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Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Conference on Common Security in the Mediterranean Region: Challenges and Opportunities

Speeches and statements

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Conference on Common Security in the Mediterranean Region: Challenges and Opportunities

20 October 2015
Remarks by António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (transcript)


Ladies and Gentlemen,

People are on the move, and the Mediterranean is on the way. And indeed displacement has become one of the most evident problems of our times.

Now, there are many reasons for displacement. But if you look at forced displacement today, 80% of it is caused by conflict. And looking at the global implications of these conflicts, the difficulties to resolve the old ones, and a situation in which power relations became less and less clear while impunity and unpredictability are proliferating, we are witnessing a steady escalation of conflict and displacement in the world.

Not only, and this is well known, have we reached the highest level of displacement since the Second World War, but most amazing is how things have been accelerating in the last few years. I usually quote these numbers: In 2010, every single day, conflicts displaced 11,000 people. In 2011, 14,000 people. 2012: 23,000 people. 2013: 32,000 people. Last year, conflicts displaced 42,500 people per day.

Now, this escalation is also obvious in the Mediterranean. If one looks at the 615,000 people that have so far crossed the Mediterranean this year, 475,000 are in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean, coming through Greece. The composition of the flows is very different, in the Central Mediterranean it is much more mixed in terms of migrants and refugees, while in the East more than 80% come from conflict areas, be it Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan.

We all agree there is no humanitarian solution, the solution is political. But things are worse than that - there is not even sufficient humanitarian capacity to respond to the humanitarian problems we are facing. We are failing in providing core protection and basic life-saving assistance to the people we care for, and I am very grateful for the initiative of Minister Steinmeier and the G7 in New York to try and support us in the very difficult situation that we are facing.

The link between humanitarian and development has become absolutely crucial. I am not talking about bridging the gap between humanitarian aid and development cooperation, in which one is supposed to come after the other, but about the need for humanitarian actors and development actors to start acting together since the very beginning of a crisis. We can no longer separate refugee assistance from the support to host communities, and from building the resilience of host communities. If one looks at Jordan, the dramatic impact of the refugee crisis on the economic and social problems of the country is such that, beyond the resilience of the host communities, Jordan - like Lebanon, like many other countries - needs strong budget support to be able to cope with the challenges in the education system, the health system, electricity, water and other infrastructure.

But this requires a fundamental review of the objectives and priorities of international development cooperation. That review needs to be based on the idea that humanitarian, development and security questions are three faces of the same reality, and that in the definition of any policy and in any strategic analysis, we need to look into the three together. Because countries like Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey, or Tunisia, or Niger, Chad or Cameroon are not only large refugee hosting countries, but they are pillars of regional stability and our first line of defense in relation to global security.

It is absolutely essential that these countries become first priorities in international development cooperation policies, because today the truth is that many are not, because they are middle income countries. Because of that, they are not included in most development cooperation programs and are even excluded from several development cooperation instruments, namely World Bank grants and soft loans. This is something that I believe needs to change, and my appeal to the countries of the G7, the G20 and to the boards of the international financial institutions is to understand the need for a fundamental review of international development cooperation policies, both bilateral and multilateral, to enable these countries to benefit from the different instruments I mentioned, but also to be among the first priorities of development cooperation policies.

One last note about migration, and especially in the context of European-African relations and the summit that is coming. It is obvious that there is a need for more cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination, but in my opinion it is also very important that development cooperation policies have a stronger link with human mobility questions. The cooperation between these three groups of countries cannot only be about border management and making it difficult for people to move. It needs to focus more and more on creating the opportunity for people to have the possibility of a future in their own countries, and to make migration a matter of choice and not of desperation, of hope and not of despair.

Thank you very much.