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Informal Meeting of Permanent Representatives in Geneva of States Members of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom) | Opening Statement by Mr. Jean-Pierre Hocké, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Speeches and statements

Informal Meeting of Permanent Representatives in Geneva of States Members of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme (ExCom) | Opening Statement by Mr. Jean-Pierre Hocké, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

27 March 1987
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Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to see you all again, at this informal meeting. As I have stated in the past, I greatly value these opportunities for a candid and constructive dialogue with members of the Committee outside the formal forum of our annual sessions. I am sorry that a combination of circumstances did not make it possible for us to meet in January, as has been the tradition, but I trust that this occasion, spread over two days, will - in both the quality and range of our discussions - make up for this postponement.

I am particularly pleased to welcome you today because quite a few things have happened since I last had the opportunity to speak to you in October. We have of course had many occasions to meet, both individually and in groups, since then, and an informal dialogue has also taken place at the "Open House" meeting in January. Nonetheless, today's meeting strikes me as a valuable opportunity to take stock; to keep you fully informed of the developments and perspectives of UNHCR's work and current concerns; to respond to your questions and preoccupations; and to enhance, through this process, your understanding of and support for the activities of my office. Informal though our meeting is, insubstantial it will not be.

In the five months since we last met I have seen at first hand a range of refugee situations - notably in the Central American region - and spoken with several governments interested in the refugee cause, for instance at the Islamic Summit and more recently in Iran and Scandinavia as well as the Holy See. This ongoing process, of renewing and refreshing knowledge and awareness of refugee situations which are in constant evolution, is indispensable for the High Commissioner and his staff. We must be able to remain "plugged in", if I may use the term, to changing refugee situations if we are to fulfil our mission as effectively as possible and help governments to confront a more manageable refugee problems. You may recall the concern expressed by the Office and indeed by many of you in 1986 that the global refugee situation should not be allowed to stagnate - that the paramount need was to initiate solutions. Though a number of negative elements persist, and though stagnation contains its own inertia, this remains the leitmotiv of our action.

While I do not wish to take the time of the Executive Committee by repeating precepts I have already enunciated last year, I think it necessary to underscore the principles and the lines of action I will continue to follow.

In my view UNHCR must act on three planes. First, in relation to emergencies. Early warning mechanisms and preparedness for crises must be improved. We are carefully monitoring the situation in Southern Africa in this respect, and drawing up a number of contigency plans in close co-ordination with the rest of the UN system, other concerned agencies and the governments involved. Next, effective emergency response is vital: when, for instance, reports reached us in September last year of an influx of some 70,000 Mozambicans into Malawi, and as soon as the Government expressed interest in UNHCR being involved, a senior delegation headed by the Deputy High Commissioner travelled to the country for as initial assessment of the dimensions of the problem. During this visit, the Government of Malawi agreed to a UNHCR programme and presence, initially as an augmentation to the office of UNDP. It was clearly essential to take rapid measures to evaluate the needs and determine the action required. We therefore despatched an expert mission including the Head of our Technical Support Service, a water engineer and a public health specialist, as well as the Desk Officer from Headquarters, to make a detailed study of the problem and recommend action. Once the mission's report was submitted to the Government, the previously agreed UNHCR presence was immediately established to launch an assistance programme. The number of arrivals in Malawi has reached 150,000 and the influx continues; we are now working with a planning figure of 210,000. I believe this still-evolving situation is a classic test of the flexibility and adaptability required of UNHCR in confronting emergencies and of our ability to react to a dynamic situation - this in close co-operation, of course, with the Government and our operational partners, who must carry the burden of direct implementation of our programmes in the field.

But emergency relief is not, and cannot be, the be-all and end-all of our work. We must move rapidly from the emergency phase to intermediate assistance: measures to improve camp conditions; provide water and sanitation; launch preventative public health care; encourage refugee participation; and start educational activities to prevent the tragic waste of the potential of refugee youth. These are all measures to be taken for both existing and new refugee situations; and these are measures we have sought for some months to implement in Somalia. I am glad to say that our concerns in this area can at last be addressed in the North-West with the move of the measures we have begun to take, marks the beginning of a process that will lead refugees to a more secure and healthy situation.

