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Statement by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the United Nations Consolidated Appeal for Rwanda, Geneva, 20 January 1995

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Statement by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the United Nations Consolidated Appeal for Rwanda, Geneva, 20 January 1995

20 January 1995

Mr. Chairman,

In the last several months, progress is being achieved toward finding solutions to the humanitarian crises in the Great Lakes region. The Government of Rwanda is concentrating its efforts on assuring public security, restoring the civil administration and reconstructing the country's social and economic infrastructure, despite the scarcity of financial and material resources. In the refugee camps in Zaire, Tanzania and Burundi, conditions have improved significantly following the dramatic events of last summer. Food distribution and health services in the camps have been brought under control, although the maintenance of law and order remains precarious.

I wish to thank the donor community for their rapid and generous response, especially at the height of the crisis in 1994. I am pleased to report that for 1994, UNHCR has met all its financial needs amounting to US $ 258 million. For 1995, UNHCR requires nearly US $ 280 million to provide care and maintenance to the refugees in camps and to support the relief and reintegration of the returnees inside Rwanda and Burundi. UNHCR requires these funds urgently.

In 1994, UNHCR focused primarily on the basic emergency needs of the more than two million refugees hosted by the neighbouring countries. For 1995, I hope to shift UNHCR's efforts toward voluntary repatriation programmes and support for the reintegration of repatriated refugees and displaced persons inside Rwanda and Burundi.

As I have often stated, the only solution to the refugee crises in the Great Lakes region is the voluntary repatriation of refugees and the return of the displaced persons to their communities of origin in safety and dignity. For 1995, UNHCR envisages that nearly one million refugees and displaced persons will return. UNHCR anticipates, however, that a significant proportion of the refugees will not wish to repatriate in the foreseeable future, and that they will require our continuing presence and activities in the countries of asylum.

The establishment of law and order in the camps, particularly in Zaire, coupled with confidence building measures and an information campaign about the conditions in Rwanda, are essential to foster a positive climate in favour of repatriation. The intimidation of the refugees by the former leaders and militia remains of utmost concern to my Office. As you are aware, considerable efforts have been made in recent months to tackle these security problems. Upon request of the Secretary-General, UNHCR will further examine arrangements with the Government of Zaire to improve camp security, similar to that achieved in cooperation with the Government of Tanzania.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to express my warm appreciation to the many staff of governments, international agencies, NGOs and individuals, who have worked tirelessly in recent months. Without their commitment, we would not have been able to contain this humanitarian tragedy.

I have to alert you, however, that at present we face a tremendous environmental challenge caused by increased volcanic activity in the Goma region. In cooperation with all UN agencies, UNHCR is preparing a contingency plan which considers the urgent relocation of the population.

Humanitarian relief should be linked to rehabilitation and development assistance. The conditions must be created within Rwanda and Burundi to absorb and reintegrate the returnees. In addition to the 200,000 new refugees and the hundreds of thousands displaced persons who have returned to their local communities, the Government of Rwanda estimates that at least 600,000 refugees who had fled prior to 1994 repatriated spontaneously in 1994. With respect to Burundi, nearly 380,000 refugees returned spontaneously in 1994 and UNHCR aims to repatriate the remaining caseload from Tanzania, Zaire and Rwanda this year.

As discussed during the UNDP Round Table, the rapid and massive rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of Rwanda are essential if the international community were to seek a durable solution to the recurring humanitarian crises in the Great Lakes region. The challenge for the international community is to coordinate quickly and efficiently programmes for relief and rehabilitation. To facilitate return, Open Relief Centres will be established, in cooperation with UNAMIR, the UN Human Rights Field monitors, and NGOs, to provide initial humanitarian assistance and protection in various parts of Rwanda. To expedite reintegration, UNHCR and its operational partners will undertake small-scale rehabilitation projects, or Quick Impact Projects. Property to those who departed last year must be returned and new settlement areas for the pre-1994 caseload selected. I am glad that the Government of Rwanda has already identified several such sites.

Small-scale reintegration projects must be incorporated into the longer-term rehabilitation and development programmes. The international community and UNHCR must adopt a flexible approach to respond quickly and efficiently to evolving needs.

Coordination among all governmental and inter-governmental organizations, and NGOs is difficult to achieve but essential in such a complex situation. UNHCR is pleased to take part in the consolidated appeal for Rwanda and is fully committed to inter-agency cooperation. Humanitarian, rehabilitation and development assistance are closely intertwined and programmes, therefore, must be carefully planned and defined so that they are mutually reinforcing. To avoid any duplication in efforts, the specific mandate and role of each actor must be clear and respected.

Mr. Chairman,

UNHCR is committed to the voluntary repatriation and reintegration of all refugees and displaced persons in the Great Lakes region. I count on the urgent support of the donor countries to achieve these goals. The OAU and my Office are jointly organizing a conference to take place in Bujumbura on 15 February to examine ways to improve security within camps, voluntary repatriation from neighbouring countries, the internally displaced, humanitarian assistance to the region, as well as the root causes of the recurrent humanitarian crises. Prior to the conference, I shall be travelling to the region to consult closely with participating Governments to ensure maximum gains from the meeting.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.