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Opening remarks at the 66th session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Geneva, 5 October 2015

Speeches and statements

Opening remarks at the 66th session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Geneva, 5 October 2015

5 October 2015

Mr. Chairman,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

When I started as High Commissioner ten years ago, there were 38 million people in the world displaced by conflict and persecution, but UNHCR was helping over a million persons return home every year. Global refugee numbers were declining, and old wars had recently been laid to rest in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan to make way for reconstruction and hope. Some of my colleagues were even wondering if UNHCR was going to have a future in these circumstances.

But things have taken a turn for the worse. Today, there are more than 60 million refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons worldwide as a result of conflict and persecution. Last year, 126,000 refugees were able to repatriate - that's 11% of what we had in 2005. Fifteen new conflicts have broken out or reignited in the past five years, while none of the old ones got resolved. The number of people globally displaced by conflict every single day has nearly quadrupled in that time - from almost 11,000 in 2010 to 42,500 last year.

The world has changed in these ten years. There has been meaningful economic growth, the number of absolute poor has decreased to a record low as the World Bank announced this morning, technological advances have brought many important benefits. But it is also true that the world has become more fragile, conflicts have spread in unpredictable ways, and the nature of conflict has grown highly complex. One of the consequences has been a shrinking of humanitarian space, which has made the work of organizations like UNHCR much more difficult and hazardous.

The interlinked mega-crises in Syria and Iraq, which have uprooted over 15 million people, are a powerful example of this evolution - but not the only one. In the last twelve months alone, 500,000 people have fled from their homes in South Sudan and 190,000 from Burundi. Some 1.1 million were newly displaced in and from Yemen, and 300,000 in Libya. In the Asia-Pacific region, 94,000 people have crossed the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea since 2014 in search of protection and a more dignified life. Tens of thousands, many of them children, are fleeing horrific gang violence and abuse in Central America. And there has been little or no improvement in the crises affecting the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Ukraine or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the past, we used to have emergencies and protracted refugee situations; now we seem to have more and more protracted emergencies. For years, we struggled to put displacement on the global political agenda - not always successfully. But after the dramatic events on the beaches and borders of Europe this summer, nobody is now able to ignore a refugee crisis that had been simmering for so long while others weren't watching. It is a shame that it had to come to this, but it is not a surprise. Unfortunately, George Orwell wasn't joking when he said that all men were created equal but some are more equal than others. I think the same also applies to continents.

In 1956, Europe and UNHCR faced the first big refugee crisis after the end of the Second World War, when 200,000 Hungarians fled to Austria and Yugoslavia. Not only were these refugees properly received, but in the space of just four months, over 150,000 of them had been relocated to other countries in Europe and further afield. What was possible then, when Europe was still recovering from the worst war in human history, should also be possible today.

Over half a million people have arrived on Europe's shores since January. In a continent of more than 500 million inhabitants, five thousand people arriving daily is a very significant number. But it is not an unmanageable one - provided things are properly managed. The decision taken by the European Union to relocate internally 160,000 asylum-seekers is a key step in the right direction. But much more is needed for this system to work well, especially the creation of adequate reception centers near the entry points, with sufficient capacity to receive, assist, register and screen tens of thousands of people together with more legal avenues for those in search of protection, and also for economic migrants to be able to access the European territory.

This is both a migration and a refugee crisis. All of the people now arriving in Europe have human dignity and human rights that must be respected just like everyone else's. But States also have an obligation under international law to grant protection to refugees fleeing conflict and persecution.

The arrivals in Italy this year are clearly of a mixed nature. African conflicts, the chaos in Libya, but also the imbalance in economic and demographic trends for Africa and Europe have contributed to these movements.

The upcoming EU-Africa summit on migration in Malta will be an opportunity to devise a new compact of common development cooperation policies that better take into account human mobility. Europe and Africa need a common strategy to invest to allow people to have a future in their own countries, unlike some projects that inadvertently contribute to people being uprooted. Migration should be an option, not a necessity; an expression of hope, not of despair.

But the crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean is very different from what we see on the Italian side. A clear majority of the people arriving in Greece come from some of the world's top ten refugee-producing countries, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Greece alone has received over 400,000 arrivals this year - that's more than nine times the figure of 2014, an acceleration that is largely a result of the Syrian crisis.