The next challenge is to go further, to achieve a degree of self-sufficiency which would enable refugees to feel responsible for their own destiny. This is vital in order to avoid the syndrome of dependence which weakens the refugee's ability to achieve a successful durable solution; to reduce the resentment of local citizens towards refugees who seem to be getting assistance without making a contribution in return; and wherever possible to remedy environmental damage, and compensate for some of the burden phenomenon is Pakistan, where a number of income-generating and environmental restoration activities have been successfully launched and where the World Bank has recently embarked on the preparation of the second phase of its widely-acclaimed project. We shall take steps to ensure that Pakistan does not remain the sole example of successful self-sufficiency activities and that such programmes will be actively promoted elsewhere. A beginning has already been made in Eastern Sudan, in Somalia and in Chad.

Countries of asylum themselves should have every interest in encouraging this kind of programme, which falls squarely within the concept of host-country-oriented refugee aid approved by ICARA II. UNHCR has actively been pursuing the ICARA II approach and process, which had received something of a setback during the emergency of 1984-86, and which we are determined must not be allowed to slip away. The best instrument to assure this seems to be the full integration of the refugee component in the follow-up to the UN Special Session on Africa. For our part we will identify and launch comparable self-sufficiency and income-generating programmes wherever possible, energetically pursue funding for them and thus attempt to help countries of asylum to provide hospitality to a majority of the world's refugees. But let us have no illusions: whatever success we attain will only lead to a degree of self-sufficiency or income for the refugees.

If these are the main approaches to be undertaken by UNHCR in countries of first asylum, it is also vital that they be conducted with a precise and rigorous assessment of needs. Once again, I would wish to cite Somalia, where in an exemplary manner and with the full co-operation of the authorities, a detailed census was conducted in Tug Wajale with practical consequences for the efficiency or our assistance programme. I am pleased to be able to announce today that a re-enumeration of the overall refugee presence in Somalia has also just been agreed. I believe such an exercise, in Somalia and elsewhere, assists both the host Government and the international donor community, as well as UNHCR, to have a clear idea of the size and nature of the problem and of the quantitative and qualitative measures needed to be taken to address it.

The third plane of UNHCR's action is in respect of durable solutions. It is absolutely essential that these be envisaged at the start of any refugee situation. The longer the issue of durable solutions is neglected or postponed, the greater the risk of creating a psychological climate in which humanitarian problems become the prisoners of political ones. This is why we have not hesitated to address the issue of solutions even to the most long-lasting and seemingly tractable problems, on the one hand, such as that of the Indochinese and Central American situations, or to recent exoduses, on the other hand, such as those of Irian Jayans to Papua New Guinea. It is, of course, vitally important to work towards solutions in the context of overall political settlements. But it is also necessary to be prepared to find solutions even pending the achievement of such settlements, if the conditions are right for certain groups within the refugee population to seek specific durable solutions. When, for instance, UNHCR is approached by individual refugees as well as by small groups who wish to repatriate, even before an overall political settlement in their country of origin, it must be our endeavour to facilitate their return in the appropriate conditions. Here I think, for instance, of those who have repatriated from Honduras to Nicaragua and El Salvador, and also of the larger numbers repatriating voluntarily from Djibouti or to Mozambique. Repatriation is undoubtedly the ideal durable solution and the one that UNHCR must both conduct and facilitate with full respect for the basic principles of voluntariness, security and dignity.

In saying this, I must stress the vital importance of creating appropriate conditions for return. This calls for more than just UNHCR involvement; there is a need for a joint effort by Governments, by national institutions which have the confidence of the people, and by UNHCR to ensure that repatriation is voluntary and meets the legitimate aspirations of the refugees. The precept remains valid whether for Central America or for Africa, or indeed any other part of the world. UNHCR acts on the basis that refugees must return only after a free and uncoerced choice, and in full awareness of the conditions - political, legal, social and economic - that await them on their return to the home country. Several countries need international assistance in reintegrating refugees, in order to ensure that those who no longer have political reasons to stay outside their home country do not find economic reasons to leave it again. I believe we have had clear illustrations of this problem in recent and current repatriations to Uruguay and Guatemala. Appropriate action in this area often goes beyond what UNHCR can do by itself. Other international institutions and bilateral donors must be involved in providing assistance to home countries and to host communities in order to permit them better to absorb repatriants. This is a major reason for our efforts to enlist the support of UNDP and other international development agencies, in order to assure the durable character of this solution.

