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Opening Statement by Mr. Poul Hartling, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the Executive Committee of the programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, thirty-sixth session, Geneva, 7 October 1985

Speeches and statements

Opening Statement by Mr. Poul Hartling, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the Executive Committee of the programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, thirty-sixth session, Geneva, 7 October 1985

7 October 1985

Mr. Chairman, first of, all allow me to congratulate you most sincerely on your election to guide our destinies during this thirty-sixth session of the Executive Committee, and throughout the coming 12 months. It has already been our good fortune to benefit from your wisdom and diplomatic skill as a member of our bureau during the past year, along side of our distinguished outgoing Chairman, to whom I would like to express my deep appreciation not only for his outstanding qualities as a diplomat, but also for his warmth of heart and true dedication to the cause of refugees. I would also like to address a word of thanks to our outgoing Rapporteur, who carried out his delicate task with great tact and patience. I am convinced that our newly-elected Vice-Chairman and Rapporteur, to whom I equally extend my congratulations, will find their duties with this Executive Committee, in the humanitarian task we all share, as inspiring as their colleagues have in the past.

This year we commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations. One of the very first tasks of the newly created world body was to work on behalf of refugees, so we can also say that it is the fortieth anniversary of United Nations efforts to solve refugee problems. In the first five years following the end of the Second World War, a number of ad hoc and temporary bodies carried out a massive effort to solve the refugee problems the war had created, especially in Europe. Thirty-five years ago, when UNHCR was founded in December 1950, it was thought that the Office's tasks would be relatively quickly accomplished, perhaps in only three years. That was the period of the first High Commissioner's mandate, when he was elected by the General Assembly to deal with the residual refugee problems left in Europe at that time. Little did UNHCR's founders know the sum of human suffering, the racial, religious, political and social injustices which have forced so many millions of people to flee across borders and oceans in search of refuge in this second half of the twentieth century. What a sad legacy it has been. Yet at the same time, so much has been accomplished in four decades. Perhaps as many as 30 million human beings have been helped to start new lives, in peace and dignity. Their children and their children's children are normal citizens, whether it be back in their countries of origin, or in a new country of permanent settlement. When we talk about the work of the United Nations, is this not one of its most positive achievements? I believe so.

Yet there are times when it is 'indeed a depressing task. It is depressing when even one single refugee is turned back when all he or she asks is to be given asylum. it is depressing when, because of lack of funds, refugee children may be deprived of the most elementary school facilities, or farm women may have no well from which to draw water and are obliged to carry their heavy burden for many kilometres. It is depressing when innocent refugees are killed or mistreated because of some overriding raison d'état. It is the task of the High Commissioner to make the reason of the heart prevail over the reason of States. I believe that you all, here in this room and the Governments you represent, share that conviction and the will to achieve that goal, despite all the obstacles which must be overcome. A year ago I said in this very room on this same occasion that the High Commissioner had to be a professional optimist. I remain unshaken in that view, for I know that, with patience and courage, as in the past, solutions will be found.

I none the less believe it is safe to say that never in the past four decades has the world refugee situation been so complex, nor solutions more elusive. Through decades of experience, we have learned the ways. Yet all too often the means escape us. We have the will, but the resources needed to transform that will into reality are just not there. That is why I have chosen to make our endeavours to achieve durable solutions to refugee problems the main theme of my statement today. of course, it goes without saying that our first and foremost task is international protection. It is the life-blood of all our work on behalf of refugees, without which any effort to find durable solutions to refugee problems would be meaningless. You have before you a note on international protection, and some of our major concerns have been discussed in the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection. There is no need for me to go into detail here. I know the Executive Committee is also aware of our efforts to cater to the special needs of refugee women, and I am very pleased that they were included in the strategies adopted at the recent Nairobi Conference. We have also circulated a paper on our recent initiatives in the field of emergency management training, which calls for no further elaboration. I would however, like to take a few minutes to inform you briefly of some major developments' since our last session, without attempting to make an exhaustive survey.

A year ago, I spoke about our modest hopes that we could gradually increase the proportion of our funds and efforts we devote annually to durable solutions. I am obliged today to say that some of these hopes have been dashed, at least temporarily, by the dramatic crisis which has stricken many African countries, among them those which are the most affected by refugee problems. indeed, the world had been warned as much as a year and a half ago that a food crisis of unprecedented proportions was looming in Africa. we ourselves, as early as November 1984, had launched our first African Emergency Appeal for some $Us 8 million. But no one could know that such massive numbers of people would seek relief in neighbouring countries, nor the extent to which UNHCR would be obliged to organize a vast emergency assistance operation ', at the expense of its ongoing programmes, in the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Sudan. Nor could we know that in some cases UNHCR would be forced to extend its emergency assistance to nationals for whom the refugee camps were the only available source of food and water. Not only has this African Emergency Operation stretched our capacity in terms of financial and human resources to the limits in Africa, it has had the most serious repercussions on our ability to push forward with durable solutions elsewhere in the world.