The spike of Syrian refugees coming to Europe this year is mainly due to three factors - two long-term trends, and a more recent trigger. First, many have lost hope that a political solution will soon be found to end the war. Second, after so many years in exile, their resources have run out and living conditions have been steadily deteriorating. Seven out of ten Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in extreme poverty, and in Jordan, the proportion of refugees in urban areas living below the Jordanian poverty line is 86%. Refugees across the region are unable to work legally, and over half of their children are not getting any education.

The third factor - the trigger - is the humanitarian funding shortfall. UNHCR has been struggling to continue supporting the growing number of extremely vulnerable families with cash and shelter items, especially ahead of the coming winter. But when a few months ago, a lack of funding forced the World Food Programme to cut their assistance by 30%, this made many refugees feel that the international community could be starting to abandon them.

As a result, more and more people have embarked on the desperate journey to Europe, despite the enormous risks and cost this entails. To be honest, in these circumstances, I would probably do the same with my own family.

Distinguished Delegates,

Throughout the past year, UNHCR has had to focus heavily - yet again - on emergency response, which has strained capacities and resources across the organization. We have reinforced our institutional emergency response capacity, through a reconfigured structure and a new policy framework that clarifies accountabilities as well as internal leadership and coordination arrangements. We fielded over 600 emergency deployment missions in 2014 and 2015 and supported emergency operations from our network of seven global stockpiles.

In protection, we assisted States with the development of national asylum systems and made progress on the implementation of the global strategy on alternatives to detention that was launched last year. With the number of asylum applications lodged by unaccompanied children rising to levels unseen before, child protection remains a priority area of our work. Important steps forward were made in education, including access to schools for an additional 260,000 children under the "Educate A Child" programme, and better integration of refugees into several national educational systems. UNHCR also enhanced its capacity for the prevention and response of sexual and gender based violence at the onset of emergencies, with the help of the "Safe from the Start" project.

Last November we launched our global campaign to end statelessness by 2024. There have been nearly 50 accessions to the statelessness conventions since 2011, a remarkable development. And several States have made encouraging progress in resolving protracted situations, establishing statelessness determination procedures and introducing gender equality in nationality laws. I hope all States will support us in achieving the ambitious but reachable goals of this ten-year campaign.

We also progressed with changing traditional approaches to humanitarian assistance, including strategies to move away from "care and maintenance" models that are to a certain extent outdated, and towards a more professional, systematic and market-based approach to self-reliance and livelihoods wherever that is possible. UNHCR operations were provided tools to better assess the potential for implementing alternatives to camps in their respective countries, and good progress was made in a number of States to include refugees in national public services. We are also moving swiftly towards a more expanded and systematic use of cash based interventions to replace or complement in-kind assistance.

But all this is undermined by our dramatic financial gap. As the explosion in humanitarian needs inevitably outpaces the very generous support of our donor community, the gap between the requirements and the resources we have is growing steadily.

Let me be clear: the humanitarian system is not broken, as some try to argue - it is far more effective than many others, from development to security areas. But the humanitarian system is financially broke. We are no longer able to meet even the absolute minimum requirements of core protection and lifesaving assistance to preserve the human dignity of the people we care for. The current funding level for the 33 UN appeals to provide humanitarian assistance to 82 million people around the world is only 42%. UNHCR expects to receive just 47% of the funding we need this year. We have managed to avoid meaningful reductions of our direct support to refugee families, but at a high cost to our other activities.

Most urgently, we have a 215 million dollar deficit in Africa against already-authorized expenditure, including for the establishment of 14 new camps and the expansion of seven others - a deficit which our unearmarked resources cannot cover. When tens of thousands of refugees cross a border, deprived and malnourished, and the host governments generously offer land to house them, we simply do not have the option of saying no, even if there is no funding available. We have a well-managed treasury based on the principle of "receive as early as possible and pay as late as you can"; so we are managing, but as you might imagine, this has its limits. Today we face an existential dilemma for our capacity to deliver in Africa, and I appeal to our donors to help us reduce this shortfall before the end of the year.

