communicate to you: the crisis in Africa and UNHCR's difficult financial situation. Today these two interlocking concerns remain the most preoccupying for may Office, and at the risk of seeming repetitive, I shall devote a major part of this statement to them, without forgetting other developments affecting refugees and countries of asylum around the world.
In the ongoing crisis in Africa, the emergency programmes we have launched in five affected countries, the demands we have made on the donor community and their impact on the implementation of our approved programmes, must be seen in the broader context of a disaster of unparalleled proportions, a disaster which has been the focus of international attention and sympathy for the past several months, and for which huge quantities of assistance have been mobilized, while considerable more are still urgently needed.
In a crisis of this magnitude, resulting from a convergence of many different factors such as economic and political instability, chronic under-development and ecological and demographic imbalances, brought to a peak by disastrous drought and the accompanying crop failures in more than 20 countries, the refugee problem itself and the indispensable action of my Office are only a small part of the overall picture. But because of the very complexity of the root causes, on the one hand, and the disaster situations in the host countries, on the other, the refugee element in the drama has taken on the proportions of a major human tragedy which has compelled us to undertake exceptional measures in an effort to save human lives. If our approach has been, as always, purely humanitarian, it has also had to be pragmatic. As I have said on Oeveral occasions, we had no choice. But the costs have been enormous, in terms of both financial and human resources. And the longer-term implications for our efforts to find durable solutions will be felt for many years to come. As one UNHCR official at the height of the massive influx into Eastern Sudan put it: "We're back to square one". While this may be an exaggeration, it is symptomatic of the sense of frustration one feels at seeing years of patient effort evaporate in existing refugee settlement which were on the verge of total self-sufficiency, while thousands of newcomers arrive in search of food and water every day.
In concrete terms, we have had to launch massive relief operations for nearly a million persons of concern to UNHCR - refugees, displaced persons in a refugee-like situation, returnees - five countries: Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Sudan. The facts on these operations have been regularly communicated to Governments through monthly updates, the most recent of which was distributed to Permanent Missions in Geneva on 20 May. The next will be issued on 14 June. It will be seen from these reports that thanks to contributions from the international community, we have been able to keep (if only just) abreast of the essential needs in terms of food, water, shelter, health care, and logistic support. As far as food requirements in Sudan are concerned, in concert with the World Food Programme and other sources, we have succeeded in stockpiling adequate quantities to bring us through the rainy season, which has already begun in some parts. In Somalia and Djibouti, however, basic food donations are still urgently needed.
Supplying drinking water, particularly in both Eastern and Western Sudan, has been a veritable nightmare at times. As local sources near the camps have dried up, tens of thousands of people in camps have had to rely on supplies brought in daily by tanker-trucks, while waiting to be moved to new sites where water is more plentiful. In those new sites, pumps have had to be installed in the face enormous difficulties in locating, purchasing, delivering by air and setting them up in time. Wells have been drilled, not always with success due to technical problems faced by specialized teams from UNICEF and other agencies. To contain the miserable few litres a day allocated to each refugee family, receptacles have had to be supplied. There is no absolute guarantee that the water supplied is always pure, however, and the fear of outbreaks of intestinal diseases, including cholera, continue to haunt all concerned. A major cholera outbreak amongst refugees in Somalia was overcome, thanks to swift, concerted action by UNHCR and various agencies and donor countries. Severe diarrhoea cases have been detected both amongst returnees in Ethiopia and refugees in the Sudan. We have taken steps to stockpile essential medicaments and identify sources of quick supply against possible further outbreaks in these and other countries in the region.
Food and water, Mr. Chairman, are the most basic of human needs. Not to make every effort within our power to supply them would have been to fail in our duty as a humanitarian arm of the United Nations. That this overriding consideration has been understood by the international community is self-evident from the response to our appeals. Nevertheless. The current emergency has raised a number of questions upon which we might well reflect in this meeting and in the coming months. When masses of human beings in the most destitute state in search of those basic needs are pouring across a border into a region with a large existing refugee population as has been the case in Sudan, one acts first and asks questions afterwards. We have called them "persons of concern to UNHCR" and will continue to do so. But the fact remains that many thousands have now reportedly started to return to their places of origin with the onset of the rains. In addition, we have been compelled to give some limited assistance to Sudanese nationals who have flocked to refugee camps in search of food. At the time, UNHCR and our operational partner, the Sudanese Commissioner for Refugees, were the only agencies in a position to assist these drought-stricken nationals of the host country. We did so. But I felt obliged to draw the attention of the Director of the United nations Office for Emergency Operations in Africa, Mr. Bradford Morse, to this anomalous situation. It could be very dangerous indeed if refugees in a disaster area were to be favoured over nationals. I am happy to report that food distribution has now been started for these nationals who have, I understand, begun to return to their homes. These are factors which seriously complicate our task when it comes to issuing statistics or arriving at planning figures for projected future needs, as we have been obliged to in the Sudan.
