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Opening Statement by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the Forty-ninth Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom), Geneva, Monday, 5 October 1998

Speeches and statements

Opening Statement by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the Forty-ninth Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom), Geneva, Monday, 5 October 1998

5 October 1998
Peace is more fragile, solutions more difficultEnsuring protection and seeking solutions through global solidarityResources and managementConclusion

Mr Chairman,

Distinguished Delegates,
President Sommaruga,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the 49th session of this Executive Committee. I would like to congratulate the new Bureau and particularly you, Ambassador Rodriguez Cedeño, on your election. Your country, Venezuela, represents a region which, after witnessing many refugee problems, saw the implementation of some of the most visionary and comprehensive solutions to displacement crises. I am deeply grateful to Ambassador Skogmo of Norway, the outgoing Chairman. His leadership, support and commitment throughout the past year have been truly exceptional. His exemplary contribution to the cause of refugees will not be forgotten.

Let me extend a warm welcome to Mr Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who has kindly accepted my invitation to address the Committee today. It is a pleasure and an honour to share the podium with the leader of an organization whose purposes and ideals are so central to humanitarian work. While our mandates remain distinct, we share many challenges. In the field, our staff work side by side in alleviating the plight of those uprooted by violence. I have personally benefited many times from Mr Sommaruga's forward-looking advice and support. There can be no more inspiring way to begin our discussions.

As you know, upon the recommendation of the Secretary-General, the General Assembly of the United Nations on 29 September re-elected me as High Commissioner for Refugees. Upon my request, this third mandate will end on 31 December of the year 2000, when I shall have been in office for ten years. In opening this session, I wish to therefore sincerely thank all governments, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan, for their trust and confidence. I also wish to thank all UNHCR staff, and in particular the Deputy and Assistant High Commissioners, for their dedication and hard work.

Be assured that I do not take your support for granted. On the contrary, more than ever I realize the challenge of accepting the responsibility to protect refugees today. Looking at the world around us, I see many, serious reasons for concern: continued or renewed conflict in many parts of Africa, the social and economic crisis in the Russian Federation, the slowing down of some key peace processes, and the financial turmoil in Asia, are just a few obvious examples. On the other hand, the role of the state is profoundly affected by the globalization of economics, technology and information. This has of course a bearing on international organizations, including the United Nations, and including the manner in which governments, and my Office, carry out their responsibilities towards refugees and other forcibly uprooted people.

Peace is more fragile, solutions more difficult

Grave human displacement crises have occurred since we last met. Their pattern, however, differs from the humanitarian catastrophes of the early 90s: we now have scattered emergencies, smaller in size and with limited international visibility. UNHCR has had to reinforce its field presence many times, by deploying up to one hundred staff on emergency missions. Although previously an increased trend towards repatriation had given rise to the hope that refugee problems would be reduced, this year the overall figure of people of concern to UNHCR has only marginally decreased.

The main reason for this stagnation is undoubtedly the increase in the number and frequency of conflicts. This has two main consequences on our work: first, the prevalence in the use of military force over political negotiations slows down or even blocks solutions to refugee problems; second, if political settlements are reached, and displaced people can return voluntarily, they often return to a "fragile peace". Let me give you some examples.

In Afghanistan, internal fighting has continued, compounded by grave violations of human rights. Although this year more than 80,000 Afghan refugees have decided to return home from Pakistan in spite of the unstable situation, returns from Iran have been very low, and reintegration activities have virtually stopped. In Georgia, internal conflict broke out again in May, and 40,000 people fled the Gali area - for most of them this was the second time to be displaced, and 1,500 houses, many recently rehabilitated with UNHCR funds, were looted and burnt. In Cambodia, sporadic violence has affected the peace process, which was interrupted by last year's conflict; as a result, 39,000 Cambodians remain in refugee camps in Thailand. It must be noted that Thailand also hosts approximately 100,000 refugees from Myanmar along the border between the two countries. The principles and modalities for an enhanced UNHCR presence in this area have now been defined. And let me mention that although not linked to an on-going conflict, the solution to the problem of almost 95,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepal also remains elusive, although there are some indications of possible progress on this issue in the near future.

In Africa, the pattern of recent conflicts is even more complex. Some factors have directly contributed to blocking solutions to refugee problems: first, a trend towards increased violence against civilians, of which mutilations and killings by rebel forces in Sierra Leone have been the most horrifying example; second, a strong ethnic component in some conflicts, particularly in the Great Lakes region; and third, the regionalization of wars.

