A | A | A

Meeting with UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Last updated: 04.10.2013 // Statement held by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Mr. Espen Barth Eide

 (Check against delivery)

 Dear Madam Chair Ambassador Olmos, Excellencies, Mr. Guterres, dear Friends,

Let me first thank you, Antonio, for convening us here in this format. This is a uniquely important moment. We should really seize this opportunity. In light of all the refugees in Syria itself and in the neighbouring countries, we must all do better, and now we should try to do so inspired by the new momentum created last week in New York.

I just arrived here from New York and the General Assembly high level week, and I would like to say that it was quite remarkable to see that, from the starting point of no cooperation what so ever, we are now seeing a Security Council that at least has been able to agree on how to deal with Syria and its chemical weapons. But last week’s development also suggests that there may be a path towards a political solution via a Geneva II conference.

And that momentum should be utilized to its full potential. There is work underway preparing a strong statement by the Security Council. I hope this will come in the form of a resolution underlining the importance of the humanitarian dimension, reiterating the need to respect international humanitarian law, and calling on all parties to provide access to all areas under all circumstances. That means both cross-border and cross-lines. The resolution should also recognize the plight of all the neighbouring countries and urge the international community to stand by them and to relieve them of some of the burden that they have been forced to take.

But while there is some glimmer of hope, make no mistake of this: The war is continuing. The war may even be stepped up in the weeks and months ahead. We know from experience that when the talk of a political solution comes on the table, warring factions will try to position themselves as well as they can, in order to improve their position before a possible ceasefire and talks on a political solution will materialize.

What is absolutely certain is that the humanitarian drama will continue for a long time.  If the war ended tomorrow, we would still have many severe challenges in the field for years to come.

Norway has contributed and accumulated 140 million US dollars to the humanitarian situation. Roughly half of this goes to the regional response plan.

We have taken a particular focus on Lebanon, but we are also active in other neighbouring countries.

I want to underline the plight of the children. Many small Syrian children today never have seen any other existence than that of a refugee, there are significant problems relating to the provision of adequate education. We need to focus more on this dimension of the crisis, or we will be losing an entire generation.  

Let me also draw the attention to the situation for women and girl refugees. Many are exposed to sexual exploitation and abuse. Prostitution and child marriages are on the rise. These are fundamental protection issues that must be urgently addressed, just as much as shelter and food aid.

I want to comment the neighbouring countries, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt for taking such a big burden upon themselves, under dire circumstances, and for keeping the borders open. That must continue. But all of us gathered here would like to say to you this: We see you, we see what you are doing, and we want to support you and we want to try to ease your burden. We want to do so in your own countries and also by trying to relieve you somewhat.

And I am happy to announce that Norway has decided to increase the resettlement quota by an additional 1000 refugees. That almost doubles our total resettlement quota for the UNHCR for this year. I know that this is a limited number compared to the total numbers, but still, it is meant as a sign of solidarity to the neighbouring countries and in line with what both they and the UNHCR have appealed for. I hope this decision can inspire other countries to do the same.

To conclude, I would again like to commend the UNHCR for making this meeting possible. I particularly welcome the presence of the leaders of the key development organizations. It is crucially important that we all understand that we are already way beyond just a humanitarian crisis. We are already deep into a long-term developmental crisis.

For this reason, it is very important that the developmental partners play their role.

And I hope that we will be able to think strategically. Sometimes, in these situations, we start doing what we may refer to as coordination, but often, this turns out to just to be a supply-driven coordination model where  “I tell you what I do and you tell me what you do, and then we agree that we all had a good meeting”. To meet a crisis of the Syrian magnitude, we need to go beyond that. Today we need a strategic focus whereby we are able to define what is actually most important. We must be realistic and realize that we will not be able to do everything anyway. That is why we need to focus strategically on what is most important to do right now. That requires a concerted view from all the UN agencies and all other relevant agencies, from us, the donor countries and of course from the neighbouring countries themselves.

Madam Chair,

I believe this to be highly important. We have no time to loose. We must use the current momentum. We must press everyone we know at the Security Council to give us all the support possible. There is a momentum and we must use it to enlarge, strengthen and strategize the humanitarian effort.

Thank you for the attention.

 


Bookmark and Share