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Statement by António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Launch of the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) for Syrian refugees. Berlin, 18 December 2014

Speeches and statements

Statement by António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Launch of the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) for Syrian refugees. Berlin, 18 December 2014

18 December 2014

Edited transcript of extemporaneous remarks

Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would first of all like to thank Germany for its leadership - for hosting the Berlin Conference in October and now this one, for its strong donor support, but more than anything else for its leadership in protection. 60,000 Syrians came to Germany in 2014 to claim asylum, and Germany has offered another 30,000 additional opportunities for humanitarian admission - a remarkable demonstration of burden-sharing.

I would also like to thank our donors. The refugee response plan received 2 billion dollars in 2014. Though this is only 54% of the appeal, it represents a remarkable effort in a period of budgetary difficulties. I am very happy to see Dr. Al Matouq here with us, who has been the engine behind the two Kuwait conferences.

But as the Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said, we are facing the worst humanitarian crisis of our times, combined with the worst regional destabilisation in any part of the world, and the worst threat to global peace and security.

On one hand, we have 3.2 million refugees - the largest refugee population under UNHCR's mandate. In 2014, there were 80,000 to 90,000 new refugees registered every month, so based on that we are looking at the possibility of reaching 4.2 million by the end of 2015. But not only are the numbers staggering, the refugees' conditions are terrible. Imagine people who crossed the border three or four years ago, with some savings and with a lot of hope that after six months they would go back home. By now, the savings are gone. There are no jobs. The living conditions are difficult. The assistance is limited. Refugees live in extremely complex environments. It is no surprise that many families are forced to resort to child labour, that there are early marriages, and even sexual exploitation and abuse. These people are suffering enormously. But they would suffer much more without the generosity of the host countries.

It is hard to imagine the economic, social and demographic impact on the economies and societies in Lebanon and Jordan, in Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. The number of Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon would be equivalent to 22.5 million refugees coming to Germany. The situation is similar in Jordan, and in Northern Iraq which is also hosting many internally displaced people. Not only the host states are impacted, but also their people. Jordanians and Lebanese cannot find jobs, salaries are shrinking, rents and prices have gone up, and local families have difficulties in making ends meet. That is why we joined efforts - under the leadership of the five host governments, with UNDP and UNHCR, 200 partners, UN agencies, and the NGO community - to come up with the regional refugee and resilience plan presented here, together with the national response plans.

For the refugee part of the appeal, that is 3.5 billion dollars centred on core protection issues and life-saving response. It is not an appeal to do a perfect job, but it is for the absolute minimum that is required for people in extremely dire situations. Our protection activities aim at preventing the dramas that I mentioned earlier: child labour, child recruitment, sexual exploitation and abuse, early marriages and many other risks confronting refugee families. The appeal also provides for shelter, water and sanitation, minimum health care requirements, and for bringing more children into school. Only half of the refugee children have access to some kind of education, and only one-third receive formal education in proper schools. So we are concentrating our efforts in the basic, most urgent aspects of protection and assistance. Some people think we do more for Syrian refugees than for refugees in other parts of the world, but let me assure you that per-capita requirements in this appeal correspond exactly to those of appeals being presented for the African continent. The assistance provided to Syrian refugees is really at the very lowest possible limit, and your support is absolutely vital. Many of these people live hand to mouth, they have really no alternative but your generous support.

On the other hand, there is the resilience response plan that will be presented by Gina Casar. Let me just say that we need to support the local communities more, not only because the support of the local communities is also essential to refugee protection. We also need to recognise that these neighbouring states need certain forms of assistance (such as budget support, structural support, to their infrastructure for education and health systems) that require a review of today's development cooperation policies. Countries like Jordan and Lebanon are middle income countries, and because of that they do not have access to several of the mechanisms of development cooperation. This must be reviewed, because these countries are key to the stabilisation of the region and globally. It is absolutely essential that development cooperation policies, beyond the resilience component, recognize that this needs to be reviewed so as to be able to respond to requirements of countries that are facing challenges like those neighbouring Syria face today. Turkey has spent 4.5 billion dollars in direct assistance. Iraq has been completely engulfed by the war and even for Egypt there is a non-negligible impact on the economy and society.

And finally, there is another area of solidarity that is essential, and this is burden-sharing. We recently had a pledging conference for resettlement and humanitarian admission where we reached about 100,000 places around the world, and we aim at 130,000 by the end of 2016. But our estimate is that one-tenth of the refugees in the neighbouring countries have specific protection requirements due to their vulnerability, and these 10 per cent would need resettlement or humanitarian admission opportunities. I hope that Germany's leadership will also be followed by others in this dimension.

Solidarity, with the refugees themselves and with the neighbouring countries, is a must today. Let us not forget that Syrian refugees represent one of the most dramatic humanitarian situations at the present time. And let us not forget that these neighbouring countries are not only the first providers of assistance and protection to refugees, but in a very complex security situation created by the Syrian conflict, they are also the first line of defence of us all.

Thank you very much.