In West Africa, the crises in Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. While in Guinea Bissau problems are hopefully being resolved, almost half a million Sierra Leonean refugees have put an enormous additional burden on countries which have generously given asylum to refugees for years in spite of their limited resources. There are 350,000 refugees in Guinea alone. Liberia, a country emerging from years of war, hosts almost 90,000 Sierra Leonean refugees.

The other critical region in the continent has been Central Africa. With the renewed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, war and human displacement have become so complex in the region, and their ramifications so wide, that I hesitate to simply refer to a "Great Lakes" crisis. Between 1993 and 1996, displacement problems were essentially refugee situations. In 1996 and 1997, the focus was on repatriation, particularly of Rwandan refugees. Today, refugee situations persist - the largest group being the 260,000 Burundi refugees in Tanzania, which continues to be a major asylum country. But there is a growing mixture of refugee flows and repatriation movements. Internal displacement on a large scale is a potential risk, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Given the complex, inter-related nature of these problems, the search for solutions must have a strong regional foundation, with more decisive international support. I am also extremely concerned that if ethnic and nationality problems are not addressed - worse, if ethnic tensions are allowed or even encouraged to simmer - people may flee again in massive numbers.

I should also mention Angola, where the implementation of the Lusaka Peace Accords has suffered very serious setbacks, compelling my Office to suspend the repatriation of Angolan refugees from neighbouring countries sine die. This happened when almost half of the over 300,000 refugees had already returned, but the resumption of hostilities in the country caused the fresh outflow of 30,000 Angolans and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people within the country. In a period of a few weeks, UNHCR had to switch from the implementation of repatriation, and of reintegration projects, to the deployment of emergency teams to address the new flows.

In the Horn of Africa, the successful repatriation of Ethiopian refugees from the Sudan, and of Somali refugees from Ethiopia indicate that some of the long standing problems of displacement are being resolved. It would therefore be an even greater setback if such progress were to be offset by a new conflict and fresh displacement. I call upon the concerned governments and the international community to do all that is in their power to maintain peace in this region.

In Southern Sudan, the on-going conflict continues to block solutions for refugees in Ethiopia and Uganda. And the repatriation of Sahrawi refugees depends on the successful conclusion of the peace process for Western Sahara.

Nowhere has the direct, brutal relationship between conflict and displacement has been more evident than in the province of Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I have just returned from a six-day tour of the region - my second one this year - which took me, besides Kosovo, to Belgrade, Montenegro and Albania, and during which I met with the main national and local political leaders. My priority was to personally assess the situation of the 45,000 displaced in Montenegro, of the 20,000 refugees in Albania, and in particular of the estimated 200,000 displaced people in Kosovo itself. While the pattern of displacement is not always clear, and changes by the day, its causes on the contrary are sadly obvious: while there are - indeed - reports of serious human rights violations by the Kosovo Liberation Army, the main cause for civilians to flee is the excessive use of force by governmental security units, which is designed to terrorize and subjugate them. I raised these points in my meeting with President Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, urging him to stop violence and destruction and stressing the importance of promoting confidence-building measures. On our side, we have substantially increased our operational capacity in order to effectively lead the humanitarian effort. However, Kosovo is a political problem, with devastating humanitarian consequences. While colleagues in the field carry out their life-saving efforts, we must insist that a just and lasting political solution be realized immediately, before it is too late.

European countries are rightly concerned by the possibility that the Kosovo crisis, if left unresolved, will continue to compel civilians to flee to neighbouring countries, and further on, to Western Europe. This is of course one more reason to intensify efforts to find a political solution to the conflict. So long as violence and oppression continue to prevail in Kosovo, however, I appeal to governments - in the region and in the rest of Europe - to maintain an open attitude towards asylum seekers from this area.

Not only is the increase in the number of conflicts causing more displacement, but it is also causing displacement to become more complex. Take Kosovo, for example. There, the categorization of those who flee their homes into refugees, internally displaced or other groups is not very significant, given that all those who flee try to reach the nearest secure area, irrespective of the status they will acquire in doing so. In this and other cases, we shall continue to pursue a comprehensive approach to the different categories of displaced people, closely linked to conflict resolution efforts. In this respect, I would like to join the Representative of the Secretary-General for Internally Displaced Persons, Mr Francis Deng, in calling for increased international attention and support for the internally displaced. On our side, we shall continue to intervene on their behalf when requested and authorised to do so, and particularly where their situation may cause refugee flows - such as in Colombia, for example - provided that the right of all people to seek asylum is respected, and provided also that through our work we can facilitate the search for solutions for all those forcibly displaced.

