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UNHCR urges the world not to forget CIS and other troubled regions

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UNHCR urges the world not to forget CIS and other troubled regions

24 June 1999

Assistant High Commissioner Søren Jessen-Petersen warned today that the Kosovo crisis must not divert the world's attention and resources from potential hotspots in the Commonwealth of Independent States and other troubled regions.

In remarks keynoting a two-day meeting opening today in Geneva on the plight of millions of people forced from their homes in the CIS and neighbouring states, Jessen-Petersen said that "as we look beyond the year 2000, there is a very real risk that the CIS will slip down the international agenda."

"A number of conflicts which once raged in the region have now subsided or been resolved. The once anticipated movement of people from the CIS to western Europe has not materialized. And the crisis in Kosovo has diverted international attention - and threatens to divert resources - from actual and potential problems in other parts of the world, including the CIS," he said.

"It would be a tragedy if these factors were to deprive the region and the CIS Conference process of the support which they continue to require," he said, referring to the 1996 conference that came up with a Programme of Action to handle migration and refugee issues.

Representatives from 51 countries and numerous international and non-governmental organizations are participating on 24-25 June in the Fourth Steering Group meeting following up the 1996 conference. That conference addressed the problems of more than 9 million people who had moved within or between the countries of the CIS following the end of the Cold War era and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It also discussed refugees from outside the CIS.

Called by UNHCR in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, today's meeting was preceded by two days of consultations with some 100 non-governmental organizations mostly from the CIS. These NGOs have played an increasingly important role in the implementation of programmes in the region and this follow-up meeting has placed particular emphasis on building up of local NGOs in the CIS area.

"The CIS Conference process has shown how timely efforts in the area of conflict prevention and management can help to avert large-scale population displacements," Jessen-Petersen said.

Jessen-Petersen said since the 1996 conference a number of states have signed or are considering accession to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and encouraging steps have been taken in the introduction of national refugee and citizenship laws. He said lasting solutions have been found and are underway for Crimean Tatars in Ukraine, and an international effort has been launched to explore remedies and durable solutions for the Meskhetian Turks.