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Resilience Development Forum. Keynote speech by António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 9 November 2015

Speeches and statements

Resilience Development Forum. Keynote speech by António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 9 November 2015

9 November 2015

Edited transcript of extemporaneous remarks


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first of all express my deep gratitude to Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and to Minister Imad Fakhoury for the commitment of their Government and of the people of Jordan to refugee protection. Jordan has received millions of Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians and others as the Prime Minister mentioned, independently of the dramatic impact on the country's economy and society - not to mention the impact of this crisis on Jordanian security. You are doing this on the behalf of the international community and you deserve the full solidarity of the international community.

And thank you to Helen Clark for being co-convener of this Forum in which I have a vested interest, because resilience is a key instrument of refugee protection and resilience is a very important factor to allow for humanitarian action to be able to respond to the dramatic increasing humanitarian needs we are witnessing in today's world.

We have learned long ago that there is no humanitarian solution for humanitarian problems, the solution is always political. But we are now learning also that humanitarian aid alone is not enough to respond to the needs created by the multiplication of crises we're facing in today's world.

We need to be sure that we bring humanitarian actors and development actors together, as Helen Clark was mentioning, at the very beginning of a crisis. It's no longer a question of bridging a gap, the humanitarians coming first to address the emergencies and then, when things stabilize, development actors coming to ensure the sustainability of what was achieved. No, we need to be together since the very beginning, even before for prevention and then for common response and to create the conditions for solutions, and for the sustainability of those solutions.

But we have also learned that there is no way to guarantee refugee protection if the increasing needs, as well as the legitimate interests of the host communities, are not taken into account by the international community. To ignore those needs, interests and aspirations would help create host community fatigue, raise tensions between different communities in the same territory, and obviously this would undermine refugee protection in itself.

And so, it is absolutely essential that when we think about refugee protection we also think about the resilience of both the refugees and host communities living together under these circumstances, and in no other country has it been so harmonious as in Jordan.

It is in this context that the national action plans and the 3RP, the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, represent an important step forward because they recognize, first of all, government leadership. They recognize a comprehensive vision and not only take into account refugee populations and host communities, but also the structural problems of governments that face dramatic impacts in the economy, in the education and health systems, in water and electricity distribution and many other vital infrastructures for their countries. These plans recognize also that this is about enhancing local capacities and not creating parallel systems, and that inclusion and social cohesion are the tools with which it is possible to allow refugees and host communities to live together in harmony and create a win-win situation for everyone.

It is my job as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to ask governments to allow us to move ahead from what was a traditional care and maintenance operation to the possibility of allowing refugees to have livelihoods, to participate in the creation of the wealth of the country - in the labour markets, or through their own initiatives. But this is only possible if there is a very solid investment of the international community supporting host communities and creating the conditions for what would be a win-win situation in which everybody benefits.

Now, for this it is very important that the resilience agenda is first of all an authentic agenda, and second that it is only a first step in what I consider as a necessary global review of the priorities and strategies of development cooperation policies around the world. First, it needs to be an authentic strategy, it cannot be only the support to a number of projects of small and medium dimension in host communities just to keep them quiet and allow for the neighboring countries of a crisis situation to maintain the refugees within them indefinitely - no. In my country, there is a saying that sometimes we need to change something for everything to remain the same. We don't want the resilience agenda to be that thing that changes for everything basically to remain the same: the business as usual as the Minister was mentioning. We need to make sure it is an authentic crucial step forward, and for that the resilience agenda and the different plans we have mentioned need to be fully funded: funded in the humanitarian component, funded in the resilience component and funded in the structural chapters that Governments have presented in order to address the structural problems that these dramatic inflows of population have created in their economies and in their societies.

Without that strong commitment of the international community, the resilience agenda will not be able to provide the conditions for the win-win situation I was mentioning. But for that to be possible, we need a fundamental review of development cooperation policies, strategies and objectives in today's world.

I have been in this function for ten years, and I have to say that the world has changed dramatically in that time. Ten years ago we had 38 million people displaced by conflict, today we have 60 million. Ten years ago, because several crises had been solved, we were helping one million people go back home every single year. Last year we helped 130,000. And even more worrying than the absolute numbers is the staggering escalation that we are witnessing in forced displacement by conflict. In 2010, 11,000 people were displaced every single day by conflict. Last year it was 42,500, four times more in only five years. We are witnessing a multiplication of new conflicts and at the same time the old conflicts never seem to go away.

The world today - even if we have to recognize that there has been enormous economic progress and fundamental changes in technologies available to solve global problems - but nevertheless the world today is much more dangerous than ten years ago and with much more fragile areas where crises are erupting and causing dramatic humanitarian problems. In this context, development cooperation policies need to adapt to the new realities. We can no longer see development cooperation policies based on a technical analysis of how to merge economic growth with social welfare and environmental sustainability. We need to recognize that today the humanitarian, the development and the security dimensions are three faces of the same reality.

I will be adamant in protecting the autonomy of the humanitarian space and the validity of the humanitarian principles - impartiality, neutrality, independence - in the way we do business on the ground when supporting populations under stress, when delivering humanitarian aid. But we have to recognize that when formulating a foreign policy of a country or in an international organization, it is impossible today not to see the links between humanitarian, development and security aspects.

There are a number of countries that are absolutely vital in today's world, not only because they are large recipients of refugees, but because they are fundamental pillars of regional stability and the first line of defense for our collective security. In a combination of crises that are becoming more and more interlinked, from Nigeria to Mali, from Libya to Somalia, from Yemen to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, there are indeed a number of countries that are absolutely essential for global peace and security and for regional stability. These countries are Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and the other neighbors of Syria, but also the neighbors of Somalia, namely Ethiopia, Kenya or Djibouti, and the neighbors of Nigeria - Niger, Cameroon and Chad. All these countries need to be in the first priority of development cooperation policies, both at bilateral and non-bilateral level.

But the truth is that this is not really happening, namely because several of these states are middle-income countries, for example Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey - three middle-income countries that do not benefit enough from development cooperation. We need a fundamental review of this situation. We need to make sure that these countries and others in similar situations around the world are included in the first priority of development cooperation, both at bilateral level but also at the level of multilateral institutions.

We have been fully supporting UNDP's initiatives and those of the World Bank in order to change the rules of the game, namely in relation to International Financial Institutions that still are not allowed to provide concessional loans and grants to middle-income countries like Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey. This has to change. We need to recognize that the world today is indeed much more dangerous, and that the development cooperation policies need to adapt to this new situation.

I've been in politics for a long period in my life, and I know that many times political leaders tend to live in a state of denial. This is the moment to recognize the realities, and to face the realities with bold vision, courage and determination.

Thank you very much.