As I mentioned earlier, we are appealing for additional basic food donations, notably for Somalia, where there are 150,000 new arrivals, and the influx is continuing. These new arrivals are quite a distinct group from those refugees who have already been in Somalia for some years, and who are assisted under our General Programme. But our appeal on behalf of the newcomers has once again raised the question of numbers of refugees in Somalia. We are endeavouring, as I have reported previously, to assist the Somali authorities in making a new, scientific assessment of the numbers of refugees in the country. In the meantime, it would be most unfortunate if such factors inhibited donors from contributing urgently-needed basic food commodities to our emergency programme.
In Ethiopia, our emergency programme for registered returnees continues, with basic food being provided through the overall United Nations efforts overseen by the Secretary General's Special representative, Mr. Kurt Jansson. Quite apart from the emergency programme, Mr. Chairman, we have also launched a special programme for rehabilitation of returnees in the hope that this will contributed to stabilizing the population and reducing the possibilities of a further exodus in that region. Allow me to commend this separate but complementary effort to your attention.
In Djibouti, on a smaller scale, of course, we have also been obliged to extend urgent relief assistance to some 10,000 new arrivals. It is indeed sad to think that last year we had brought to a happy conclusion a major voluntary repatriation operation from Djibouti to Ethiopia and that we are now once again talking of a major influx into that tiny country, which has so many difficulties to face.
Refugees and drought victims from Chad are also becoming a problem with increasingly critical dimensions, particularly in Western Sudan, where they are mixed with drought-stricken Sudanese nationals of similar ethnic backgrounds. While food and other basic necessities are being supplied both through our emergency programme and by a major bilateral donor, and various other measures are being taken to ensure the survival of these Chadians, the difficulties are very considerable, particularly due to the enormous distances involved in transporting materials to this isolated region.
In the Central African Republic, I feel we can safely say that the worst is over as regards emergency needs and the programme has entered a phase of consolidation. It remains too early to say, however, what type of durable solution can be sought for this group, numbering some 40,000, beyond installing them in secure settlement sites away from the border area.
Those are just a few of the highlights of our emergency programmes in Eastern and Central Africa, Mr. Chairman. As I said, we have been forced to take exceptional steps to save lives, organizing airlifts of vitally-needed relief materials, including basic and supplementary foodstuffs at the height of the emergency in eastern Sudan. To the Sudan alone we have chartered or organized a total of 54 flights, carrying a total of 2,070 tons (a volume of 15,000 cubic metres) that could not be brought in in time by land or sea. It should be noted in this respect that while airlifting costs are high, if one takes into account volume and value of the goods, it is often cheaper than surface transport. Our emergency Unit has been very active, and we have learned a number of lessons which will stand us in good stead in future planning, staff training, and management practices. For the Sudan, for instance, we now have a comprehensive, detailed operations plan which has been worked out in close consultation with the Commissioner for Refugees, and which is proving an indispensable tool in a very complex operation, calling into play many different human elements - UNHCR staff, Government personnel, voluntary agency workers. In passing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all these tireless and dedicated individuals and particularly the voluntary agency workers in all five countries without whom many more lives would doubtless have been lost.
This brings me back to the broader context of the emergency in Africa and our co-operation with other agencies. We have been very fortunate in having as our closes partner in the U.N. system the World Food Programme. Knowing how intensively this organization is solicited, not only in Africa, for emergency food assistance, it has been an object of great satisfaction to me to be able to count on WFP in a very large measure in this dramatic crisis. I told the WFP Executive Director Mr. James Ingram so when it was my pleasure to receive him here in Geneva on April 14 for a full day of consultations. He confirmed to me that WFP has adopted as a policy to give top priority to refugees assistance. I am very grateful for this and would like to single it out as an example of co-operation between agencies in the UN family. I have also mentioned our co-operation with UNICEF in areas where our sister humanitarian agency has specific competence. It is therefore only natural that when we were asked to become full partners in the "African Emergency Response System" presided over by Mr. Bradford Morse and Mr. Maurice Strong in New York, we have pledged our wholehearted co-operation. Our appeal has been closely co-ordinated with the Mr. Morse's Office, with which we share all relevant information on a daily basis. Despite the very severe strains we are feeling on our staff resources, I have had no hesitation in agreeing to lend one experienced staff member to Mr. Morse's establishment in New York, and we have found that this has served to further strengthen our link with them.