I have already said that physical and psychological violence against civilians is increasing in many places engulfed in conflict. Kosovo and Sierra Leone are two cases in point. I should add that - sadly - among those most affected are above all refugee and returnee women and children. UNHCR will continue to pay special attention to the needs of these groups, with a strong focus on their protection problems, and particularly in conflict and post conflict situations.

Ensuring protection and seeking solutions through global solidarity

The increase in the number of conflicts indicates that maintaining global peace is becoming more complicated. This has serious consequences on humanitarian work. How many times have we said and heard that humanitarian action cannot be a substitute for political solutions? Yet, in many situations, humanitarian workers are still alone on the ground. Political interest to resolve some crises seems to be receding. Is this the symptom of a decreasing sense of international commitment on the part of today's states and societies?

The Executive Committee has chosen to discuss how international cooperation allows the "burden" of displacement to be shared among states. The most significant aspect of burden sharing is undoubtedly the sharing of responsibilities towards uprooted people. The Preamble of the 1951 Convention says that " ... a satisfactory solution of a problem of which the United Nations has recognized the international scope and nature cannot ... be achieved without international cooperation". Let me therefore propose that we explore together ways and means to address and resolve problems of forced displacement through closer international cooperation. The refugee problem is a global one, but what dimension will it have in a world in which "globalization" will soon give a very different meaning to those key features of traditional refugee movements, distances and borders? Should we not prepare ourselves, and counter inward-looking tendencies by developing a global solidarity agenda for the next millennium?

Most importantly, we must clearly reaffirm that international cooperation to resolve refugee problems must be solidly based on protection principles. We often hear that the refugee protection regime is obsolete. On the contrary, I think that it continues to prove its ability to ensure - with some exceptions - that refugees are granted asylum, and that acceptable solutions to their problems are identified.

Asylum remains the cornerstone of refugee protection. I am very worried that in industrialized societies - but, increasingly, also in developing countries - governments adopt more restrictive asylum policies, resorting to a narrower interpretation of refugee law. The focus of legislation dealing with asylum has shifted from protection to control. Indeed, people fleeing violence and persecution are frequently mixed with others seeking economic opportunities. Sometimes people flee for both reasons. States also tighten border controls in a more than legitimate effort to deal with terrorism and other threats to security. Traffickers in human beings do not discriminate between people with legitimate fear of persecution, people seeking jobs, and those with criminal intent. In some countries, the inability to separate refugees from others, not deserving of protection, has had the catastrophic consequences that we know. Mixed flows, however, do not justify the systematic, sometimes intentional confusion between refugees and others. Migrants seeking work should not present themselves as asylum seekers. Nor should those requesting asylum be presented to public opinion as merely seeking a work permit, or worse, escaping from prosecution rather than persecution. Asylum often is the only tool left to the international community to rescue a life in danger. Let us restore confidence in this essential protection instrument.

At the other end of the protection spectrum, refugee resettlement is a concrete reflection of international cooperation. This is why I am concerned by the indication given by some countries that an increase in the number of asylum seekers at their border may mean a decrease in resettlement quotas. On the other hand, I am grateful to those governments that continue to offer resettlement opportunities, among which I would like to single out the initiative of the United States - still the largest resettlement country - to increase quotas for African refugees. I am also glad to report that we can now resettle refugees in countries from which refugees used to flee, such as South Africa, Chile and Argentina. This is an encouraging sign.

The difficult context in which we work means that we must be very active and creative in catalyzing international cooperation in order to achieve lasting and comprehensive solutions to refugee problems. As in previous years, we have of course continued to promote cooperation through regional processes such as the CIS Conference, the Asia-Pacific Consultations and the Central and South-West Asia and Middle East Consultations. In the last few months, however, we have taken several new initiatives, especially in three areas: protection, security and returnee reintegration.

First, on a broad range of protection issues, we have made efforts to reach out and promote a dialogue with the members of this Committee. This is an ongoing process, through which we are obtaining valuable, if varying opinions, from interested states. The "protection reach out project" offers us an opportunity to exchange our views with governments on protection principles, and provides us with inspiration on how to reinvigorate international protection and make it more effective in the current geopolitical context.

