Global Refugee Forum opens amid ‘crisis of humanity’

© UNHCR/Ahmed Al-Mayadeen. A displaced family receive relief items at a site in Lahaj governerate, Yemen.

United Nations, 13 December 2023

A record 114 million forcibly displaced around the world represents a “crisis of humanity”, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) chief Filippo Grandi said on Wednesday as the Global Refugee Forum got underway in Geneva.

The world’s largest gathering dedicated to refugee issues, the Forum is co-hosted by UNHCR and Switzerland and convened by Colombia, France, Japan, Jordan and Uganda.

It brings together Member States, civil society, financial institutions, private companies and more than 300 refugee advocates.

Setting the tone for the discussion, Mr. Grandi said that 114 million “represents the number of refugees and displaced people whom persecution, human rights violations, violence, armed conflict, serious public disorder have forced from their homes: 114 million shattered dreams, disrupted lives, interrupted hopes.”

He stressed the need to tackle the root causes of displacement and highlighted the humanitarian obligation to assist people uprooted by “protracted crises” in places like Myanmar, Syria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Other hotspots include growing insecurity in the Sahel, he said, “the dramatic population flows across the Americas, the Mediterranean and the Bay of Bengal, and many others” largely fuelled by the lack of political solutions to conflicts.

Contemplating what has been achieved since the first ever global forum on the issue in 2019, the High Commissioner said back then “we had the makings of a success. Today, those makings have turned into an engine which can bring us much further”. 

That potential has evolved into a powerful force, he said, thanks to the collaborative efforts of many, including states, NGOs, local and refugee-led organizations, sports bodies, financial institutions, faith leaders, academia, private companies, and engaged citizens.

He noted the same positive “whole-of-society” spirit evident in the Global Compact on Refugees.

But he also warned UNHCR is $400 million short of its fundraising goal “to end the year with the minimum of needed resources”, adding that he was greatly concerned over next year’s outlook.

Calling the situation in Gaza ‘a major human catastrophe’ that reflected failure in the Security Council, Mr. Grandi expressed his fear of more civilian death and suffering, and displacement that could threaten the whole region.

He reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for an immediate and sustained humanitarian ceasefire, the release of hostages and a genuine resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, came to the forum directly for the ailing region.

He told delegates the people of Gaza were “running out of time and options, as they face bombardment, deprivation, and disease in an ever-ever-shrinking space. They are facing the darkest chapter of their history since 1948”. 

The UNRWA chief added that “there is absolutely no alternative to a genuine political process to end the cycle of violence”, which would see both sides enjoying statehood, peace, and stability. 

Concluding his address, the High Commissioner called for the forum to be “a moment of unity, in which all of us join forces to ensure that those who flee because their life, freedom and security are threatened can find protection; and that everything is done to resolve their exile as soon as possible”.

With its extensive programme spanning three days, the forum will focus on a wide range of issues, including the need for gender equality, the scourge of gender-based violence, health, education, rights of refugee children, employment, housing and much more. 

The opening day will conclude with a ceremony celebrating the winners of the Nansen Refugee Award 2023.

The original article appeared here.

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