Governments have been kept regularly and fully informed of developments in this operation, through our monthly appeal updates. We are co-operating closely with the United Nations office for Emergency Operations in Africa to ensure that donors receive coherent and coordinated information on our efforts as they fit into the overall picture of what is being done to come to grips with the crisis in Africa. I do not therefore intend to take up the time of the Executive Committee with more details of our appeals at this time, beyond urging donors to give further serious consideration to closing the current $US 17 million gap between contributions and our revised 1985 African Emergency Appeal target of $US 107 million.

Mr. Chairman, while on the subject of Africa, allow me to refer briefly to one or two other developments there which we have followed closely in the past months. First, a few words on recent events in Uganda. The new regime in that country is co-operating fully with UNHCR. My representative recently had useful talks with the new head of the Government, as well as other top Government officials and there are signs that a number of outstanding issues could be resolved in time, providing that the situation in the country stabilizes. UNHCR's programme of voluntary repatriation from Zaire has resumed, and there has also been spontaneous repatriation from the Sudan and Rwanda.

UNHCR has participated over the past year in negotiations between Rwanda and Uganda with a view to finding a mutually acceptable solution to the problem of some 30,000 asylum-seekers who crossed from Uganda into Rwanda in 1982. While some 3,200 have been recognized as Rwandese, nationals and have been reintegrated in their villages of origin, it has not so far been possible to initiate a programme of organized voluntary repatriation for the balance. There has, however, as I just said, recently been some spontaneous repatriation.

In Zaire, as the number of refugees from Uganda has gone steadily down due to voluntary repatriation, UNHCR's assistance is mainly concentrated on refugees from Angola and, in particular, a major new influx from Angola into the Shaba province which began late in 1984 and continued throughout the first half of 1985. They now number well over 60,000.

Mr. Chairman, as the distinguished members of the Executive Committee well know, the United Republic of Tanzania is one of the African countries which has had the most success in implementing durable solutions. Out of the some 180,000 refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania, the majority live in three large organized rural refugee settlements - Ulyankulu, Katumba and Mishamo. The first two no longer have needed international assistance through UNHCR for some years, and the highlight of 1985 was the handing over to the Government in July of Mishamo, in a ceremony which was attended by the Deputy High Commissioner. This means that the settlement will in principle receive no further international assistance through UNHCR. In this case, although it has taken some years, I believe the Tanzanian authorities, the implementing agency - the Lutheran World Federation, and UNHCR can be proud of the successes achieved in making durable solutions work.

Mr. Chairman, when we talk of obstacles to finding durable solutions, one must not forget that they are not only financial or climatic. There are millions of refugees today still in camps because of the lack of a political solution to the problems which have generated their flight. It is not for me to say what those political solutions might be. That belongs to the challenges the United Nations must face as it moves into its fifth decade. But I firmly believe that even in the absence of political settlements, many of the refugees today in camps on care and maintenance can be taken a step, even a number of steps, along the road to durable solutions through our combined efforts.

In this respect, I am very encouraged by the seriousness with which many Governments have taken the ideas we have put forward with regard to refugee aid and development, and I am looking forward to a further constructive debate on this subject in this session. I attach the greatest importance to pushing ahead with innovative new partnerships of the type we have started with the World Bank in Pakistan. I am very happy to report that we have encountered a positive response in the exploratory talks we have been having with the Bank and the concerned Governments on ways of initiating similar projects in Africa, particularly in the Horn of Africa and the Sudan. I sincerely hope that in other refugee host countries, and perhaps in co-operation with other development-funding institutions, we can also in due course come to similar arrangements.

Unfortunately, perhaps more so than in Africa, neither voluntary repatriation nor local settlement seem any closer to becoming realities in South-East Asia in Pakistan and in parts of Central America. Despite the well-known reasons, which we fully recognize, I cannot but deplore the stagnation of many refugee situations. One used to be able to say with some pride that the refugees of five years ago no longer need our help today. That is less and less the case. I cannot forget the despair I have seen on the faces of the so-called "long-stayers" in camps in South-East Asia, some of whom I have talked to when I visited the region earlier this year. Many of the children have known no other life than that of a refugee camp. Yet in terms of sheer numbers, the total caseload in that part of the world is relatively small, and it might seem that the problem could be relatively easily solved.

