Lubbers sets clear agenda for protection, funding
GENEVA, October 4 (UNHCR) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers today closed the annual meeting of the agency's governing body by applauding new initiatives to protect refugees while calling for more funds to sustain longer-term solutions.
Addressing UNHCR's 61-nation Executive Committee at the end of the five-day meeting in Geneva, Lubbers thanked them for adopting the Agenda for Protection, a detailed strategic framework for dealing with today's most pressing refugee issues.
"We now need to use the Agenda both to guide the action of UNHCR and as a vehicle to promote co-operation between States in tackling refugee protection today," he said. "The Agenda points the way forward."
Taking the Agenda one step further, the High Commissioner elaborated on the need for multilateral special agreements to ensure better burden-sharing and durable solutions. A forum of experts would be set up to advise on such special agreements, which could range from prioritising development assistance and debt relief for major refugee-hosting countries, to reserving a percentage of some countries' migration quota for the resettlement of refugees.
Hopefully, said Lubbers, this would help bridge the North-South divide by finding durable solutions for poor countries in the South while reducing the secondary flow of refugees to countries in the North.
"We are finding solutions for refugees, the numbers are going down," said the UN refugee agency chief at a press conference Friday afternoon. "But this costs money."
UNHCR's budget for 2002 was about 20 percent more than 2001, he noted, largely because of its operations in Afghanistan. He added that this increase was likely to continue in 2003.
"In Afghanistan, we've seen a tremendously successful repatriation operation, but this must be followed up by effective reintegration programmes if we are to prevent today's returnees from becoming tomorrow's refugees," cautioned Lubbers.
"You may applaud us for our Afghan operation, but at the same time, we have other refugees in other parts of the world to take care of," he said, urging member states to be more forthcoming with funds for the overall budget.
Besides adopting a budget of $837 million for 2003 and endorsing the Agenda for Protection, this year's Executive Committee meeting was also notable for the addition of four new members to the governing body, as well as the development of closer dialogues between UNHCR, non-governmental agencies and international organisations.