I do not need to repeat here the dramatic impact the funding cuts for WFP have had on millions of refugees and others who depend almost entirely on food assistance and who have seen their rations reduced by an average of 34% in 2015. The additional support announced recently will help, but there remains an enormous gap to fill.

I am deeply grateful to UNHCR's donors - governments, but also private citizens, corporations and foundations - who together provided a record 3.3 billion dollars last year. But clearly, humanitarian budgets are vastly insufficient to cover even the bare minimum, and we are starting to see what happens as a result of that. There is a need to rethink the way the world finances the response to humanitarian crises - and this cannot be a long-term issue, we have to start now.

A key element of that response should be a much closer link between humanitarian and development interventions, going beyond the traditional concept of "bridging the gap". Development actors - supported by development budgets - have to work side by side with humanitarians from the very beginning of a crisis, to help us prevent further conflict, support host communities and pave the way for durable solutions. Large-scale humanitarian crises can create enormous structural problems for host countries and threaten to reverse the development gains of several years.

To prevent a new spiral of fragility and instability, development actors have to be given more flexibility and better tools to act early and quickly, to stabilize and to build resilience. To achieve this, we need a fundamental review of the strategies and policies of bilateral and multilateral development cooperation.

Countries that host large numbers of refugees - thus producing a global public good - deserve particular focus. Many of these States are crucial pillars of peace and stability in their regions, and with conflicts and terrorism threatening to spill across borders, they de facto form the first line of defense for our collective security. But a significant number are middle income countries and therefore forgotten or even excluded from several development cooperation mechanisms such as grants from the World Bank. However, their role is one on which we all depend, as the present crisis has illustrated. I therefore appeal to all relevant partners to engage fora like the G7, the G20, and the boards of the international financial institutions so as to bring about the necessary policy changes to better support those countries.

For us humanitarians, it is of course essential to preserve the autonomy of humanitarian space, to enable us to act on behalf of all people who require our help, in full respect of the principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality. But we must also recognize that from the point of view of strategic analysis, humanitarian, development and security issues are three faces of the same complex reality. States have to take this into account when they determine the objectives and priorities of their international policies and action. Just like humanitarian assistance cannot be separated from development cooperation, States also cannot separate the way they plan for development assistance from the consequences of the conflicts that are multiplying around the world.

UNHCR has been working hard to strengthen our partnership with development actors. Beyond our close relationship in the Middle East, we are making excellent progress in our cooperation with the World Bank, resulting in a number of regional forced displacement studies and technical support to operations such as in Ethiopia, Kenya or Uganda. The World Bank has also provided the Governments of the DRC and Zambia with substantial concessional loans to assist internally displaced persons or integrate former refugees. We have also been working with UNDP in the Solutions Alliance and on incorporating refugees into national development plans, and with the International Trade Center on enhancing economic opportunities for refugees. But much remains to be done to bring about the culture change that is necessary to facilitate closer links between humanitarian and development interventions.

There is an opportunity to do this now, as governments just agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years. The SDGs are an important step forward, although they - like most development cooperation policies - still do not sufficiently take into account the reality that vast parts of the world today are mired in conflicts. But the principle of universality, the pledge that no one shall be left behind, and the explicit recognition that refugees and internally displaced people are among the most vulnerable, are a key entry point for ensuring the conflict dimension is not overlooked in the SDGs. UNHCR will identify a number of countries where refugees constitute a statistically significant portion of the population, and work with national authorities and donors to meet the SDGs in a way that includes all population groups.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

For UNHCR, not leaving anyone behind also means achieving a durable solution, allowing refugees to restart their lives and be productive members of society. But for the vast majority of those we care for, this remains a distant dream. The number of refugees who were able to repatriate last year - 126,000 as I said - was the lowest in over three decades. Although some 100,000 were resettled in 2014, that still only corresponded to 15% of the global resettlement needs for last year. And usually, the number of those being offered local integration opportunities is even lower.

UNHCR has therefore been focusing on new approaches, emphasizing comprehensive solutions strategies and working with partners and governments to strengthen refugees' resilience and self-reliance in the near term and to prepare for solutions in the future.

But more than anything else, we must be able to understand and address the root causes of displacement. This will be the theme of our Protection Dialogue in December, where we will look at the myriad factors that lead to displacement - from conflict over resources, poor governance, human rights violations or unequal access to development benefits - and explore what governments, humanitarian and other actors can do to address these issues.

