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Statement to the OSCE Permanent Council

Speeches and statements

Statement to the OSCE Permanent Council

3 May 2018


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here today to continue our important discussions on how best to ensure protection and solutions in the context of large movements of migrants and refugees. Since I last addressed the OSCE Permanent Council in March 2017, the global refugee picture has continued to be fraught with the challenges of unresolved conflicts and growing numbers. There are more than 65.6 million displaced persons in the world today, of whom 22.5 million are refugees.[1] At the same time, there have been developments at the multilateral, regional, and national levels, which give us cause for hope. The process for adopting the Global Compact on Refugees, in particular, this year has kept the issue of refugee protection at the forefront of international attention. There is also planning underway to mobilize greater commitment to eradicate statelessness and reinvigorate efforts to resolve situations of internal displacement.

In all of these areas – be they engagement on large movements of refugees and migrants, addressing situations of internal displacement, or preventing and resolving statelessness – the continued collaboration between UNHCR and OSCE remains crucial. Our longstanding partnership reaches back to the 1990s and has become even stronger and more strategic in recent years. To start the conversation today, I would like to focus on some key developments related to these areas of our work and offer some thoughts on how we might take them forward together.


Protection and solutions for large movements of refugees

The theme of today’s meeting – ensuring protection and solutions for large movements of refugees –has been at the centre of the international community’s efforts to formulate a global compact on refugees over the past couple of years. Fundamentally, this compact is about ensuring more predictable and equitable burden- and responsibility-sharing. At the outset, let me say that the ongoing formal consultations on the global compact on refugees have been an extraordinary experience. It is remarkable how States have managed to come together around a particularly contested issue to find a way forward towards a common objective, and in a spirit of good will. The discussions to date have been frank, open, and constructive. We have carefully listened to what States and partners have had to say and have tried to incorporate their substantive comments in each successive draft of the global compact on refugees, as we come closer to arriving at a consensus. So far, the feedback we have received on the first draft has been broadly positive – a signal that our efforts to incorporate the comments have been welcomed. It is clear that UN Member States are willing to continue engaging in this rich dialogue to find ways to address the differences that remain. They recognize how important this will be for ensuring that a strong global compact, supporting refugees and the communities that host them, will result – both as the end product of this consultation, and as the beginning of a new, more effective way of working together.

This week, we have issued the second draft of the global compact on refugees and will be engaging with UN Member States and partners next week in the fourth round of formal consultations in Geneva.[2] We hope that this draft reflects and reconciles the feedback provided by UN Member States, particularly on the specific mechanisms envisioned to facilitate burden- and responsibility-sharing and to broaden the support base for host countries. These mechanisms include a periodic global meeting at the ministerial level to take stock of progress and collect new pledges of support in line with the global compact, as well as situation-specific support platforms and solidarity conferences that could focus attention and resources on particular refugee situations. It is hoped that this will set in train a system for more predictable and sustainable support to host countries and communities, and thereby enable better protection and solutions for refugees.

I am confident that as we move closer to the completion of the global compact and enter the stage of its implementation, there will be many opportunities along the way where the OSCE could contribute, particularly through building on good practices and initiating regional responses. We hope that in the near future, the OSCE’s internal deliberations on its role in addressing large movements of refugees and migrants will continue and will find consensus by all 57 participating States, as this could serve as a basis for discussions on how the OSCE can be engaged in contributing to the global compact. In this regard, we remain ready to assist the OSCE participating States, the Italian Chairmanship, the OSCE Secretariat, and its Executive Structures and Institutions, wherever needed.

There are already good practice examples from our joint efforts with the OSCE and its participating States that can serve as a starting point, drawing upon our recent collaboration on protection and solutions. The OSCE’s expertise has added considerable value in the areas of early warning, border management, combating trafficking in human beings, integration, and promoting tolerance and non-discrimination by combating racism and xenophobia – areas taken forward in the Informal Working Group chaired by Ambassador Wild over the course of 2016, and also in our cooperation on concrete projects.