This brings me, Mr. Chairman, to a painful problem concerning one of the disaster-stricken countries, Somalia, and which has affected the entire United Nations system.
In January 1985, the Somali Shilling official rate of exchange was adjusted from 26 Somali Shillings per US dollar to approximately 36 Somali Shillings per US dollar and a new market-determined exchange rate was established at approximately 75 Somali Shilling per US dollar, both rates of exchange being legal rates authorized by the Central Bank of Somalia.
Based on Article X.1. e) of the Standard Basic Assistance Agreement signed in 1977 by the Government of Somalia and UNDP which provides that the Government shall grant UNDP and its executing agencies the right and facility of the most favourable legal rate of exchange, UNDP fixed the official UN rate of exchange 75 Somali Shillings par US dollar on 11 February 1985. This rate has now reached the level of 81.16 Somali Shillings per US dollar.
By requiring the United Nations organizations to exchange funds at the official rate of approximately 36 Somali Shillings per US dollar instead of the legal market rate of approximately 81 Somali Shillings per US dollar, a tax exceeding 100 percent is in effect being imposed on the UN organizations.
This application of an exchange rate different from the official UN rate, as regards UNHCR funds, represents a potential loss on local shilling expenses during 1985 funds, represents a potential loss on local shilling expenses during 1985 of approximately US$ 4.9 million. No provision for such an exchange loss exists in the revised UNHCR budget.
UNHCR finds it difficult to understand that funds, to which the international community contributes on a voluntary basis for humanitarian purposes are not given normal preferential treatment by a country receiving substantial financial aid to assist refugees. UNHCR is forced to continue its programme, refugees must be helped, in some cases, you might say just to survive. As the Somali authorities have maintained their position that all dollars we bring in must be exchanged at a rate of 36 instead of 81, we will have to foresee a loss of 4.9 million dollars for the year 1985, and I felt I had to inform our Executive Committee of these facts.
I must turn now to perhaps the most difficult problem which we face this year - that of funding the 1985 General Programmes. This is a more serious problem that we have faced in previous years. The income to UNHCR continues to fall behind the requirements and on present indications it is by no means certain that we shall receive the contribution necessary to fund the programmes.
Some of the reasons are obvious and well-known - the strong United States dollar, the reductions being made in national donor budgets and, on the other hand, an increasingly high level of need, especially because of the African Emergency.
At the Executive committee's session in October last year, we gave warning of the very difficult situation we foresaw for 1985. That warning was made even more urgent by the African emergency which has occurred since the Executive Committee met. In October 1984, we promised to you that in 1985 UNHCR would make every effort to be as economical and cost-effective as possible. I can assure you that we have tried our best to keep that promise. In the rigorous programme review which has just been completed we have reduced General Programmes requirements in 1985 by some 70 million dollars - a very significant amount - or almost twenty percent of the target of 384 million dollars approved by the Executive Committee in October 1984. It would be very difficult - if not impossible - make further reductions without damaging the basic level of assistance which refugees need. The reductions have been very painful and cover the whole range of our operations - administrative expenses, Headquarters activities, communications, travel costs, public information, re-costing of programmes on the basis of current exchange rates, re-shaping of this year's programmes on the basis of what can realistically be implemented within the year and adjustments based on changes in each refugee situation.
Nevertheless, even taking into account the reductions which have been possible, we still need a further 140 million dollars to fund the 1985 General Programmes.
I am aware that, in addition to contributions to the General Programmes, donors have been asked to contributed to several Special Programmes. The African Emergency has made great demands on donors and on UNHCR this year. We are very grateful for the contributions we have received and we are proud to have been able to play some part in helping to alleviate the disastrous effects of the Emergency. But the job is not finished and there is an urgent need for further contributions to meet the identified needs which are costed at some 104 million dollars. We have received 62 million dollars in cash and kind, but to cover the requirements in the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Sudan, 42.6 million dollars more are needed both for food and non-food purposes. The situation, as you all know, continues to be an emergency of tragic dimensions and I therefore urge Governments to provide the extra contributions required in the very near future.
