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UNHCR brings key states into Executive Committee, elects new panel

UNHCR brings key states into Executive Committee, elects new panel

At the opening of the 54th annual meeting of UNHCR's governing body, the refugee agency welcomed the presence of three new members and elected a new chairman for the next year.
29 September 2003
The incoming ExCom Chairman, Ambassador Jean-Marc Boulgaris of Switzerland (right), with High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers at the opening of the 54th session of UNHCR's Executive Committee.

GENEVA, Sept 29 (UNHCR) - Three refugee-hosting states today joined the ranks of UNHCR's Executive Committee, the UN refugee agency's governing body that opened its 54th annual meeting in Geneva. The body also voted in a new Chairman as head of a three-person Bureau overseeing the annual proceedings.

Cyprus, Kenya and Yemen joined the agency's Executive Committee (ExCom), bringing the board's membership to 64 states. ExCom reviews and approves the refugee agency's programmes and budgets, and advises the agency on refugee protection matters.

The three new ExCom member countries are states with a long record of hosting refugees. Cyprus is also confronting the issue of human trafficking, including the clandestine movement of both migrants and asylum seekers attempting to reach neighbouring states.

As the meeting opened in Geneva's Palais des Nations, the UN's main office outside New York, UNHCR's governing body also elected a three-person Bureau to co-ordinate the annual meeting.

Switzerland's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Jean-Marc Boulgaris, was elected as Chairman of ExCom. Kenya nominated the ambassador, who previously served as Vice-Chairman, and he was seconded by Greece. Ambassador Boulgaris was voted into the year-long role by acclamation.

Other members of the ExCom Bureau include Argentinean Ambassador Alfredo Vicente Chiaradia, who will succeed Ambassador Boulgaris as Vice-Chairman after he was introduced by India and seconded by both Mexico and Colombia.

The ExCom members selected Laura Joyce as Rapporteur for the annual meeting. Joyce, who serves as First Secretary at the South African Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, was nominated by Algeria in its role as co-ordinator of the African Group of Experts. Outgoing Rapporteur Paula Reed Lynch of the United States seconded Joyce's nomination.

The outgoing Chairman of UNHCR's ExCom, Ambassador Fisseha Yimer of Ethiopia, earlier opened the annual meeting in a speech praising the work of the UN but raising concerns about challenges facing workers in the field and the worsening security situation facing its staff.

Referring to the run-up to the conflict in Iraq and recent terrorist attacks on the UN headquarters in Baghdad, he said that "this has been a year when the UN system has faced enormous challenges," and that the "implications are very serious when its own staff are faced with intolerable threats."

Ambassador Yimer, who in his role as ExCom Chairman during the last year visited Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia to review UNHCR's field operations, said that he was "disturbed by the general inadequate level of assistance to refugees and host communities." He challenged the refugee agency's donors to do more to support refugees, saying that "interim solutions are needed to help them to preserve their dignity."