Second, following the dramatic experiences of the Great Lakes crisis, last year I told you that we would discuss with governments the best ways to uphold refugee protection in that region, taking into full consideration the security interests of states. Immediately after the Executive Committee meeting, we started a process of consultations with governments in Central Africa. In February I travelled to nine countries in the region for three weeks and met with their leaders. This process culminated, in May, in a meeting of eight governments hosted in Kampala by President Museveni of Uganda and convened by the Organisation of African Unity and UNHCR. The group strongly reaffirmed its support for refugee protection principles embodied in the OAU Convention, and requested the OAU and UNHCR to continue to work on three broad issues: insecurity in situations of displacement; the vital role of returnee reintegration as a contribution to post-conflict reconstruction; and the importance of assisting national communities hosting refugees. The work done before and during the Kampala meeting, and its important conclusions, did not remain isolated from other parallel, and broader efforts with respect to security issues. Following a recommendation of the United Nations Secretary-General's report on Africa, UNHCR is cooperating closely with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations on proposals to establish various stand-by international arrangements to address insecure refugee situations, not necessarily relying on traditional multinational peacekeeping forces.

Third, we have been actively promoting international cooperation for the reintegration of refugees following voluntary repatriation, especially in post-conflict situations. This was the main objective of the regional strategy for the sustainable return of those displaced by conflict in the former Yugoslavia, which we developed earlier this year. Although the focus of attention has recently been on Kosovo, we should not forget that 1.8 million people continue to be displaced in other parts of the former Yugoslavia. Both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia, minority returns remain the central problem. In the former, they continue to be lower than expected, even if we now estimate that approximately 20,000 minority returns have occurred since January. I wish to repeat here what I said in June to the Humanitarian Issues Working Group, which endorsed the strategy: the attitudes and the people responsible for displacement in this region still prevail, and prevent larger returns. We are nevertheless committed to work with all elected officials to realize the right to return. We also continue to co-operate closely with the Office of the High Representative and other agencies. In Croatia, on the other hand, following the approval by Parliament of the Programme on Return legislation in June, the number of Croatian Serbs' returns increased to 3,000 in two months, with 4,000 other people already approved for repatriation. For the first time since the end of hostilities, legislated minority returns are a reality, although most of them continue to be so-called "difficult" cases. These still require political action to resolve reconstruction needs and property restitution.

In spite of all the problems, in the former Yugoslavia a comprehensive peace agreement attempts to provide an all-encompassing reconstruction framework for international cooperation. The return and reintegration of refugees are indeed a fundamental aspect of the Dayton Peace Agreement. In other regions, repatriation cannot avail itself of such a framework. Yet, there have been positive developments. For example, 65,000 Chakma refugees returned voluntarily from India to Bangladesh under a bilateral arrangement between the two countries. The Guatemalan refugee situation is being solved through a combination of local integration in Mexico and successful repatriation. In Africa, the repatriation of refugees to Mali and Niger has been completed. Almost 200,000 Liberian refugees have already returned to their country since last December, either spontaneously or with UNHCR assistance. In Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, thanks especially to the leadership of ECOWAS, conflicts have been largely stopped. Should peace prevail in these two countries, the repatriation and reintegration of refugees and other uprooted people will be key elements of the peace building process in the entire region. We must seize the opportunity to provide them with the necessary support. We must start planning return and reintegration early, so that when peace becomes a reality, the return of the displaced does not increase its fragility, but is rather a consolidating factor.

Operating in immediate post-conflict situations, UNHCR has faced serious difficulties. Rwanda and Liberia provide examples of massive return movements to situations of fragile peace, which need to be consolidated through effective international cooperation. Yet, in both countries, insufficient support to returnee reintegration projects has compelled us to drastically reduce our programmes. I would like to recall here that activities in support of returnees, and of their reintegration, have been endorsed by this Executive Committee as an essential aspect of our responsibility for return - an inherent part of UNHCR's mandate.

Moreover, in the cases I have mentioned, our withdrawal has not been matched by a parallel increase in development activities. Situations of fragile peace discourage the allocation of resources needed to support integration and reconciliation, widen the gap between humanitarian and development assistance and result in failure to create an environment favourable to the re-integration of returnees and to the peaceful coexistence of divided communities. We have been actively engaging governments, other components of the United Nations - especially UNDP - and the World Bank in more concrete discussions on this important issue of division of work and resource mobilization, with a view to explore how to bridge existing gaps.