Evidently, armed conflict continues to be the biggest driver of displacement. There seems to be nothing more difficult today than ending a conflict, let alone preventing it from breaking out in the first place. We live in a chaotic world with no effective global governance system and where power relations are unclear. In a world like this, unpredictability and impunity prosper, wars drag on for years, and millions of people are displaced as a result.

There are no humanitarian solutions to humanitarian crises - we all repeat it time and time again - especially if these crises are brought on by conflict. The solutions have to be political. But in my opinion, two things are missing to put an end to some of the worst conflicts we currently have: one, actors who can be recognized as honest brokers, and two, the capacity to bring around the same table all the countries that have an influence on those doing the fighting. We will not see real improvement until those that finance, arm and support the parties to each of today's conflicts overcome their differences and conflicting interests, acknowledge that everyone is losing in these wars, and agree on a common way forward to end the bloodshed.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

People are also increasingly being forced to abandon their homes as a result of the interaction between the effects of population growth, food and energy insecurity as well as water scarcity, with climate change - the key defining problem of our times - clearly accelerating all other trends.

Desertification, drought, flooding and the growing severity of natural disasters already exacerbate vulnerabilities and affect tens of millions of people annually. As governments meet in Paris later this year, it is essential that they adopt a meaningful and universal agreement on cutting greenhouse gases and other related issues. But that alone is not enough; States must also account for the growth of climate-change related migration and displacement and take proactive measures to relocate populations at risk out of harm's way.

I am deeply grateful to the Governments of Switzerland and Norway for having spearheaded the Nansen Initiative for the past three years. This ground-breaking state-led consultative process has identified effective practices and key principles to address the possible protection needs of people displaced across borders by the effects of climate change - something for which there is no provision in existing international norms. Next week, the Nansen Initiative's final global meeting here in Geneva is expected to validate a Protection Agenda on the best way forward. I encourage States to lend their full support to its implementation, and UNHCR of course stands ready to contribute to that process.

Distinguished Delegates,

With rising displacement and increasing humanitarian needs, the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 could not be timelier, and we should support the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Stephen O'Brien, in his determination not to allow this summit to be a technocratic and process oriented exercise. Enabling effective humanitarian response is too important to the safety and the well-being of our world for this opportunity to be missed.

There are a number of critical issues on the agenda of the World Humanitarian Summit that UNHCR fully supports, including how to promote better accountability to the people we seek to assist, and the urgency of finding solutions to protracted displacement situations. Protection must be central to humanitarian action, which includes the effective participation of affected populations, utilizing their capacities and supporting the communities in which they live.

But for me, there are two more aspects that the Summit should not ignore. The first is the humanitarian-development connection, which I have already mentioned.

But the second is the imperative of building a more inclusive humanitarian system that better reflects the universal character of the values guiding our work and allows us to join the capacities of all humanitarian actors in the response. We have to overcome the current situation of different organizations from different cultural backgrounds sometimes working in parallel without effective coordination, which can result in gaps and overlaps and only hurts those we are trying to help.

It is obvious that a truly universal humanitarian community can never be achieved by translating perspectives from one part of the world into a "one size fits all" approach. Instead, in order to move beyond the essentially Western creation that is the present multilateral system and build a more universal partnership, we should focus on something that is already there but often overlooked - our shared basis of humanitarian values that spans all cultures.

Refugee protection is an excellent example that humanitarian values are universal but being sometimes expressed differently. All major religions embrace the values and principles underpinning refugee protection - showing compassion and generosity towards people in need, sheltering persecuted strangers, and even early equivalents of the concept of non-refoulement.

In a world where more than two-thirds of all refugees are Muslim, it is important to recognize that there is nothing in the 1951 Convention that is not already present in ancient Islamic traditions and legal texts. The humanitarian spirit is also deeply embodied in the third pillar of Islam, the Zakat, which makes it mandatory for every Muslim to give alms to the poor and the needy.

And even more broadly, many key principles of international humanitarian law have their clear translation in other cultures. In the case of Islam, the Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) contains obligations to spare non-combatants, treat prisoners of war humanely, and respect certain limits of warfare.