Fortunately, from time to time one receives good news. I was very heartened when, just 10 days ago, Her Majesty's Government announced that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would make an important new effort to help relieve the burden of Hong Kong, which still has, proportionately, one of the I biggest caseloads of refugees from Indo-China. It is a gesture which I trust will serve as a stimulus to other resettlement countries. Those now to be admitted to the United Kingdom will certainly include some of the long-stayers. And the new "White Paper" happily leaves the door open to further numbers being admitted later, while Hong Kong itself has pledged to do its part in absorbing a certain number of refugees of Chinese ethnic origin. Following my visit to Hong Kong last spring, I went to London to urge the British authorities to do what they could in implementing the British Parliament's recommendations, and I was very glad to learn of the final outcome.

in this connection, allow me also to express my satisfaction that the other major resettlement countries are maintaining or only marginally reducing their quotas for refugees from South-East Asia. This is very necessary if we are to keep pace with new arrivals in the region, which unfortunately continue. I trust I will be forgiven if I say that this is the very minimum effort that must be made, because resettlement remains, at least for the foreseeable future, the only viable alternative to care and maintenance in camps for the majority of the refugees in that region.

Another source of encouragement for me is the continuing steady pace of the Orderly Departure Programme (ODP) from Viet Nam. It has again this year been our pleasure to welcome an important Vietnamese delegation to Geneva just before the opening of this session for talks with countries receiving people leaving Viet Nam under the programme. I trust that the results will not only be to maintain the present rate of departures of more than 2,000 a month, but perhaps an increase in the coming year. If all goes well, a milestone in ODP will be reached in December 1985, as departures should pass the 100,000 mark since its inception in 1979.

Also very encouraging has been the increasing efficiency with which the Thai authorities are implementing the Anti-Piracy Arrangement. I am convinced that a number of lives have been saved through their efforts, and the deterrent effect is definitely beginning to show up in the statistics. I believe this can be a source of satisfaction both for the Thai authorities and the donors who have steadfastly supported their efforts to combat this evil.

The numbers of rescues of refugees in distress on the high seas are also growing. The appeals of UNHCR and the International Maritime organization (IMO) have not fallen on deaf ears, and in the best traditions of the sea and in the spirit of last year's Nansen Medal award, ship-masters and crewmen - often at their cost, inconvenience, and sometimes personal risk - are going out of their way to save lives. I do hope that this humanitarian example will be followed by an ever-increasing number of seamen. I should also like to thank the Governments who are participating in the Rescue at Sea Resettlement Offices (RASRO) scheme, which, I am happy to report, is functioning smoothly to the benefit of those rescued at sea.

Mr. Chairman, to remain for a moment in South-East Asia, I am still very concerned about the future of the refugees from Kampuchea, whether they be in Thailand or in the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. They, too, have been in camps for years, and prospects for a durable solution seem very remote except for the lucky few who are selected for resettlement. I would appeal to all concerned to review their possibilities in this respect so that they too can see some prospects for a more meaningful future opening up for them.

Mr. Chairman, allow me now to turn to the situation in Central America and Mexico. In Mexico, in particular, as well as to a certain extent in Costa Rica, we are seeing good results in our joint efforts with the Governments to push forward with durable solutions. In Honduras, on the other hand, particularly as regards the refugees from El Salvador, a solution still eludes us and the situation of the refugees remains precarious. You are all aware of the recent tragic events at Colomoncagua, during which two refugees were killed - a fact that we must all deplore. In the light of such an incident, we have to underline the need for a greater understanding of the purely humanitarian, non-political role of UNHCR, both among host Governments and the voluntary agencies. We are doing everything in our power to improve this understanding in a spirit of dialogue. The Honduran authorities have informed my Representative of their intention to relocate the refugees away from the border area. Such a move would be fully compatible with UNHCR's often-stated policy of locating refugee camps, whenever possible, at a reasonable distance away from borders. We have offered to assist the Government in preparing for and carrying out the move in a carefully planned way that will bear in mind the welfare and aspirations of the refugees, who are our first concern. I should add, however, that here again, we are faced with a situation where a truly durable solution depends on political solutions which are beyond our grasp.

