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Remarks at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan

Speeches and statements

Remarks at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan

5 October 2016

Thank you Mr Chairman

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Please consider all considerations and tributes as duly extended.

This Conference is a partner platform for Afghanistan’s stabilization, institutional and economic development.

UNHCR believes that the Conference should also be vitally seized with the situation of the 2.5 million Afghan refugees in the near neighbourhood whose situation and problematics give rise to or are underpinned by many of the same national social, economic and developmental questions under discussion here today.

We would like to illuminate five main sets of questions.

First, to the people and Governments, respectively, of Iran and Pakistan, the international community has to renew today inexhaustible gratitude.

Gratitude for the immeasurable and irrepayable duty of solidarity, protection and social inclusion they have demonstrated to millions of their Afghan sisters and brothers for now nearly four decades.

Second, as these safety nets are now visibly coming under ever more severe pressure, these countries have to be supported meaningfully and in ways that will shore up the respective national public, social, economic and community capacities that are stressed by the humanitarian obligations they are discharging to the Afghan refugees.

Third, while voluntary repatriation is indeed the solution that the Afghan refugees themselves essentially seek, the truth is that many returning now from Pakistan - nearly 200,000 in the last two months alone - are coming back home only to swell the ranks of the urban poor or effectively become internally displaced.

As Afghanistan’s economic and developmental priorities rightly take centre stage, everything should at the same time be done to avoid that, particularly with the imminent onset of the winter, an avoidable humanitarian catastrophe occurs.

Beyond this immediate humanitarian imperative, the voluntary, safe and sustainable return and reintegration of the Afghan refugees will be assured only if they are visioned and prioritized as part of the development priorities being supported here today.

Fourth, we urge that the intensifying drama of the internal displacement of Afghans whose protection, survival and subsistence needs in many respects are even more precarious, should likewise not be forgotten.

Saving the lives of nationals and restoring livelihoods and the normalcy of life are not just only humanitarian imperatives. They are among the most primal of all national political, social and development acccountabilities.

Finally, UNHCR shares the view that the people of Afghanistan have suffered for way too long. We thus fully join the calls that have been made here today for the long-running crisis in Afghanistan to be brought to a decisive, conclusive and irreversible solution.

I thank you.

Brussels, 5 October 2016