In addition to the programmes I have already mentioned, UNHCR is implementing other Special Programmes such as the Orderly Departure Programme, the Anti-Piracy Arrangement, the Refugee Education Account, and assistance to Mozambicans in Zimbabwe and to returnees in the West Nile Province of Uganda as well a in the south-eastern region of Ethiopia. Taking into account the reductions and adjustments which have been achieved, UNHCR will need a total of some 500 million dollars in 1985 to carry out the programmes which have been identified as necessary, namely some 185 million dollars under Special Programmes and some 315 million dollars under General Programmes - reduced from the initial approved target of 384 million dollars. Against that requirement of 500 million dollars we have only got, as of today, some 263 million dollars, including unpaid pledges. These funds have either already been spent or are in the process of being obligated. The shortfall amounts to almost half of what is needed. Such a large shortfall halfway into the programme year is most alarming and obviously restricts programme delivery. In particular, the General Programmes shortfall of 140 million dollars - amounting to more than forty percent of the revised target - gives rise to my greatest concern.
UNHCR has no other source of programme income than the voluntary contributions we receive. We have, I believe, done our best to be economical and cost-effective. I appeal to you and to your Governments to give us the resources and the means to carry out the job you expect of us. Without the further contributions required, we simply will not be able to provide the assistance to refugees as has been planned under the General Programmes and approved by you, the Executive Committee.
Mr. Chairman, I would now like to touch upon three points concerning Administration and Management. First, I wish to inform the Committee that, when looking into the possible reductions of the 1985 General Programme target, we have naturally kept in mind the need to effect savings on Programme Support and Administration. Though this offers a wide range of difficulties, we have closely scrutinized such items as travel, communications and temporary assistance, as well as a number of general operating expenditures. We do hope to come up with some savings. We are also making every effort to meet any new demands for staff through redeployment and we are in the process of completing an exercise aimed at redeploying ten posts from Headquarters to meet additional staffing needs presented last year to the Executive Committee which could not be approved and which have been met so far through temporary arrangements.
The second point I wish to mention relates to the Job Classification Exercise. As you will recall, the Executive Committee approved the results of this exercise as far as posts under Voluntary Funds are concerned; at the same time, the committee called for implementation of the results once the recommendations relating to Regular budget posts had been approved. On this point, scrutiny is under way by the various bodies concerned in New York, starting with the Programme Planning and Budgeting Board (PPBB). The latter has now completed its review. Except on one important point, I am happy to report that the results, fully endorsed by the Classification Section of the Office of Personnel Services in New York, are recommended for approval, under the 1986-1987 biennium. However, for reasons which have nothing to do with the merits of the case, the PPBB excluded three reclassifications from D.1 to D.2 because of their effect on the rest of the United Nations Regular Budget, of which UNHCR is only one component. The three posts at stake are all in the field, i.e. the Representatives in Thailand, Ethiopia and Sudan (two other posts in a similar situation, i.e. the Representatives in Pakistan and Somalia, are under voluntary funds and were approved by the Executive Committee). You can imagine our disappointment, especially since these are posts in the field, all three confirmed at the D.2 level by the Office of Personnel Service in New York. We are doing our utmost to redress this situation, but indeed have little hope, since the criteria used by the PPBB relate to the United Nations Regular Budget as a whole and specifically to UNHCR. You may easily imagine, Mr. Chairman, the internal problems that such a difference of treatment between similar posts under both budgets may carry.
One other important issue which I wish to bring to the attention of the distinguished members of the Committee relates to the financing of the administrative costs of my Office. Most members of the Committee are familiar with the agreement reached in 1982 between the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner on transfers of posts from Voluntary Funds to the Regular Budget and vice versa, involving a net transfer of 20 additional posts to the Regular Budget over three biennia from 1984 to 1989. This is a net figure though the real situation is more complex and, in order to implement the part of the agreement belonging to the 1986/87 Biennium, the transfers proposed were of 23 Professional and higher level posts and 11 General Service to the Regular Budget to be offset by the transfer of 24 local level posts from the Regular Budget to Voluntary Funds. While the transfer to Voluntary Funds was implemented immediately, the other part of the Agreement has no been retained in view of the large increase in resources it would involve for the Regular Budget. Apart from a few switches of posts, the agreement thus is not being implemented by United Nations New York for the next biennium. True, the reservation was made that the Secretary-General (and not UNHCR) would have the final responsibility to decide on the extent of implementation of the agreement in the light of his overall programme budget policy.
Mr. Chairman, I do not wish to enter into technicalities but just to draw the attention of the Committee to these disappointments and difficulties. Through the Regular budget of the United Nations, UNHCR is subject to constraints of a general nature which totally escapes its control. I felt that the Executive Committee had to be informed and I shall be looking forward to your good advice.