Our excellent collaboration has intensified and become more operational, for example, with the joint Protection Checklist Addressing Displacement.[3] Since 2014, the Protection Checklist has been rolled out regionally in Central Asia and South-Eastern Europe, and capacity-building has been provided to the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. UNHCR and the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre are now engaged in further capacity development at the national level in areas where the OSCE has a strong field presence, such as Central Asia [Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan] and South-Eastern Europe [Kosovo*[4] and fYRoM].

UNHCR will also continue its support to the Italian OSCE Chairmanship throughout 2018, in particular addressing trafficking in human beings and the Mediterranean dimension. Italy’s efforts to protect people from smugglers and traffickers through the provision of humanitarian corridors for refugees transiting through Libya is a positive example of what can be contributed to a comprehensive response. We will further continue supporting the OSCE simulation-based exercise Combating Human Trafficking along Migration Routes, which was successfully launched in 2016, has been implemented in a number of contexts, and will next be rolled out in Astana, Kazakhstan.

In South-Eastern Europe, another example of good practice can be found in our cooperation in regional efforts to find sustainable solutions for all the displaced from former Yugoslavia. Since the inception of the Regional Housing Programme [RHP], the main role of UNHCR and OSCE missions has been to support the Partner Countries[5] by monitoring and reporting on the progress of selecting beneficiaries for specific projects, and in making policy-level suggestions to support the implementation of the RHP. Now, mechanisms have been established to ensure that beneficiaries of the RHP indeed meet general eligibility criteria, including in particular those related to vulnerability.


Internally Displaced Persons

Let me now turn to the question of internal displacement, which is intricately linked to refugee movements. We are all well aware of how internal displacement, when unaddressed and unresolved, can become a precursor to movements across borders. This year, we are commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement,[6] which have long served as the international framework for protecting and assisting the internally displaced. These principles restate the rights of internally displaced persons [IDPs] as enshrined in international human rights and humanitarian law and inspired by international refugee law. They assign national authorities the primary responsibility for protecting IDPs, and elucidate the key principles for humanitarian assistance by international and non-governmental actors. In this sense, they are comprehensive and serve as a cornerstone for IDP protection and assistance.

As internal displacement continues as a rapid pace around the world, we all must do more to make these principles a reality in the lives of millions of IDPs. In UNHCR’s Strategic Directions 2017—2021,[7] UNHCR committed to working systematically across the entire spectrum of displacement. This means that we are engaging more decisively and predictably in situations of internal displacement. Yet, in today’s environment of constrained resources, we need concerted measures by all to draw attention to and address critical gaps in IDP responses, including on protection, to build resilience, and to leverage more effectively available solutions. We all have an important role to play in promoting the Guiding Principles, and in advancing prevention, protection, and solutions for IDPs.

The twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles provides a unique opportunity to step up our collective efforts and galvanize further commitment. We have now launched a Plan of Action to Advance Prevention, Protection and Solutions for IDPs,[8] with strong leadership from UNHCR, OCHA, and the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs. The Plan of Action was developed through consultation with a number of UN Member States, UN entities, international NGOs, NGO consortia, academia, the World Bank, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and other internal displacement experts.

Several UNHCR offices around the world are already pursuing initiatives to support the Plan of Action. There are efforts underway in Honduras, Niger, and Mali to translate the Guiding Principles into normative and legislative frameworks. In Colombia, we are supporting the engagement of IDPs in the country’s peace process. And in Afghanistan, we are planning a campaign to raise awareness of the national IDP policy, and facilitate its implementation.

I would invite you today to consider how the OSCE may also engage in and support initiatives to commemorate the anniversary of the Guiding Principles. The OSCE could play an important role in encouraging national and local authorities, civil society, national human rights institutions, academia, and the internally displaced themselves to use the Guiding Principles to prevent arbitrary displacement, and to protect, assist, and facilitate durable solutions for IDPs. The OSCE could also assist with the development of national laws and policies that are aligned with the Guiding Principles. I would encourage the OSCE and its participating States to use the opportunity presented by the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles and the Plan of Action to reinject momentum and galvanize action in favour of IDPs, notably on finding solutions.