I believe it is possible to expand on this common basis to build a system that recognizes the diversity of expressions and perspectives, and that allows for more openness and systematic collaboration in the service of the people we all care for, guided by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Delegates,

Speaking of values, I would like to make a few more observations. The European refugee crisis has highlighted the human values that determine who we are - as individuals and as societies - and how we respond to challenges. And it has shown the crucial importance of preserving the fundamental principles of tolerance, respect for diversity and solidarity with those in need. For it is these principles - and not the backward narrowness of xenophobia - that will give us the tools to manage some of the present and future challenges facing human society.

To address these challenges, a positive relationship between the Western and the Muslim worlds is essential. There is a critical urgency to both counter islamophobia and to reduce the appeal of extremist ideologies for younger generations. The latter is not only a question of military operations, it is essentially a battle of values. In that battle, a Europe that defends its founding values of tolerance and openness by welcoming refugees of all religions will weaken the arguments of extremist groups - but rejecting Muslim refugees because of their religion is the best propaganda tool those actors could wish for to attract new followers for terrorism.

All our nations and communities are becoming multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies - something that is not only inevitable, but also a good thing. Building and maintaining tolerant and open societies that are able to answer positively to fears and anxieties is a slow and delicate process which requires significant investments from governments and civil society alike. But diversity enriches us, and its benefits far outweigh the costs of these investments.

The events of recent months in Europe have illustrated this battle of compassion versus fear, of tolerance versus xenophobia. We were touched deeply by European citizens pouring out by the thousands to help and welcome refugees. But we were equally shocked by the violent hostility of some of the acts and slogans those fleeing war have had to face in places where they thought they were safe, and we worry about the resistance expressed by significant parts of the population.

As High Commissioner for Refugees, and as a citizen of the world, I believe it is possible to win this values battle, which is also our common battle. The acts of kindness of millions of individuals in host communities across the world continue to show us, day after day, that tolerance and solidarity run deeply in the hearts of humanity. These values are our strongest tools and our best protection as we face the challenges ahead.

Distinguished Delegates,

Serving as High Commissioner for Refugees has been an enormous privilege for me. But instead of dwelling on the past, allow me to talk about the road ahead. It is my deep belief that the future of UNHCR is firmly anchored in four things: our staff, our broad partnership base, our continued ability to reform and to innovate, and the strength of our protection mandate.

First, UNHCR staff. I have felt immensely honoured to work with the women and men who are the heart and soul of this organization. Their strength, ingenuity and deep commitment have never ceased to impress me. During my missions I have met hundreds of colleagues working under extremely difficult circumstances, exposed to insecurity and increased health risks and often separated for extended periods from their families. I deeply respect the sacrifices many staff make to serve the people we care for. And I want to once again express my profound solidarity with the families of those colleagues who have lost their lives in the line of duty. UNHCR must continue to do everything it can to protect its people, keeping staff safety and security as its number one priority.

With 82% of colleagues working in the field, one-third of international professionals rotating every year, and more than half of all staff serving in hardship duty stations, there are few things more crucial for the future of this organization than our ability to effectively manage human resources, anticipate future workforce requirements and provide robust staff welfare support. The successful implementation of our new People Strategy will be key in ensuring we can do that.

But sometimes our efforts can be undermined by decisions affecting the entire UN system that do not sufficiently account for the specific requirements of field-based organizations like UNHCR. The International Civil Service Commission's Compensation Review is an important reform tool with a set of positive proposals. But several cost reduction measures relating to mobility and deep field presence are counter-productive and threaten to affect our ability to fulfil our mandate where it matters most - including in many dangerous locations. I therefore encourage Member States to review the proposed changes to mobility, in particular in hardship and non-family duty stations. The way to reduce the weight of staff costs in any organization, including in the UN, is through internal reform and increased productivity, not with savings that can undermine mobility and make it even less attractive to work in dangerous places.

The second key aspect for UNHCR's future is its commitment to partnership. In 2014, we worked with over 900 partners worldwide, managing over 40% of our expenditure. The majority of our 720 NGO partners are national organizations, who are usually among the first responders and whose deep insights on local capacities and priorities are an invaluable asset. We are also working closely with our other major partners, especially WFP, UNICEF and IOM, to improve the assistance provided to the people we care for. And after signing our Joint Note on mixed situations last year, OCHA and UNHCR have been making good progress in 2015 on working out practical and field-focused coordination modalities.