Mr. Chairman, I promised I would bring you up to date on developments in other parts of the world. I shall try to be as brief as possible. In Central America and Mexico there have been both positive and negative developments. To take the more encouraging news first, I am happy to report that our joint efforts with the Mexican authorities to create new settlements in the Yucatán peninsula for refugees from Guatemala are continuing to proceed apace, and that refugees are continuing to more voluntarily from the difficult and sometimes dangerous terrain of the border region in Chiapas Province, to the provinces of Campeche and Quintana Roo, where rural settlement are being carved out of virgin bush through the joint efforts of the national and provincial authorities, UNHCR and the refugees themselves. It was my privilege to visit the settlements in February, and I must say I was most impressed to see the way these gentle people have created new homes, each with its own garden, chickens running around (donated by Nordic Embassies in Mexico City!), cheerful children going to school, and work going ahead on clearing fields. The refugees entertained us with their traditional songs and dances and colourful costumes, and I was very happy to see how the Mexican authorities are respecting their cultural identity. Schooling is provided both in Spanish and the Mayan dialects of their ancestors. I have also visited Peru, where I was happy to see that the difficult problem of Cuban refugees in Lima has been largely solved with their move to a new housing development near the capital, where Peruvian international migrants have also been settled.
In Central America, the refugee situation remains preoccupying. It is so closely linked with political developments in that region, I do not in tend to dwell on it at great length. We continue to provide for the protection and care of tens of thousands of refugees from El Salvador and Nicaragua in Honduras, while seeking to facilitate individual voluntary repatriation whenever the refugees themselves so desire. There has been an increased influx of asylum-seekers from Nicaragua in Costa Rica as well, and again we are providing all necessary assistance and actively seeking with the authorities alternatives to maintaining the refugees in overcrowded reception centres.
In South-East Asia the situation remains relatively stable. New arrivals have gradually been diminishing, but so have resettlement opportunities, and little progress has been made on other types of durable solutions. I have outlined my view on this situation in some detail in a recent letter to the governments most directly concerned. I sincerely hope that further efforts can be made on resettlement, particularly for those with extended family ties to refugees already abroad, and those whom I consider to be handicapped, not physically, but because of the degrading and debilitating effect that years of camp life has on a human being. Some have been in camps for three, four, five years or even longer. I was able to see this with my own eyes less than three weeks ago when I was in Hong Kong, but the same is true in other countries of first asylum in the region. Tomorrow I am going to London to discuss the Hong king situation and the plight of the long-stayers with the British authorities. I am hopeful that a new initiative as proposed by the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons could set an example that other resettlement countries, which have already taken considerable numbers from Hong Kong, could follow in an effort to gradually reduce the time refugees spend in both open and closed camps there. We have also launched a new programme to try and overcome some of the handicaps of long-stayers in other countries in South-East Asia by giving them language and other training that would make them more fit for resettlement. I am happy to report that the first graduates from such courses in Malaysia are now being presented to resettlement countries for reconsideration.
As regards the Anti-Piracy Arrangement, I am also pleased to report that we have received sufficient pledges to be able to continue this vital effort for another year. I sincerely hope that further pledges will be forthcoming to reach the target we had fixed. Another source of great satisfaction to me is that our efforts to establish the RASRO scheme, which will undoubtedly help save the lives of refugees in distress at sea, have been successful. As you know, the subject of rescue at sea has been on the agenda of our Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection for a number of years. It is indeed because of the direct and persistent interest of this Sub-Committee that the two schemes for rescue at sea have been put into operation, first DISERO at the end of 1979, and now RASRO on May 1, 1985. I would like therefore to express my gratitude to all concerned.
Before going to Hong Kong, I spent almost a week in China, which has offered asylum to 280,000 refugees from Viet Nam. At the invitation of the Government of the People's Republic of China, I had talks with leading officials in Beijing, and then visited the island of Hainan and other parts of Guangdong Province, where a large proportion of the refugees have been settled on state farms. They are leading peaceful and productive lives, and I might add, benefitting considerably from China's new economic policies. It is indeed unfortunate that more countries in that part of the world have not been able to follow this example (which we have also seen in several African countries).