This brings me to another area where efforts are well underway to realize protection and solutions – that of preventing and resolving statelessness. Since the start of the #IBelong Campaign to end statelessness,[9] we have seen some promising developments globally. Eight countries with major reported statelessness situations are now implementing law, policy, and administrative reforms to grant or confirm nationality. There have been 15 accessions to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions, and one more is underway. Seven States have introduced or are in the process of introducing safeguards in their nationality laws to prevent statelessness at birth. Madagascar and Sierra Leone have reformed their nationality laws to allow women to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis as men. And, in addition to the 11 States that have Statelessness Determination Procedures [SDPs], seven more States have implemented SDPs and/or facilitated naturalization for stateless persons, and nine are in the process of doing so in line with international guidelines.

Central Asian States in particular have made significant progress in tackling the challenge of statelessness. Turkmenistan acceded to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons [in 2011] and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness [in 2012]. Tajikistan [in 2015] and Turkmenistan [in 2013] also reformed relevant laws to address statelessness. Since 2014, UNHCR, its governmental counterparts, and partners, have together identified over 145,000 stateless persons in the region, although the extent of statelessness is believed to be much greater. Close to 30 per cent of those who had been identified [41,600 persons] have now successfully resolved their statelessness situation. In 2017 alone, 17,600 people were able to acquire or confirm citizenship, exceeding UNHCR’s target for the region of 13,500 – largely thanks to the granting of citizenship by Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the naturalization of stateless people in Kazakhstan, and stepped-up efforts to confirm citizenship made by the Government of Tajikistan. The number of identified stateless people in the Kyrgyz Republic has also dramatically gone down from 13,000 in 2014 to 855 in 2018.

UNHCR-OSCE cooperation in addressing statelessness sets a strong precedent for future collaboration. Last year in March, we jointly issued a Handbook on Statelessness in the OSCE Area.[10] UNHCR also organized together with ODIHR a study visit of the Ukrainian Government delegation to Serbia where opportunities, lessons learned, and good practice approaches were exchanged on the legalization of civil status for Roma at risk of statelessness. This was followed by a Practical Seminar on Sharing Good Practices on Statelessness among OSCE participating States, jointly organized by UNHCR and the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship. Similarly, this year we will organize a study visit of Georgia to Bosnia and Herzegovina on mapping and identification of Roma communities at risk of statelessness.

This is excellent progress, which we hope to use as a springboard for further commitments and action at a ministerial-level event on statelessness that UNHCR will convene in October 2019 as a high-level segment of its annual Executive Committee meeting. This event will mark the half-way point of the Campaign to end statelessness, and will provide the opportunity to showcase achievements and good practices, as well as to elicit further pledges from States to address statelessness in the remaining five years of the Campaign. On the side of this event, there will be a treaty ceremony, in which States will be able to deposit their instruments of accession to one or both of the statelessness conventions. This treaty ceremony will also provide an opportunity for States that have acceded to the conventions since the launch of the Campaign to be acknowledged. In the lead-up to this important event, we would welcome regional efforts, including by the OSCE, to organize preparatory events and engage with States in the region to develop pledges that could be made at the 2019 ministerial event.

In closing, we look forward to the finalisation of the global compact in 2018. This will be pivotal in shaping how we address large movements of refugees in the future. At the same time, it is crucial to continue work on resolving IDP situations and addressing statelessness. All of this needs to be done in the shared spirit of partnership and ethic of care and humanity that has enabled our strong and successful cooperation over so many years in the region. The stability and security of the OSCE region depends upon our ability to ensure protection and solutions for the people most affected by conflict and displacement. We have before us a unique opportunity to leverage our collective potential and set the precedent now for how we will address situations of displacement in the future.


[1] See:

[2] All documents related to the consultations on the global compact on refugees may be found at:

[3] Available in English and Russian at:

[4] *All references to Kosovo should be understood in full compliance with Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.

[5] Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

[6] Available at:

[7] Available at:

[8] Available at:

[9] See:

[10] Available in English and Russian at: