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Closing Remarks by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the Forty-sixth Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom), Geneva, 20 October 1995

Speeches and statements

Closing Remarks by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the Forty-sixth Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom), Geneva, 20 October 1995

20 October 1995

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

We have come to the end of a very constructive session of the Executive Committee. I should like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your skillful leadership of the proceedings, and the participants for their pertinent statements. I have listened to you with great interest.

I greatly appreciate the kind words you have addressed to me and my staff. They are a tribute to the dedication and diligence of UNHCR staff in 258 offices around the world. Your words will be a great encouragement to them. Many of them are daily risking their lives for the cause of refugees, returnees and displaced persons. Attacks on UN personnel working in humanitarian emergencies and development activities have led to more than one hundred deaths in the past three years. I attach the utmost importance to the issue of staff security, and will continue to persevere within the UN on the issue.

As you mentioned Mr. Chairman, more than eighty speakers took the floor. Many of your statements have echoed my own position on the inter-relationship between protection and solutions. The diversity of the comments and concerns from participants underline the enormity and the complexity of the challenge we are facing today in discharging the mandate of international protection and solutions. Today's refugee problem is not purely humanitarian. It is essentially political, with major implications for regional security and stability. It is inherently linked to the eradication of poverty and the rehabilitation of war-torn societies. The need for a comprehensive approach is vital to deal with the humanitarian, political and socio-economic dimensions of refugee problems In your statements you have fully recognized the multi-dimensional nature of UNHCR's challenge - whether in enabling host countries to bear their refugee burden, or assisting countries of origin to meet their obligations to returnees and the internally displaced.

I have been encouraged by the reaffirmation by many delegations of the importance of the institution of asylum. In this context, I am concerned about recent reports on the possible expulsion of thousands of Palestinians, many of whom have nowhere else to go. I urge concerned governments to take rapid action to avert the problem. Otherwise, I fear further repercussions in the region could create a new emergency.

I have noted the support for the development of guiding principles to ensure international protection for those fleeing conflict. We will continue to work to build consensus on the issue, keeping in mind the importance of a regional approach to complement universal principles and the need for flexibility. We will also continue the consultations on resettlement.

The temporary nature of international protection underscores the importance of the pursuit of solutions. Here again, given the regional nature of many refugee situations, regional strategies will need to be forged, in a true spirit of international solidarity. I am pleased to note that you have endorsed our proactive approach to voluntary repatriation, while rightly recognizing the constraints. Voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity does not mean simply ensuring the physical safety of the individuals, but safeguarding their fundamental human rights and meeting their basic human needs. The political commitment of the country of origin is essential as is the whole-hearted support of the international community.

Participants have rightly highlighted the linkage between repatriation of refugees and rehabilitation of war-torn societies. Unless we anchor people in their communities, we will not be able to stabilize population movements. Issues of displacement must be put on the development agenda. We will continue to energize our relations with development and financial institutions. In fact, I will be meeting with the World Bank precisely for the purpose next month.

Phasing down, as some participants have pointed, is not an easy task, given the lingering nature of some refugee problems. On the other hand, we cannot continue indefinite assistance. This not only spurs efforts to find solutions, but also enjoins us to find others who can carry on when we leave. In strengthening our collaborative effort with all actors - international and regional; governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental - we have sought to introduce predictability in our relationships. We must continue to enhance our operational readiness and cost-effectiveness, in cooperation with others concerned. Supporting our efforts, this Committee has acknowledged the complementarity of roles, which in my view is the key to effective operational coordination. I have noted your support for the implementation of PARinAC process with NGOs, as well as the need to improve our monitoring and financial control of our implementing partners, many of whom are NGOs.

I have carefully noted your advice and guidance on administrative matters. I am grateful for your agreement on the establishment of the post of Assistant High Commissioner, which is not an end in itself but clearly a means of strengthening our management capacity to plan and implement our operational strategies. Let me reiterate my commitment to improved governance and accountability. I am confident that the new working methods of the Executive Committee will allow us not only to share with you the action we are taking but also to seek your guidance and support as we bring about the management changes.

The need for such dialogue has never been greater. There is little doubt that the year ahead will be a demanding one. We are all aware of the strains on protection, the constraints of solutions, the parameters of prevention and the limits of preparedness. But in confronting the difficulties which lie ahead, I am comforted by the strong support which you have expressed for my Office. Your financial support is essential. Your political support is indispensable. Heartened by your encouragement, we will continue to move forward on our humanitarian course.