Local integration also emerges as a crucially important solution, since it involves the settlement of refugees in countries which offer geographical, ethnic, linguistic and cultural affinities to the refugee group. These factors of not by any means imply that local integration is an easy, or trouble-free solution, from the point of view of the host country. On the contrary, great efforts are required on the part of the country of asylum to welcome refugees for integration. Yet such efforts have been made in Africa, where local integration has been practised with a generosity of spirit and of sharing which is an example to the rest of the world. The Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zaire are just a few of the many African states who have provided this solution to large refugee groups. On the other continents, China and Mexico have also been exemplary. There is an obvious need for adequate assistance to host countries in integration and here again emerges the link between refugee aid and development, as exemplified in ICARA II.

Resettlement, of course, remains an answer for those who cannot repatriate or integrate locally. While acknowledging that this is a particularly difficult solution to accomplish, it is necessary to recall its importance in the context of protection, especially where the physical security of a refugee, or a group of refugees, is in danger - an element too often underestimated. Here I wish to pay tribute to all the Governments which have responded to UNHCR's appeals for the urgent resettlement of desperate refugees, sometimes even at 24 or 48 hours' notice. In the last few months this phenomenon has also occurred in the African continent, and I am most part of the continent in view of the danger - to the refugees and to their hosts - posed by their presence.

This brings me, in turn, to another aspect of resettlement that is often overlooked - its role as a vital symbol of international burden-sharing. We are all aware of how, in the last decade and especially in South-East Asia, resettlement has been the safety-value that has permitted large numbers of refugees to receive temporary asylum in countries which otherwise, in the absence of resettlement programmes, would have found it impossible to grant asylum. Resettlement is thus an expression of solidarity with first asylum countries, and in may view this solidarity works both ways. When countries which have traditionally offered a haven to refugees take steps to close their doors in response to other migratory flows, their actions not only affect genuine refugees and legitimate asylum-seekers but also impinge negatively on the willingness of first asylum countries to keep their doors open. There are already signs of this happening, which cause me grave concern.

The situation in Europe and North America is, in this respect, preoccupying, because it is clear that the "jet people" of today are not receiving the same sort of welcome as the "boat people" of the 1970s or the "land people" of the 1950s on this continent. It is impossible to overstate the importance of global solidarity on the principle of asylum. We have witnessed in recent months the promulgation and application by a number of Western European Governments of legal and administrative measures designed to discourage abusive claims. Such measures are perfectly understandable but they must be taken with due regard to their consequences and to the increasing difficulties the pose for refugees and asylum-seekers. While my Office will continue to take current realities into account, including the legitimate concerns of governments, in Europe as elsewhere, I must insist that basic protection principles cannot and must not be compromised. I therefore urge Governments once more to work within the consultative process initiated and sustained by a few governments and UNHCR to arrive at solutions which meet the needs and rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.

Providing international protection to refugees remains the cornerstone of the daily work of my Office in all parts of the world. I know many of you share my preoccupation with the very serious problem of military and armed attacks on refugee camps and settlements. Such attacks continue to occur, the most recent examples being the aerial bombardment of a UNHCR-assisted refugees camp located at Matasangar in the Kurram district of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province on 27 February and the bombardment of another camp located at Chitral in the same province on 3 March. The victims of these attacks included 45 killed, 92 wounded and 2 mission. Among those killed were seven staff members of the Office of the Commissioner for Afghan Refugees, which is UNHCR's implementing partner in Pakistan. From a humanitarian standpoint I cannot but condemn such flagrant violations of the physical safety and security of refugees under my Mandate. While it is clear that refugees need to be protected from the continuing conflict, it is my firm hope that the current negotiations under UN auspices arrive at a rapid and positive conclusion and that the refugees can eventually return home in peace.

You will recall that the Executive Committee at this 37th Session requested its Chairman and the High Commissioner "to continue consultations on this matter, review developments and submit detailed reports in accordance with their respective mandates on the various aspects of the subject to the 38th Session" to be held this year in October. In response, my Office is carrying out a study on the rules and principles of law relating to military and armed attacks on refugee camps and settlements. In general terms this study has come up with four principal tentative conclusions. Firstly, that such attacks are in violation of international law. Secondly, in international law the refugee concept is predicated upon the civilian and non-combatant character of persons seeking refuge. Thirdly, UNHCR has, again in international law, a clear duty to provide protection in the context of military and armed attacks. Fourthly, refugees have in international law a right to physical safety and security and more attention should be paid to this area of refugee rights. In the context of the Executive Committee's work, UNHCR needs your help to combine these four principles in a text that will be acceptable to all.

