Concluding remarks by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the meeting of the Humanitarian Issues Working Group of the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia, Geneva, 4 December 1992
In summarizing the interventions made here today, let me begin by thanking you for your continued support to the Comprehensive Humanitarian Response which was launched on 29 July 1992.
You have clearly confirmed that the Comprehensive Response continues to constitute the framework for the humanitarian relief effort in the former Yugoslavia. However, as I stated in my speech to you, the Comprehensive Response must not become a humanitarian alibi for the worst-case scenario.
We have again heard appeals to all parties to the conflict to abide by human rights and humanitarian principles and for an immediate cessation of an hostilities. You have also made calls for unconditional and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need, which is a cornerstone of the Comprehensive Response.
Delegations have again expressed their serious concern at the plight of the over three million people who have been forced to flee from their homes and the risk of a further deterioration of their already tragic situation and a spread of the conflict.
The heinous practice of ethnic cleansing was again vigorously condemned. There have been renewed calls to the parties to the conflict to continue the release of those persons still unlawfully detained contrary to the commitments made at the international conference.
Many delegations intervened on the issue of creating safety zones in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on which a study is called for in paragraph 17 of Security Council resolution 787. The complexity of this issue was widely recognized. I can assure you that your observations will be taken fully into account in my further consultations with the Secretary-General and the ICRC on this issue.
While several delegations have expressed their appreciation for the amount of assistance reaching Bosnia and Herzegovina, there was general agreement that additional, urgent measures, particularly relating to shelter and health, are necessary to save lives during this winter period. Further progress needs to be made in achieving unhindered access as well as in addressing crucial infrastructural needs, which continue to go unmet. I take note of the call for more thorough assessments of the specific needs of vulnerable groups as well as improved monitoring of the flow of material assistance. I am also grateful for the generous offers of support in this regard made here today.
This meeting has also recognized the temporary protection needs, particularly of vulnerable cases. As stated at the 9 October meeting of this Working Group, UNHCR continues to be available for informal consultations with Governments who wish to explore further possibilities to respond generously to temporary protection needs, whether individually or in a concerted arrangement.
While I have been very cautious in identifying vulnerable categories for such temporary protection, I expect that, due to the deteriorating situation on the ground, pressure for evacuation will mount. I therefore reiterate my appeal to Governments to continue to admit those in need of protection. In this regard I am grateful for the additional offers of places for ex-detainees announced at this meeting and encourage Governments to make further commitments.
I have found it very encouraging for the staff of UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO ICRC, WFP, NGOs and other participating organizations in the field, that delegations showed deep appreciation for their dedication and personal sacrifice in difficult and often perilous circumstances. MY Special Envoy will convey this appreciation to all concerned.
Finally, let me say that there have been many meetings and many expressions of concern but time is running out for the innocent victims. I expect the urgency of the situation described here today to guide Governments in their deliberations in the coming days towards decisive political action.