This also applies to other refugee groups both in Honduras and in other nearby countries. I have followed with keen interest the efforts in this regard in the Contadora Group. I am gratified that, within the Contadora framework, very serious attention has been paid to refugee problems. This was notably the case at the Cartagena Colloquium, which it was my honour to open late last year together with the President of Colombia, where all countries in the region participated in drawing up the Cartagena Declaration, recognizing their humanitarian responsibilities towards refugees, the importance of accession to the international instruments, and the work of our Office. I firmly believe that if the spirit of Cartagena can be translated into practical policies, incidents such as the one I have alluded to a moment ago can be avoided in the future, and solutions to the most difficult refugee problems in this part of the world can be found.

in the case of Mexico, the authorities have successfully implemented a programme supported by UNHCR to relocate thousands of Guatemalan refugees away from the border province of Chiapas to the provinces of Campeche and Quintana Roo in the Yucatán Peninsula. It was my pleasure to be invited early this year to Mexico to see these projects for myself, and I was very impressed with the way the refugees are carving new agricultural settlements out of virgin bush. Approximately 45 per cent of the 45,000 Guatemalan refugees assisted by UNHCR are now in the new settlements; so far, the others have not agreed to move away from the border area in the state of Chiapas. However, I understand the Mexican authorities are continuing their efforts to persuade the refugees to move voluntarily to the new sites.

in Costa Rica, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of Nicaraguan refugees this year. The UNHCR programme seeks to bring about local integration of the refugees both in rural and urban areas. The development of rural refugee settlements, urgently needed to release pressures on overcrowded reception centres and provide a livelihood for the refugees, has shown little progress due to difficulties in finding suitable sites. In the meantime, the largest share of UNHCR's budget in Costa Rica is devoted to care and maintenance of refugees in the reception centres and in urban areas. Here again, I very much hope some further progress can be made towards a durable solution.

In other parts of Latin America, the situation is more promising, although here as elsewhere UNHCR's critical financial situation makes it difficult for us to live up to the expectations of all. Large numbers of refugees have returned to Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay with the Office's assistance since those countries have returned to democratic forms of government. As has been the case in the past for both Bolivia and Argentina, the Office has been approached by the new Government of Uruguay for assistance towards the reintegration of the most needy returnees. it has not, however, been possible for us to go beyond our normal practice of covering travel costs for returnees, although we have been able to channel a $25,000 contribution from Canada to the Uruguayan Government's programme. I would be most grateful if potential donors, following this example, could see their way clear to contributing, perhaps bilaterally, to this effort, which falls outside the normal parameters of our General Programmes.

Mr. Chairman, this brings me to the one problem or issue which, more than any other, throws a shadow over our deliberations here, and that is our critical financial situation. it is still not certain that UNHCR will be able to fund the 1985 General Programmes even at the level of the reduced requirement which is now before you.

The crisis is not a result of a lack of goodwill or sympathy towards refugees and their needs. The needs of refugees are considerable - in Africa, Asia and Latin America - and I realize that the demands on donors this year - for refugee and other urgent humanitarian needs - have been massive. Let me stress that we are most grateful for the strong support we have received so far.

However, it is of absolute primary importance that UNHCR be given the resources to do the job which is expected - indeed, demanded - of us. In that sense, the General Programmes are our first and basic priority - to give to refugees, who have little or no other source of material help, the assistance they need to overcome their emergency problems and to find decent, lasting solutions so that they can live peacefully and productively once again. UNHCR is often called upon to undertake additional or Special Programmes - a good example is our African Emergency programmes - but, in essential terms, the General Programmes must remain our first responsibility. It is for that reason that the critical funding situation we face for the General Programmes for both the remainder of the 1985 programmes and for 1986 is so serious.

The revised 1985 General Programmes requirement proposed to you amounts to some $319 million. As of today, counting all sources of funds since January 1985, we have some $262 million against that requirement. So we need a further $57 million.

Since, in all realism, it cannot be taken for granted that we shall receive that amount of contributions, I have - already some time ago - given instructions to staff in the field and headquarters to draw up the necessary plans to hold up implementation of projects under the approved 1985 General Programmes, especially those elements of assistance which are above the level of simple survival of refugees. We must be prepared to do this in the light of the financial situation. The practical implications could be that refugee settlement or durable solutions will be stopped. Housing and schools for refugees will not be built. Health and basic education services and equipment will have to be reduced to a minimum. It goes without saying also that the administrative costs of UNHCR, both in headquarters and the field, are subject to the most severe restrictions.