I want to express my gratitude to all our partners for the strong and constructive cooperation we have built over the past years. UNHCR remains deeply committed to a continued strengthening of these partnerships, through our new framework agreements, the follow-up to the strategic partnership dialogue of 2012, and by providing the best support we can - via the Refugee Coordination Model and in the clusters we lead, as well as through training and capacity building initiatives.

Now, the third point, reform and innovation. UNHCR has implemented a far-reaching programme of reforms over the years, reducing the weight of administrative and staff costs and prioritizing agility and delivery capacity. Reform is of course never a completed process, but rather a continuous way of being, and we will stay on this path as it is crucial to our ability to perform.

We also have to fully embrace the power of innovation to bring UNHCR into the digital age. We are working on many initiatives, for improving the quality of refugee education through mobile technology; providing energy for refugee communities, for example through micro-grids; use iris scanning both for registration and cash assistance to vulnerable refugee families; and increasing two-way communications with refugees through social media and smart phones. But innovation means more than just technology, it requires people who are trained and understand how to identify appropriate new approaches to new needs. Agile financing systems are also essential to enable our strong partnerships with the private sector - from IKEA to Facebook, from UPS to Google.

UNHCR and the humanitarian world will be very different twenty years from now. The future will be determined by our readiness to change and adapt, provided that this change takes place within the same framework of organizational values - the respect for humanitarian principles, human dignity, diversity and human rights.

Distinguished Delegates,

To conclude, let me say a few things about UNHCR's protection mandate. The 1951 Convention remains as necessary today as it was when UNHCR was founded nearly 65 years ago. It has been complemented and strengthened by regional instruments like the 1969 OAU Convention on Refugees in Africa or the 1984 Cartagena Declaration and its follow-up, by the EU's efforts to establish a Common European Asylum System, the jurisprudence of national and international courts, and by the wealth of protection doctrine developed as Conclusions of the Executive Committee. As we face the highest levels of forced displacement in recorded history, the institution of asylum must remain sacrosanct, honoured as one of the deepest expressions of humanity - especially now as it is being so severely tested in many parts of the world. It is my conviction that the best way to do this is through genuine international cooperation and equitable burden and responsibility sharing. In fact, if there is one Protocol that is yet to be drafted to complement the 1951 Convention, it is one on international solidarity and burden sharing.

The current refugee crisis has also shown, more clearly than anything else, how crucial it is to uphold the principles of international protection and to preserve the High Commissioner's firmly established legal mandate to intervene with governments on behalf of refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR. Let us not forget that the duty entrusted to us is to protect non-citizens who, sadly and all too often, are considered not desirable in the places to which they flee.

For as long as this Office has existed, it has been anything but easy to exercise this mandate, either because of the scale of displacement or the complexity of the contexts in which we work. There have been attempts to dispute the validity of the 1951 Convention, or to dilute UNHCR's accountability for protecting refugees, for instance by trying to "clusterize" them. And of late, it's become almost a fashion to say that legal status does not matter but that the humanitarian community's actions should instead focus exclusively on vulnerability. To this, I can only say that for refugees, their legal status is their biggest vulnerability - being poor at home is not the same as being poor in a country that is not your own. It is no coincidence that those crossing the Eastern Mediterranean today are Syrian refugees, and not poor Turks, Jordanians or Lebanese. And this is not only true for refugees - everyone knows that the root cause of the vulnerability of the Rohingya is their statelessness and lack of a legal status in their own country.

As I prepare to leave my function at the end of this year, I want to thank Member States for their cooperation, their continued efforts to honor the principles of refugee protection, and for their respect for the integrity of UNHCR's mandate - after all, it was you, the Member States, who drafted the 1951 Convention and the UNHCR Statute. And I want to make an appeal to you, the Member States: to do what you can to preserve the sanctity of asylum; to continue to grant protection to people seeking safety from war and oppression; and finally, to give the same support you've given me to my successor in his or her efforts to fulfil and uphold the mandate responsibilities with which you have entrusted the High Commissioner for Refugees.

Thank you very much.