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Closing remarks by the Chairman, H. E. Mr. Hernán Escudero Martínez, to the 55th session of ExCom

Executive Committee Meetings

Closing remarks by the Chairman, H. E. Mr. Hernán Escudero Martínez, to the 55th session of ExCom

8 October 2004

(Check against delivery)

Geneva, 8 October 2004

1. This now brings us to the close of our business.

2. Firstly, Mr. High Commissioner, may I express my appreciation to you for your closing remarks and for your presence here throughout this 55th session of the Executive Committee. I would also like to express my appreciation to the Deputy High Commissioner, Ms. Wendy Chamberlin, and the Assistant High Commissioner, Mr. Kamel Morjane, for their presence and support during these meetings. I also thank the Director for International Protection, Ms. Erika Feller, for her incisive and carefully crafted reflections on the state of refugee protection over the past year.

3. Let me once again thank the members of this Committee for giving me the opportunity to become your Chairman. I also appreciate the confidence you have demonstrated in the Bureau by adopting the decision which requires us to preside over the next plenary session as well as this one, as a transitional measure, to allow future Bureaux to take office at the end of plenary sessions rather than at the beginning.

4. I also thank delegations for their energetic and thought-provoking participation in this 55th session of the Executive Committee. In addition to our 66 members, some 65 States took part as observers, not counting the numerous intergovernmental organizations which were represented, as well as many non-governmental organizations. As you well know, this Committee, which deals with issues which often touch on matters of national sovereignty, operates on the basis of consensus. The spirit of conciliation which allows us to find consensus is essential to the effective work of this Committee and, through it, to promoting the cause of refugees worldwide. I thank you for safeguarding this vital principle.

Let me also congratulate delegations for their many well focused interventions in relation to the issues identified by the High Commissioner in his opening remarks. This is fully in line with the established role of the Committee to advise the High Commissioner in his task of protecting refugees and to give guidance on matters and problems that he may bring to our attention in this respect.

5. As I foreshadowed in my opening statement, I am keen to take the 20th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration as a starting point to reinforce international protection and regional solidarity in seeking durable solutions for persons of concern. During my term of office, I would like to place a special emphasis on pursuing the tremendous opportunities we are witnessing for voluntary repatriation, the ground-breaking work of the Convention Plus initiative for the enhancement and more strategic use of resettlement, and the need to consider the possibilities of providing local integration where this is appropriate.

6. I also wish to explore further the need to pursue efforts to link relief assistance for refugees to development projects. Significant analysis has already been undertaken in this field by countries in the context of Convention Plus, but as we all know, much remains to be done. In this regard, I was particularly interested in the comments by Mr. James Morris of the World Food Programme, another key humanitarian organization, who spoke of the necessity of investing in the future through rebuilding infrastructure, assuring livelihoods and providing education for refugee children worldwide.

7. Emphasis also needs to be placed on the plight of internally displaced persons, who UNHCR assists in many parts of the world, and other persons of concern to the Office, including stateless persons. In that respect, the Panel on Statelessness, which marked the 50th anniversary of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, provided a timely reminder of the importance of addressing current challenges in protecting stateless persons and reducing their number.

8. I am finally keen to contribute to the important task of improving security for both humanitarian workers and for the people they are committed to protect.

9. The work of this meeting is drawing to a close, but the work of the 55th session will continue in the year ahead. Our Planning Meeting in December will draw up the detailed programme of work of our Standing Committee for 2005. We also look forward to having a number of informal consultative consultations on a range of subjects, including those priorities I have outlined.

10. Distinguished delegates, High Commissioner: let me once again thank the Vice-Chairman, Ambassador Oshima, the Rapporteur, Ms Ann Blomberg, and the Secretariat of the Executive Committee and the staff of UNHCR. I also wish to thank the staff of the Conference and Interpretation Services of the United Nations, who provided often invisible but essential assistance in making this meeting successful.

11. For those of you who have come from far away, I particularly thank you for attending this meeting and wish you a safe journey home.

12. I declare closed the 55th session of the Executive Committee.