In such a situation, while UNHCR pledges itself to pursue economy with even greater determination, I must appeal directly and most strongly to donors to make or indicate additional contributions to the 1985 General Programmes as soon as possible.

The need to cover the 1986 General Programmes requirement of $330 million is equally vital. I therefore also urge Governments to announce large contributions to UNHCR at the Pledging Conference in New York on 15 November - and to pay those contributions at the earliest possible date since, without cash resources, UNHCR will simply not be able to begin the 1986 General Programmes in January.

I know that the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters has considered this problem last week and I look forward to hearing their conclusions and advice on how we can solve the problem together.

In passing, let me note with some pride the spontaneous gesture made by the staff of UNHCR in donating one day's salary to the General Programmes as a demonstration of their acute concern for refugee assistance.

Mr. Chairman, as this is the last Executive Committee in which I shall participate, allow me to conclude by highlighting some main points from the eight years during which I have had the privilege to serve as your High Commissioner, and by making some observations of a more private character.

On 20 January 1978, I met with our Executive Committee for the first time. That is now almost eight years ago. 'But quite a few things have changed in those eight years. UNHCR has changed - not in essence, I hope, but in appearances. That day in January 1978 we talked about finances - as always - and the General Programmes target for the year 1978 was $US 35.2 million. It is different today.

UNHCR has always been subject to changes. Or you might say developing. it is by nature not static, but dynamic. When the High Commissioner's Office was established it was for three years. it was thought to be short-lived. Today we see it differently.

UNHCR was meant to take care of European refugees, mainly refugees from before 1950. That has changed completely.

In the beginning, UNHCR was not allowed to ask for contributions or to spend money for assistance to refugees. Four years later, that had to be changed, because the needs were there. When the Executive Committee was created, it was exactly with the task of approving the High Commissioner's target and thus authorizing him to spend money for the General Programmes.

In the beginning, it was said again and again that UNHCR should not be operational. In quite a few cases we have had to do the job all the same.

It was also said that this organization should not do developmental work. It has nevertheless become necessary to acknowledge the justice of combining refugee aid and development, as so many refugees have to build their lives in developing countries surrounded by an indigenous population living under the same conditions and having the same needs as the refugees.

So many things have changed. UNHCR has grown and has had to adapt itself to new conditions.

The Executive Committee has changed as well. We have - already in 1978 introduced two annual informal meetings, normally in January and June, in order not to lose contact with our member States throughout the year. We have increased the flow of information, perhaps too much, to keep the Executive Committee constantly up to date. In 1976, a Sub-Committee of the Whole on international Protection was created and, in 1981, a Sub-Committee of the Whole on Administrative and Financial Matters was established. The Executive Committee itself, originally comprising 25 members, had during the years grown to 31 members, and in 1979 the Economic and Social Council decided to add nine new members, followed by the admission of the United Nations Council for Namibia, which brought the number to the present 41. Indeed, the Executive Committee has changed during the years. Happily one thing has not changed: the steadfast humanitarian commitment of the members to the cause of refugees.

The history of UNHCR in the past eight years has been marked by many critical, exciting, difficult, exacting, but also encouraging experiences. Let me - without any attempt to be exhaustive - mention:

(a) The repatriation of almost 200,000 refugees from Bangladesh to Burma in 1978-1979;

(b) The December 1978 Consultative Meeting on Refugees and Displaced Persons in South-East Asia (forerunner to the Conference called by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in July 1979);

(c) The Arusha Conference on the Situation of Refugees in Africa in May 1979;

(d) The same year Viet Nam and UNHCR signed a Letter of Understanding on an orderly Departure Programme. It started slowly. Today the rate of departures is more than 2,000 persons a month;

(e) The same year saw an influx of some 270,000 Vietnamese refugees into China, where the majority of them have begun a new life;

(f) The years 1978-1979 also saw the beginnings of the influx of refugees into Pakistan. Today the Government counts 2.6 million;

(g) In 1980, Zimbabwe became independent, and 250,000 refugees were able to repatriates

(h) In these years the refugee problems in the Horn of Africa came into focus;

(i) Refugees numbering more than 150,000 from Chad arrived in neighbouring countries, especially Cameroon, but were repatriated in the course of 1981 and 1982.