UNHCR has been able to make a modest contribution to this vast effort on the part of the Chinese Government and people, supporting projects as varied as vocational training schools and water-supply projects (to mention just two examples that I saw on this trip) from which both the refugees and their Chinese hosts benefit and all of which have been implemented with exemplary precision. We now plan to gradually reduce this assistance in an orderly was under a twelve million dollar scheme to be carried out over the next three years. I was very happy to be able top sign in Beijing a Letter of Intent with the Minister of Civil Affairs, our operating partner, to this effect, subject of course to the approval of the Executive Committee and the availability of funds in the coming years. But I have no doubt that this Committee will share my view that such forward planning could well be emulated elsewhere.
In a sense, our experience in China is a good example of the link between refugee aid and development. Another, of curse, has been the successful implementation of the joint UNHCR-World Bank project in Pakistan, which, I might say, is not only bearing fruit, but also sowing seed elsewhere. We have been having exploratory discussions in Washington just this past week, with the strong encouragement of high officials of the Bank, on the possibility of setting up similar projects elsewhere, notably in Africa. I am very encouraged by this development, and shall not fail to keep the Executive Committee informed of progress in this area.
I should also like to recall that it was just under a year ago that we all gathered here at the Palais des Nations for ICARA II. I do hope that the most promising start that was made at this Conference, and progress since then on long-term solutions for African host countries, can be maintained despite the current emergency in Africa. The ICARA II concept remains vitally important to future durable solutions for refugees on that continent, and should not be lost sight of even if the most pressing need today has been to save lives.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, a few words about two important events arranged recently in Geneva, the Round Table on Women Refugees, and the Consultations we held last week on arrivals of asylum-seekers and refugees in Europe. The Round Table was, I believe, a most inspiring occasion, both by the level and quality of participation and the depth and seriousness with which the specific problems of refugee women were elaborated upon. I am convinced that this Round Table will have served to heighten consciousness and bring about better understanding of this issue in many quarters, bout in government and among the general public, and that it will lead to concerted action to protect and assist women refugees. It is a fitting prelude to the forthcoming Nairobi Conference which brings to an end the United Nations Decade for Women, where I know that this subject will be among the major topics on the agenda. A full report on the Round Table is contained in the current issue of our "Refugees" magazine.
As to the Consultations on the arrival of asylum-seekers and refugees in Europe, allow me, Mr. Chairman, to summarize briefly what I said last Friday in my concluding statement, and make that also the conclusion of my remarks today.
We knew from the start that these consultations would not be a panacea in themselves. Indeed it was clearly confirmed that, in the present complex situation, there are no miraculous cures - no magic solutions. But it was also clearly confirmed that in this situation, like in all other refugee situations, we have to work together. UNHCR has an important role to play and stands ready to play that role - as the international co-ordinator of action on behalf of refugees. But no comprehensive solution fan be found unless there is a will and determination on the part of Governments within and also outside Europe. UNHCR cannot substitute for this. I am convinced that this will and determination exist and this was confirmed during the Consultations. It was heartening to note, for instance, the firm resolve of European Governments to live up to the Humanitarian standards defined in the international refugee instruments. Difficulties have however arisen due to the increasing number of arrivals in Europe of persons who do not meet the definitions, but who leave their countries of origin in order to escape from severe internal upheavals or armed conflicts. There was general agreement that such persons should be treated humanely and, in particular, should not be returned to areas where they may be exposed to danger.
The special burden to which countries of first asylum are exposed due to the arrival of large numbers of asylum-seekers was fully recognized, as was the continuing need for international solidarity and burden sharing. There was also general recognition of the importance of addressing the root causes of refugee problems in the appropriate for a of the United Nations or by States acting individually or on a bilateral or multilateral basis.
There was general recognition that asylum procedures should be accelerated to the maximum extent possible while, at the same time, maintaining essential guarantees in accordance with the established asylum traditions of European States. It was recognized that the problem of identifying the country responsible for examining an asylum request continues to give rise to difficulties for European States and also for refugees who might find themselves in an "orbit" situation. It was felt that the initiative taken to find a solution to this problem within the Council of Europe should be reactivated.
Finally, the importance of drawing public attention to the special situation of the refugee and the asylum-seeker as distinct from the ordinary foreigner was once again stressed.
I am very happy with the discussions during the consultations and I now look forward to the deliberations on the problems of irregular movements of asylum-seekers which will take place in the Sub-Committee on Protection here in Geneva in October. The problem of asylum-seekers which was discussed among European countries last week is also affecting other countries around the world and is a component of the global refugee problem.
These were some of the experiences and preoccupations I wanted to share with you today. I need hardly stress that UNHCR cannot achieve results without the understanding and support of you, the members of the Executive Committee.