I cannot conclude these remarks about international cooperation and refugee protection without mentioning the importance of carrying out this work in partnership with others. In this regard, I would particularly like to share with you my strong appreciation for the work of the United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello. His efforts have been instrumental in keeping humanitarian issues on the international political agenda. I cannot mention all the others, but I will refer at least to the operational agencies of the United Nations, and especially UNICEF and the World Food Programme, as well as the International Organization for Migration, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. We are stressing cooperation with regional organizations: besides those I have referred to, such as the Organization of African Unity, I would like to mention ECOWAS and SADC, and single out the European Union. Through the European Commission and its Humanitarian Office, it continues to be one of our strongest supporters. Let me also add that in a few days I will be travelling to Vienna to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Cooperation with non-governmental organizations, particularly in the field, remains one of the fundamental aspects of our work. They are our window and our link with civil society. In this respect, we are discussing a number of initiatives with NGOs of which we shall keep you informed - including a relaunch of the PARinAC process and a programme to strengthen capacity building for national NGOs.

Resources and management

Mr Chairman, I would now like to share with you some thoughts about the resources needed to carry out this vast and complex programme of work. I am very grateful for the continued support provided by governments to my Office. The fact that contributions are almost entirely voluntary requires on our part considerable fund raising efforts. I believe this is useful, motivates us to constantly improve the quality of our work, and helps focus the world's attention on refugee problems. Because of their voluntary character, however, contributions may not always be made to the extent and at the time we would wish them to be. I understand governments' constraints, especially when - in many countries - budgets are reduced and public spending is curtailed. In this context, I also understand governments' requests for even better accountability.

This year, however, cases of decreased and delayed contributions have been more frequent than in the past. If the current shortfall of the General Programme will not be funded by the end of this year, we shall have to further reduce operational expenditures. Some Special Programmes also remain severely underfunded: among these, I would like to mention Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to our projections, funds carried over into next year will be minimal. If our activities are to be carried out without interruption during the first quarter of 1999, we need donor support now.

I would also like to draw your attention to two other essential aspects of funding. First, flexibility. I appreciate that governments have their priorities in the allocation of funds. Flexibility, however, is indispensable to our effectiveness. For example, the funding situation of the Great Lakes operations, including Rwanda, has recently improved, but tight earmarking of some of the contributions make their use limited only to certain activities, while others remain underfunded. I would like to request all donors to take this into consideration and to strike a balance between their need to earmark contributions, and their demand that we perform effectively. Second, predictability. This year, in some instances, funds were contributed - but so late that meanwhile many activities had to be cut or suspended. Visiting our field programmes, you have a tangible feeling of despair resulting from such unpredictability. Many of my colleagues and our implementing partners do not know whether they will have resources to carry out their work - literally - in the next few days.

Reductions in our programmes have had a considerable impact on human resources management. A post-by-post review both at Headquarters and in the field was recently completed. By 1 January 1999 we shall attain the target of 4,436 posts, which represents a reduction of a thousand posts in less than two years. We have made all possible efforts to conduct this exercise in a transparent manner, and to take all available measures aimed at minimizing the negative consequences on staff. External recruitment continues to be frozen, which, by the way, meant that the challenge of achieving overall gender equity among our staff was made more difficult. This said, we have reached a level of 39% representation of women, and we are committed to making further progress, particularly in the higher grades, by ensuring maximum opportunity for the advancement of women.

I continue to be deeply worried by insecurity problems affecting the staff of my Office and of other humanitarian agencies in many places. The case of Vincent Cochetel, head of the UNHCR office in Vladikavkaz, in the Russian Federation, is an extremely preoccupying case in point. He was abducted by criminals on 29 January and has now spent eight months in captivity - eight months during which his courageous wife and two young daughters, as well as his colleagues and friends, have been waiting in vain for his return. We have been working ceaselessly to try to secure his release. We continue needing the assistance of the authorities in the Russian Federation - local, regional and national - to bring a swift and positive end to Vincent's ordeal.