(j) In April 1981, the first International Conference for Assistance to Refugees in Africa (ICARA I) met)

(k) The refugee situation in Central America grew increasingly serious as from 1981;

(l) In December 1981, UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

(m) In 1982, tens of thousands of refugees and thousands of heads of cattle entered Rwanda from Uganda

(n) In 1983, the numbers of refugees resettled from South-East Asia passed the 1 million mark;

(o) In 1984, the Second International Conference for Assistance to Refugees in Africa (ICARA II) was called;

(p) Asylum-seekers from Irian Jaya came to Papua New Guinea

(q) A severe drought occurred in many African countries, affecting the work of UNHCR, especially in the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Sudan;

(r) Since 1978, 26 countries acceded to either the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees or the 1967 Protocol (or both), bringing the total of States parties to these instruments to 97. These include countries - like Egypt, Japan, China - in regions where the Convention had never before penetrated, thus giving it a far more universal character.

Indeed the work of UNHCR has grown world-wide. You find refugees in all the continents, frequently off the beaten track. I have seen them with my own eyes. I can see with my mind's eye the many faces - African, Afghan, Vietnamese, Central American - many of them with that look of despondency or despair you see when people have been searching the horizon for a long time for a possibility of beginning a new life in safety and dignity. Yet I have not only seen suffering and distress, but also situations where people were helped so that they might begin to see a future for themselves and for their children.

During this span of years, the organizational structure of the Office and the management were changed and improved:

(a) Policy formulation was laid in the hands of the directors under the authority of the High Commissioner and his Deputy;

(b) All Professional posts in the headquarters and in the field were classified. This overall classification exercise was the first in UNHCR's history;

(c) The Programme Management System was improved;

(d) The Specialist Support Unit was strengthened;

(e) The Emergency Unit was established in 1980;

(f) An Electronic Data Processing Unit was created;

(g) The conditions for our staff in the field were improved, and a Director for Field Affairs appointed.

In recent years, UNHCR has established an office or a presence in the capitals of half a dozen South-East Asian countries, as well as in Zimbabwe, China, Mexico, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Algeria, and Sweden (for the five Nordic countries).

These have been eight extremely busy and exciting years. And now after almost eight years my term is coming to an end. I want to say, and I want to say it here to the High Commissioner's Executive Committee, that I am deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in this work. it is indeed a demanding, but also a rewarding job. I deem it a privilege to work for the refugees.

It is a privilege, because it is non-political work. Already in the Statute, which dates back to December 1950, it is clearly stated that "the work of the High Commissioner shall be of an entirely non-political character". The non-political character of the work is to my opinion the cornerstone for the house we try to build. It was never forgotten, and I thank all the members of the Executive Committee that they always have seen this "non-political character" as a guiding star for all decisions. Here the object is not to obtain political gains, but to defend human rights. Do not think that I hold the political work in contempt. I have the greatest respect for the political efforts made around the world and in the United Nations. They are the basis and the presupposition for our humanitarian work. But it is important, in fact crucial to keep the work for the refugees humanitarian. If we take sides and our work is coloured by political sympathies or antipathies, the whole activity will immediately be paralysed.

"Entirely non-political", that means that our work is purely humanitarian work. It is an effort to save human beings, individuals, men, women, children, and defend their right to live in freedom and dignity and to enjoy human rights. it is a privilege to work for the individual. We do not despise statistics, we use them; we do not despise economic, technical, legal means, we cannot do anything without them, but fundamentally the goal is not any one of those things in itself, it is to protect and assist the individual.

It is a privilege to be engaged in an international effort where you can see manifest results. Much of the multilateral work is frustrating, is marking time, no matter how necessary it is. International work for refugees is privileged by having results. Millions of fellow human beings have been helped, their lives have even been saved by the work of Governments, by the work of the non-governmental organizations and by the work of UNHCR during the years.

It is a privilege to have sensed the spirit of co-operation which has always prevailed in the United Nations organizations and in the voluntary agencies, when we have worked together for the refugees in the world.

It is a privilege to work with the staff in UNHCR. it seems that this organization attracts people who are guided by idealism. I know them so well that I know that they are not angels or superhuman, but I also know that many of our staff very often forget their own convenience or ambitions, even sometimes their health or their life when it comes to doing something extra for the refugees who depend on UNHCR.

Let me finally be allowed to say that it has been a privilege to work with the Executive Committee. I think this United Nations Committee is different from other United Nations bodies. I have experienced how warmly interested you are in the welfare of refugees, I have felt your unfailing support. It has been clear to me that your work in the Executive Committee was not only one cause among others, but a cause which appealed to the heart, and that is why the work was done with the heart. I do not know how often that can be said of an international committee.

That is why, Mr. Chairman, my last word in my last introductory speech to the Executive Committee must be a warm word of thanks.