Expression of support for UNHCR’s role as provider of last resort on protection response in natural disasters, as well as underlining of the importance of next year’s anniversaries as a means to reinforce commitment towards displaced people were key features of the Norwegian statement to the 61st Session of the Executive Committee of UNHCR.
Norway’s Statement for the General Debate at the 61st session of the Executive Committe of the UNHCR, 4 October 2010
At the outset, allow me to congratulate Antonio Guterres on his reelection as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. As the High Commissioner embarks on his second term, I would like to put on record Norway’s appreciation of his dedicated efforts in defence of humanitarian principles.
In line with the megatrends, displacement today is becoming ever more complex. Intractable armed conflicts, climate change and extreme poverty will increasingly reinforce one another as causes of displacement. Against this backdrop, the role of UNHCR in facilitating solutions to the overarching issues that extend beyond any single agency’s scope or mandate, is vital.
As the UNHCR exercises its humanitarian mandate, it must remain a priority to maintain a particular focus on gender. Gender sensitive approaches enhance both the quality and efficiency of humanitarian response. UNHCR, in cooperation with other agencies, should intensify efforts to implement UNSC resolutions 1325 and 1820, and to identify means to support the newly established UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
The Norwegian Government attaches great importance to UNHCR’s efforts relating to internally displaced people. We therefore encourage the Office to continue its close cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons to ensure that Mr Chaloka Beyani is enabled to fulfil his mandate. The number of conflict-induced IDPs reached a dramatic 27.1 million last year. This is an arresting reminder to all of us: As we strive to address the megatrends I referred to earlier, no effort must be spared in responding to the enduring needs for assistance and protection.
Promoting durable solutions is a key aspect of UNHCR’s mandate, requiring international burden sharing and strategic cooperation. Norway supports the importance UNHCR attaches to political and development aspects of protracted refugee situations, and commends its ongoing catalytic efforts in engaging development actors, both at national and multinational levels.
An example of innovative approaches to protracted situations is the strategic use of resettlement. Norway is currently chairing a Contact Group for Iran – aligning resettlement countries and Iran on possible durable solutions for the Afghan refugees in Iran. This initiative is a response to the Iranian Government’s call for burden sharing. The aim is to promote resettlement, while at the same time encouraging return to Aghanistan and improving the conditions for the majority of refugees remaining in Iran.
Norway acknowledges the need to assist governments in addressing protection challenges stemming from natural disasters. As recent events in Haiti and Pakistan have shown, disasters can cause not only collapse of infrastructure, but also the breakdown of law and order with serious consequences for the most vulnerable.
UNHCR is the UN-protection agency par excellence and subsequently the actor that is best placed to assume the role as provider of last resort in the field. To further prepare the ground for such engagement, we invite the High Commissioner to elaborate on the relevant financial and human resource implications. Meanwhile, we encourage UNHCR to position itself so that it can make better use of mechanisms such as Flash Appeals and the CERF, for example by engaging more with UNDAC .
Current trends provide us with clear signs as to the future challenges. Climate change is already affecting lives and livelihoods through the increased number of extreme weather and weather related disasters, many of which have caused unprecedented harm, including forced displacement. A special challenge is the fact that today’s protection regime for those fleeing from natural disasters and other climate related causes is far weaker than for those we have defined as refugees.
The complex interlinkages between climate change and forced displacement will be addressed in an international conference in Oslo in June next year, bringing together both the scientific and humanitarian communities. We hope the conference will help to frame the debate during UNHCR’s commemorations later in the year. We must use these commemorations to reinforce our joint commitment to solve the challenges of the future. The fact that the anniversaries of the refugee convention and the statelessness convention coincide with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Fridtjof Nansen – the first Refugee Commissioner in the League of Nations – provides an excellent occasion to do just that.