Of all UNHCR current employees, 21% are working in what the United Nations consider high-risk duty stations. In close consultation with the United Nations Security Coordinator and the UN operational agencies, I have requested and obtained that staff security be given more attention in inter-agency discussions. We have made some concrete proposals - for example on measures to protect national staff - and I will insist that they are implemented as soon as possible. Problems of security, however, cannot be addressed only through administrative measures. They are the consequence of the isolation in which humanitarian agencies often find themselves in insecure situations. If we continue to be present and active in conflict areas or in other dangerous places - and we certainly will - this problem must be dealt with in the broader context of political support to humanitarian action. For this reason, we have made a substantial contribution to the Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on protection for humanitarian assistance; and we have been foremost among those requesting that crimes committed against humanitarian staff be covered by the newly established International Criminal Court.

Concerning the status of the change management process, UNHCR presented the Standing Committee in February with a report on the implementation of Project Delphi, showing that more than half of the activities had already been implemented and that many others had achieved substantial progress. Of the priority projects consolidating the remaining major actions, I would like to single out the further development of the Operations Management System. This is a tool which will soon enable us to plan, budget, implement, monitor and evaluate all projects more comprehensively and rationally than ever before; and which will also help us improve the monitoring of projects implemented by partner organizations. To support this, we are embarking upon a complex and far-reaching project to replace our current information technology systems. In the context of change, the implementation of the Career Management System should also be mentioned. Its first cycle has been completed and we now plan to make it simpler and more flexible.

All these change efforts require a sustained commitment - including financial support - over the next three to four years.

Mr Chairman, I wish to assure the Executive Committee that I attach the greatest importance - and I wish to repeat this: the greatest importance - to attaining the good management standards which this Committee has repeatedly recognized as one of UNHCR's constant features. As early as in 1992, I committed myself to strengthening the management capacity of the Office and proposed measures to achieve this objective. One of them was the appointment of an Inspector. The Service which he supervises has been extremely active. Since 1995 inspections have been carried out in 68 countries, that is 60% of UNHCR's programmes. Another, related activity which now needs attention is that of evaluations: in the next few months we plan to review our capacity and methods in this important area. And finally, I have paid particular attention to the management responsibility of UNHCR representatives in the field, who have a key role to play in ensuring the proper and prudent use of resources. Activities to enhance their capabilities have included training on human resources and financial management.


Mr Chairman, the next two years will be marked by important occasions. 1999 will be the 30th anniversary of the refugee Convention of the Organization of African Unity. In December 2000 UNHCR will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the General Assembly resolution instituting the Office. And I will have the privilege of leading the Office towards the new century. These dates are symbolic, but I wish them to add significance and motivation to our work. They also clearly indicate how much refugees have been part of our century's history. So have been - I hope - our efforts to address their problems.

Reaching out to governments and to the civil society to make global solidarity a concrete reality is the first priority of my next mandate. To achieve this, my second priority is to ensure sustainable effectiveness in policy and management. Given the difficult context in which we work, I believe that there are some areas requiring particular attention: first, to maintain the rapid and effective emergency preparedness and response capacity which we have built over the last six years; second, to establish a more fair, fast and flexible human resources management system; and third, as I already said, to ensure a predictable and flexible funding base.

The fourth area to which I will devote particular attention will be to maintain and promote a human approach in our work. Mr Chairman, it is both the biggest challenge and the greatest privilege of working with UNHCR that we deal not only with issues, concepts, policies and figures, but also and much more importantly with people. This - I believe - helps us keep in touch with reality, and at the same time stay alert for new ideas. This is why I attach great importance to my own field trips, on which I have spent this year about half of my time, and which allow me to be in contact with refugees and with my colleagues working directly with them. I spoke briefly about our efforts to improve good management. I would like to emphasize that we know that it is on the quality of our work, at all levels, that depend not only the most effective use of resources, but also and especially the lives and welfare of thousands of men and women. I can assure you that my colleagues and myself are well aware, constantly, of this responsibility. I can also assure you that there is no better guarantee of good management than this awareness.

Times are difficult, as I said. They are especially difficult for those who - even as we speak - are forced to leave their homes, their land and often their family. We have limited means to help them, but we shall use them in full, working in the manner for which UNHCR has become known: forward-looking, committed and effective. We shall spare no effort to be worthy of your confidence. I hope that my own contribution will be to provide refugees worldwide, and my colleagues who work with them, with a sense of direction. I do not want to leave behind a legacy, but a future.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.