Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

High Commissioner’s statement at the Rome Conference on Development and Migration

Speeches and statements

High Commissioner’s statement at the Rome Conference on Development and Migration

23 July 2023


I will speak in English but allow me to thank the Minister in Italian [thanks in Italian].

The focus on the “whole-of-route” approach to address mixed flows of refugees and migrants discussed here is welcome because it looks at their causes, and the entire spectrum of the situations in which people on the move and their hosts find themselves. I would like to thank, in particular, the Government of Italy for its leadership on this matter. It is a refreshing alternative to the failed country-by-country approach that has dominated the discourse over the past years. It is the only possible way forward.

Work on what I call a “panoramic” approach is core to UNHCR’s mandate and that of others, including especially IOM, which is our key partner in addressing mixed movements.

Forced displacement and mixed movements are complex challenges for all: countries of origin, countries of transit and countries of destination. Addressing them requires international cooperation, resources and patient work, because there are many and overlapping reasons people move – violence, conflict, persecution for some; climate change, bad governance, lack of economic opportunities for others.

A first key point is that ensuring access to territory to seek asylum must be respected as a fundamental human right and an obligation of States everywhere. Pushbacks and collective expulsions, especially to places and situations that are unsafe, are never acceptable. Saving lives must also remain the priority, whether at sea or in the desert. On the other hand, safe, sustainable, and dignified returns to countries of origin for those not needing international protection are critical.

I also appreciate today’s emphasis on helping countries along the routes manage the movement of people rather than focusing only on controls and barriers. This must include helping those countries build and invest in asylum systems, and – where possible – enable inclusion and integration through access to documentation and to essential rights, services and, importantly, economic self-reliance. Remember, almost all forcibly displaced people want to stay close to home: 97 per cent of forcibly displaced Africans remain on the continent. The conflict in Sudan is the latest example. More than 3 million people have been displaced by the violence. It is easy to predict that many will move on – many are already moving on – if they cannot get the protection and assistance they need in the region, but at the moment, protection and assistance operations in support of the Sudanese and countries hosting them, like Egypt, Chad and South Sudan, are less than 25 per cent funded.

Host and transit countries and communities must therefore get much more help. Flexible, humanitarian funding remains urgent, and I hope that European states and the Commission will better resource UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF, IOM and our NGO partners. In parallel, bilateral development support from governments and international financial institutions must strengthen national systems so that they can include refugees until they can return home safely and voluntarily. Great progress has been made over the years on these two tracks, but we have more to do.

Equally important are expanded legal pathways as safe alternatives to dangerous journeys, like family reunification, resettlement, scholarships, and other mechanisms that provide opportunities along the routes. Expanding legal migration channels – as the DG-elect of IOM will surely explain – will be crucial also to protect asylum.

Finally, it is imperative to tackle the causes of displacement. All must do much more to address the climate emergency, promote good governance, invest in development, end conflict and persecution, and protect human rights.

These efforts can only be strategic if they are collective, on the part of all States and institutions concerned. I hope this conference will – finally – encourage all to work together in this direction.

Thank you.