Seven African countries in the context of the November 1986 Kigali Declaration made a most helpful contribution by setting out the essential character of refugee conduct as well as the completely non-political nature of their immediate surroundings. In the light of these developments, my Office is now in the process of preparing a set of concrete proposals on how to proceed with this subject. I hope to be able to revert to you on this topic in the near future.

On a number of matters of particular interest to the Executive Committee, for example, refugee women and voluntary repatriation, specific and detailed position papers setting out UNHCR' doctrine have been developed and distributed to the field. We have also established a Working Group to look into the needs of refugee children at risk and are in the process of developing specific guidelines and programmes to meet these. Women and children represent some 75% of the world's refugees and no effort will be spared to attend to their vital needs. To the extent possible, refugee women do participate in vocational training, income-generating activities and different aspects of health and education programmes. But it is a matter of great concern that ambitious programmes to assist women and children are so often thwarted by the simple fact that these particularly vulnerable refugees have to spend so many hours and so much energy every day to resolve the basic problems of water and wood.

Here at UNHCR we are also addressing the basics. It is clear we must have available both the capacity and the tools which befit the circumstances of today - which satisfy you requirements, and which meet our needs. This capacity obviously encompasses UNHCR staff at Headquarters and in the field, staff of all categories, together with the tools at their disposal. On Friday, when we consider management issues and the Plan of Action, I will make some introductory comments, particularly regarding the measures we have taken at the beginning of the year - measures which serve to permit managers of different units to identify the obstacles to the effective functioning of the structures established last year, and to define the methods and procedures to overcome them. We cold examine these tomorrow, alone with the Plan of Action circulated to you in January and discussed at the Open House that month, as well as the follow-up paper which you received earlier this week.

At this stage, let me just say that we have moved quickly in 1986 to established at Headquarters an organizational structure better geared to our field operations, a task which I recognise has not been easy. We are still far from functioning entirely as we would wish. Hence, the fine-tuning exercise which started at the beginning of this year - the Management Action Programme ("MAP") which has been described in the document before you today. Its success will be measured by its ability to instil, throughout the chain of command, the leadership principles needs to improve communication, build confidence, and promote teamwork amongst our staff in the service of refugees.

As to the Plan of Action as such, we have focused on the most urgent tasks: the introduction of tools necessary to improve the assessment of refugee needs, the planning, implementation and monitoring of assistance programmes; a phased approach to training our staff for their demanding tasks, and a special emphasis on the financial control of expenditures. Our auditors have for some time repeatedly pointed out our deficiencies in programme and financial management and called for fundamental reform and improvement; this has also been the wish of the Executive Committee. And, I would add, the need for these reforms has long been a conviction of some of the most dedicated staff in UNHCR. My task, and that of the leadership of UNHCR, is largely that of having the vision and the will to put these good ideas into practice.

The principal management tools are now in place. We are now refining them to adapt them to our needs and at the same time to train the users. Things are taking shape. We have already had some evident improvements in the procurement arena, which you learned about in January. But we are still far from our ultimate objective.

This entire effort cannot be completed, nor can success be achieved, in a matter of months. It is a process which will need to be spread over a few years - the time necessary for the human beings who have to make the system function, the women and men of UNHCR, to adapt to it and feel at ease within it, while at the same time fulfilling their daily ongoing responsibilities. We need time; but I say to you clearly that the High Commissioner is not asking for a blank cheque. We will, in 1987 as in 1986, determine and announce our intermediate objectives and report on the progress achieved towards fulfilling them, as well as on any corrective measures that we need to take. We will in particular be completely open in our approach to you, the Executive Committee, even at the risk of giving you - as some of you said in January - more information than you have asked for.

Changes have been, and are still being, introduced in all aspects of our activities. As a consequence UNHCR staff are going through a period of trial of which you may have heard some echoes. This is something to which I pay great attention. The paper before you confirms, if confirmation were needed, that we are aware of our problems and are constantly seeking ways to resolve of our mission ultimately rests on the men and women who work for UNHCR. The vast majority of my staff have proved, day after day, their ability and commitment. I intend to do my utmost to ensure that they can channel their energies effectively toward meeting the challenges that confront the Office.

A few words on staffing levels. We have not yet, as you may have hoped, made drastic cuts in the number of posts, in particular in Geneva. Following the reorganization we have deliberately given our colleagues a chance to breathe, if I may use the term. This was all the more necessary since we have had to release some of the most innovative amongst them from their normal duties in order to frame modern management tools. The consultants whom we have enlisted are only to provide support and offer their independent judgement. The outcome of our joint efforts is, therefore, a product tailored to our needs.

While a significant part of the Headquarters staff is preparing for the future, the remainder must continue to face daily pressures, old and new, across the globe. This is why we have been obliged to create or regularize posts to strengthen our operational capacity in the field, particularly in Africa, in Latin America and in Europe, as well as overall support capacity at Headquarters. Four-fifths of the creations, the breakdown of which appear in the document distributed to you, are directed to that end.

Zero growth, yes, but not at the price of stagnation, as I said to you last October. To get UNHCR on the move, to make it more dynamic, necessarily entails additional expenditures if only in the short and medium term, to obtain and strengthen staff with the required technical skill. Modernisation has its costs. In the paper, we have tries to calculate these for the year 1987. But we must see this expenditure as an essential and prudent investment in the future. Alongside the costs, we also have sought to evaluate the benefits with accuracy and honesty.

The first six months of last year saw the locomotive of change at UNHCR travelling at great speed - a sort of TGV. The next nine months have seen us revert to the speed of a milk-train, halting at every station to give the passengers a chance to stretch their legs and take in the unfamiliar sights. Today we must again accelerate.

But this locomotive we will not puff smoke in you direction to obscure your view of the route we are taking. We shall be transparent; we shall be clear. Clarity, though, is not a substitute for economy. That is the reason why I have asked by staff to reflect on the size of the basic UNHCR structure - what in French we might call the "structure d'encadrement". This is the basic structure required to manage current activities, assuming no emergency operations along the lines of Thailand in 1979 and the Sudan in 1985. Such a model of our basic structure will help us define the range of our staffing levels, which should expand and contract with the volume of operations - what I have called "the accordion principle." The accordion, as you know, expands and contracts in the process of producing music. I know that the music will sound better to your ears when the accordion contracts, and that this had not decreases even when programmes ostensibly decrease. Management will therefore be trained better to assess workload and set priorities rather than reflexively to seek the creation of posts. A special effort will be made in the coming moths to elaborate the accordion principle and to put it into practice.

At the October session of the Executive Committee, you urged steps to improve the conditions of service of UNHCR staff in the field. A valuable result of my frequent travels has been may first-hand exposure to our highly dedicated field staff. I have also seen the excessively austere and often demoralising circumstances in which they live. This has given me a personal commitment to ensure that we provide them with something better. Our document for this meting tells you of initiatives that have been, or are being, taken at three levels - within UNHCR, in the UN system as a whole and in relation to the Executive Committee - to address this issue. Since October I have already approved internal measures to benefit field staff, notably in the areas of health, re-categorization of duty stations, pre-assignment missions and shipping entitlements. These are all, I stress, within existing UN rules, though flexibly interpreted and applied. In addition, a Working Group is considering other courses of action which have been outlined to you in the paper and which should form the basis for recommendations in a forma submission to the Executive Committee in October.

So far we have discussed ends; perhaps it is time to turn to means. The funding of UNHCR's programmes is a crucial matter, and I wish to express my appreciation to all parties who have maintained the tradition of strong financial support for the Office. At the time I took up my position as High Commissioner, the donor community was hard pressed by the prevailing economic circumstances and by the demands resulting from the emergency situation in Africa. I felt at the time that donors needed assurances from the office of our financial responsibility and accountability if the tradition of strong financial support was to continue. I believe that it was in part as a result of our efforts to improve our accounting and financial management systems that the donor community responded so generously to UNHCR's needs in 1986.

You will recall that in 1986 we revised our Genera Programme needs to $ 315 million, downwards from an original ExCom-approved figure of $ 330 million, following a careful mid-year assessment of programmes targets. We ended the year, thanks to the generous contributions received from donors, with final expenditure of $ 274 million, with all our General Programme needs met and with a modest carry-over economies and streamlining programmes through rigorous and frequent target reviews, but not at the expense of the needs of refugees. I wish to convey my satisfaction that our needs were covered. Despite concerns expressed at the ExCom in October last year that a large gap might remain in the funding of the Office's programmes.

At the same time, only the provision of financial assistance sufficient to guarantee cash flow for the operation of UNHCR's ongoing programmes can properly normalize the Office's financial position. This means having firm pledges to cover our needs at least six months in advance, and enough cash in hand at all times to cover operational expenditure over the following three months. Once you reach that situation, the current time and preoccupation devoted to funding matters could be directed towards programme achievement and improved reporting. UNHCR needs that kind of financial security and I am very glad to say that many donor governments are moving in the direction of giving it to us. I would urge all governments to do so.

At the annual pledging conference in November, Government donors promised an impressive $ 141 million in contributions. This set a positive tone to UNHCR's outlook in the first quarter of 1987 and allowed us to being the serious work before us with confidence.

Proper financial stability rests largely in this sort of response, in the maintenance of established levels of financial support. It goes beyond this, however. For some Governments, it must be a question of increasing their level of support, bringing their financial assistance to UNHCR on a par with their policy interest in refugee affairs. It is also vital to transfer funds early in the year and, most particularly, at make the largest possible percentage of funds available in unearmarked contributions. You will, I am sure, appreciate that the flow of funds for assistance to refugees would be facilitated if some governments were to seriously consider rationalising their financial regulations and reporting requirements. In this respect, I would urge governments to accept the improved standard reports now being issued by UNHCR on the utilization of resources made available to it, rather than insist on an individual report for each contribution, which occupies an inordinately high level of scarce human resources.

Ladies and gentlemen, UNHCR's present funding situation is as follows. The contributions received from donors in 1987 to date, coupled with the founds carried over, gives a current balance of $ 205 million. This represents 57 per cent of our 1976 General Programme needs, which were approved by the Executive Committee at $ 360 million. Thus, we still must receive $ 155 million to meet our General Programme requirements.

Our total needs for 1987 Special Programmes have not been formalised as yet. Special appeals have been issued for programmes in South East Asia - for Lao returnees and for the orderly departure programme - totalling some $ 4.4 million. An appeal has been issued for special operations in Malawi and Mozambique totalling some $ 3.5 million. Special appeals will be forthcoming in the near future for voluntary repatriation for Chadians and for Ethiopians. Later in the year appeals may be necessary for Central America as our current special operations assisting voluntary repatriation there continue to run their course.

In total, this would result in UNHCR Special Programme requirements considerably reduced from previous years. I am sure we all share the hope that no sudden emergencies arise to make us change that state of affairs.

It is, in turn, our duty to use your contributions effectively, efficiently and well - and in a manner that avoids duplication with the efforts of others. Here I would like to stress that my Office, and I personally, remain committed to the initiatives emerging from the report of the Group of 18 governmental experts in New York to further streamline and rationalize the efforts of the UN system and in particular of its humanitarian and developmental agencies. As the paper before you describes, we are co-operating actively with a large number of agencies and are determined to enhance and build on our collaboration. As far as UNHCR is concerned, we are committed to developing and refining our agreements with other agencies and to working closely with them in training, in emergency response and in programme planning where appropriate. We are striving to improve existing working arrangements with other UN agencies. We hope that in all future refuge crises, all agencies concerned will collaborate with UNHCR at the earliest - the emergency - phase. We trust that refugee-related projects will be included in national development plans, with the requisite additional financial support. We regularly invite other agencies to attend and address our Executive Committee meetings, and would appreciate the same courtesy from all of them in respect of their own governing bodies. I would call on you to press for greater involvement by UNHCR in the Round Tables and Consultative Group meetings by which UNDP and the World Bank, respectively, determine their programmes. UNHCR has proposed the establishment of an inter-agency Working Group within the UN system to develop a model for institutionalized co-operation in the refugee arena.

Contrary to the concerns that I know have been expressed in certain quarters, I am also pleased to reaffirm UNHCR's commitment to close co-operation with a wide variety of non-governmental organizations in the fields of programme implementation, protection and advocacy for refugees. Of course, to be most meaningful, this co-operation must be focused on those NGOs which have the necessary competence and experience to serve the refugee cause and which share UNHCR's humanitarian principles.

I have touched at some length, Mr. Chairman, on the range of concerns and challenges confronted by my Office in these difficult times. Yet there is a great deal I have omitted - not because I do not wish to speak to you about them, but because I wish to hear you and to respond to you concerns and queries. My colleagues, in particular the Heads of Regional Bureaux, are also present to address in detail an specific question you may wish to raise about all leave this room tomorrow with a sense renewal, and in the confidence that we are moving forward together in the service of refugees. The twelve million human beings we are pledged to serve deserve nothing less.