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Remarks by the UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Mr. Raouf Mazou at the first informal GRF briefing

Speeches and statements

Remarks by the UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Mr. Raouf Mazou at the first informal GRF briefing

19 February 2020
Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,

We have seen great improvements since the adoption of the New York Declaration, the implementation of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and the affirmation of the Global Compact on Refugees, in particular with regards to the understanding of how refugees should be protected and assisted.

In developing countries, which host the majority of refugees and forcibly displaced people, we have seen a shift away from a purely humanitarian response, based primarily on camps, towards one focused on inclusion.

Governments have been at the center of this change, with the crucial support of international financial institutions whose instruments have provided refugees and host communities with a different type of assistance.

A clear proof of this shift has been the inclusion of refugees in the national health response and educational systems of a number of host countries.

We have also seen in the United Nations system a shift from perceiving refugees only from a humanitarian point of view to seeing them as part of the development of their host country and their inclusion in national development plans.

The Global Refugee Forum amplified this new approach. It brought to the table both traditional and non-traditional partners in pursuit of a common objective of finding better response and solutions to the plight of an ever-growing number of refugees.

The role of traditional partners – NGOs, faith-based organizations, refugee-led organizations, to name a few – was instrumental throughout the world in preparing for the Global Refugee Forum.

For a long time, we focused primarily on the private sector as providing funding for humanitarian responses. Over the past four years – and this was particularly visible at the Global Refugee Forum – the private sector has increasingly contributed technology, new business models, expertise and investment in refugee businesses.

It is noteworthy that 50% of the total pledges came from new actors.

Going forward, it will be key to find ways of matching these pledges. In some cases, policies were pledged; in other cases, it was financial support, and putting the two together will be key.

A few words on the importance of measuring progress. We have to demonstrate that indeed this new approach will result in better protection for refugees. We are planning to provide a first report back on the indicators at the 2021 High-Level Officials Meeting.

I mentioned earlier that Governments are at the center of this process, and I would like two examples – Ethiopia and Uganda – where strong government-led coordination mechanisms have been put in place, which go beyond the usual line ministries that UNHCR works with and involve other parts of the Government, in a truly whole-of-Government approach.

I wish to also mention the three Support Platforms that were launched at the Global Refugee Forum – one for Central America and Mexico, one that concerns Somali refugees in the East and Horn of Africa region, and one for the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees.

The fact that these Platforms were launched during the Global Refugee Forum gave them unprecedented weight and showed that a number of countries, that were either hosting or producing refugees, were in a position of coming together to find a solution. It was also an opportunity to gather the support from the rest of the international community.

We very much look forward to more types of mechanisms in the future.

I would like to conclude with a few words on how UNHCR is changing the way it provides protection, assistance, support and coordination. I am referring to the regionalization process. We now have six Bureaux around the world, with the Europe Bureau here in Geneva. We believe that, in addition to providing better oversight and support to the operations in the region, these regional Bureaux will help us ensure a regional approach to refugee situations, and through that, provide better solutions. We also believe that these Bureaux will be more effectively support the regional arrangements – such as the Support Platforms – and help monitor the implementation of pledges.

We are at the beginning of a very significant change in the manner in which we are providing protection and assistance to refugees.

Thank you.