Statement by Mr. Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on the occasion of the United Nations Secretary-General's acceptance of the Declaration of The Hague on the Future of Refugee and Migration Policy, The Hague, 22 November 2002
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to be with you here today, and I would like to congratulate everyone who has contributed to the Declaration of The Hague on the Future of Refugee and Migration Policy.
Over the last decade, the number of people seeking to migrate has increased in many parts of the world. Irregular migration has become a global concern and a major challenge.
The Declaration of The Hague makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the complicated linkages between refugee movements and voluntary migration. This is a key issue for UNHCR. Indeed, the "Agenda for Protection" which was recently adopted by UNHCR's Executive Committee and which resulted from the Global Consultations on International Protection, specifically identifies - as one of its central goals - protecting refugees within broader migration movements.
As a former Prime Minister, I fully recognize the right of States to exert their sovereignty by controlling the movement of people into and within their territories. Yet international migration can no longer be addressed solely from the limited perspective of national sovereignty. A multilateral approach is required, which addresses the whole chain of displacement in a concerted, comprehensive and forward-looking manner.
The 1951 Refugee Convention remains the cornerstone of the international refugee protection regime. This was recognized at the Ministerial Meeting in Geneva in December last year. However, as reflected in both the Ministerial Declaration and the Agenda for Protection, on its own the Convention does not suffice. What we need now is not to revise the Convention, but to build on it. This is what I call the "Convention Plus".
The "Plus" concerns the development of special agreements, or multilateral arrangements to ensure improved burden sharing, with countries in the North and South working together to find durable solutions for refugees. This includes comprehensive plans of action to deal with situations of massive outflow, and agreements on "secondary movements", whereby the roles and responsibilities of countries of origin, transit, and potential destination are better defined. It also includes agreements aimed at better targeting development assistance in refugees' regions of origin, and multilateral commitments for resettlement of refugees.
A major challenge for us today is to find more effective ways of managing the asylum-migration interface, so that people in need of protection find it, people who wish to migrate have appropriate options to do so, and abusive manipulation of entry possibilities is curtailed. Above all, we need to develop migration management policies which do not jeopardize refugee protection, and which promote a more positive asylum environment by reducing strains on asylum systems.
My Office has been working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other partners to examine how we can address global realities more effectively. I hope that we will be able to move towards more structured strategic partnerships, especially where asylum and migration issues intersect.
In addition to the excellent co-operation that we have had with Dr. Frans Bouwen and his team, we are closely following a number of other important inter-governmental processes focusing on the issue of international migration, such as the Budapest Process and the Berne Initiative, to name just two of those originating here in Europe. At the same time, we are actively participating in the follow-up to the Bali conference on people smuggling and trafficking, the Asia-Pacific consultations on refugees, displaced persons and migrants and the Puebla process in South America.
Finally, and most important of all, we must not forget that refugees, just like those who migrate voluntarily, can enrich our societies, as many have done in the past. Rather than marginalizing them, the challenge is to find ways of empowering them so that each of them can contribute positively to the societies in which they live.