Seventy-eighth Session,
44th Meeting (PM)

With Conflicts, Climate Change Pushing Displacement to Record Levels, Third Committee Highlights Need to Ramp Up Refugee Funding, Address Root Causes

As multiplying conflicts drive forced displacement worldwide, States must step up their support or risk the humanitarian system’s collapse, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as delegates stressed the need to address root causes of displacement, share responsibility for refugees and find lasting solutions for the uprooted. 

In his brief to the Committee, High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the number of forcibly displaced worldwide has currently soared to a record 114 million people, a jump of 4 million since May.  In addition to unresolved conflicts in countries including Ukraine, new conflicts have erupted in the Middle East, Sudan and Armenia in recent months, driving further displacement.  “Each of these statistics is a man, woman or child whose life has been destroyed.  Who has lost home, family and friends.  Said goodbye — perhaps forever — to relatives who are too old or sick to make an arduous journey to safer locations,” he said.

As the number of crises grows, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has declared a record 46 emergencies in 32 countries in the past 12 months.  He warned that the entire humanitarian system, collectively, is at a breaking point, noting that humanitarian operations are sorely underfunded.  UNHCR alone faces a shortfall of $600 million in 2023, and the outlook for 2024 is even more worrying.  He appealed to all, especially those with resources, to ramp up their assistance for refugees.  “Cutting humanitarian agencies to the bone leaves them exposed, as well of course as those they serve, at precisely the time when we need to have a strong, well-resourced aid system so that amidst political failures, we can at least save people’s lives and alleviate their suffering,” he said.

The High Commissioner noted progress in areas such as strengthened partnerships for development.  Solutions for refugees include increased resettlement places, complementary pathways that provide jobs and scholarships, and a reduction in statelessness.  He reminded Member States that, in just six weeks, stakeholders will gather in Geneva for the second Global Refugee Forum.  While it is coming at a time when the world is more divided than it has been in living memory, he urged all to put grievances aside and focus together on protecting, helping and finding solutions for 114 million displaced people.  

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates voiced concern over the unprecedented growth in the number of displaced people due to the increase in conflicts and the devastating impact of climate change and other natural disasters.  Nearly 90 per cent of those uprooted from their homes live in low- and middle-income countries, they noted.

The representative of Nigeria stressed the need to address the root causes of displacement and ensure the safety of millions affected by conflict, violence and climate change, noting that the forcibly displaced are among the world’s most vulnerable. 

Turning to international response, the representative of Egypt said more needs to be done to promote equitable burden and responsibility sharing for refugees.  In the same vein, the delegate for Greece noted that his country receives large numbers of migrants and refugees relative to its population. 

Focusing on the millions of refugees already in displacement, the Swiss delegate said the priority should be to support host countries in facilitating the economic and social inclusion of refugees in their national systems.

High among solutions identified by the UNHCR head is the safe and dignified return of refugees once conditions in their homelands allow.  In this vein, the representative of Syria emphasized the importance of preparing the environment for refugees’ dignified return to his country, noting the need for cooperation in rebuilding.

The Committee then held a general debate on the topic, with the delegate of China urging Member States to address both the symptoms and the root causes of forced displacement.  They should provide solutions focusing on peace and development in refugees’ countries of origin, facilitating peace talks, scaling up development assistance and upgrading conditions for their return.

Taking a similar line, the representative of Cameroon, on behalf of the African Group, said enhancing the burden and responsibility sharing mechanism is crucial in funding robust solutions to displacement in Africa, which is home to more than one third of the world’s forcibly displaced.  Voicing concern over growing challenges facing the forcibly displaced, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said a strong collective effort is required to support and ensure their dignity worldwide.

Interactive Dialogue ‑ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

In the afternoon, the Committee held an interactive dialogue featuring a presentation by Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Mr. GRANDI presented UNHCR’s report on questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions (document A/78/12).  He repeated calls by the Secretary-General for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, unhindered humanitarian access, the release of hostages, and a neglected peace process to begin again so that the repeated, and increasingly deadly, cycle of violence can finally end.  He shared the concerns of many about how the war can destabilize other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, where UNHCR is present with large operations, and where millions of refugees are anxiously watching its evolution.  Turning to the global picture, he said more than 114 million people have now been forced from their homes worldwide, up from 110 million in May 2023, nearly 90 per cent of whom live in low- and middle-income countries, making it a problem that can lead to further fragility.  The rise in the number of forcibly displaced is a symptom of growing or unresolved conflict in many places, often in combination with other causes.

Reviewing refugee statistics, he said the war in Sudan has pushed nearly 6 million people from their homes.  Violence continues unabated in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where nearly 1.5 million people have been uprooted this year.  Fighting and violations of international humanitarian law are widespread in parts of the Central Sahel, forcing people from their homes.  The climate emergency, combined with conflict, has forced nearly 900,000 people from their homes this year in Somalia.  Myanmar has seen over 400,000 people displaced by violence this year, while 100,000 refugees crossed to Armenia in just a few days last month.  Each of these statistics is a man, woman or child whose life has been destroyed.

While the number of crises grow, UNHCR has had to declare a record 46 emergencies in 32 countries in the past 12 months, he said.  The inability of States to prevent and end conflict will soon make the humanitarian agenda grow beyond its capacity to scale up and sustain responses.  Humanitarian operations are sorely underfunded.  UNHCR alone faces a shortfall of $600 million in 2023, and the outlook for 2024 is even more worrying, he said, appealing to all for help.  Cutting humanitarian agencies to the bone leaves them exposed, as well as those they serve, at precisely the time that a strong, well-resourced aid system is needed.

Highlighting gains, he said UNHCR has made remarkable strides in strengthening partnerships with development partners.  The World Bank isincreasing its involvement with refugee responses through direct support to host Governments, enabling them to include refugees in national programmes.  He urged host countries to become involved in such programmes, as they provide much-needed and substantial complements to purely humanitarian responses.  UNHCR is also pursuing solutions,including through increased resettlement places and complementary pathways such as labour mobility programmes, scholarships, and other mechanisms.  Reducing Statelessness has also been an area of progress, and refugee inclusion remains a key priority.  The agency also continues to prioritize work in countries of origin, among them Afghanistan, where nearly 200,000 displaced Afghans and around 20,000 refugees have returned in the past 18 months.  In just six weeks, Member States and other stakeholders will gather in Geneva for the second Global Refugee Forum.  The meeting comes at a difficult time.  The world is more divided today than it has been in living memory.  He urged Member States to do whatever they can to put grievances aside and focus together on protecting, helping and finding solutions for the 114 million people worldwide who are justified in feeling aggrieved.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates voiced concern over the unprecedented growth in the number of displaced people, noting that, due to the increase in conflicts and the devastating impact of climate change and other natural disasters, a record figure of 110 million people was reached in 2023.

Among the delegates was the representative of Switzerland, who underscored that the priority is to support host countries in facilitating the economic and social inclusion of refugees in their national systems.  Also, given the growing impact of climate change, it is crucial to increase investment in mitigation, adaptation and resilience capacities.

The representative of the United States recognized the need to provide protection and critical services to refugees, including access to educational services.  Stressing the need to empower refugees to achieve long-term success, he asked UNHCR about partnerships to make educational services more widely available to refugees.

The representative of Nigeria, emphasizing that refugees and internally displaced persons are among the most vulnerable groups in the world, stressed the need to address root causes of displacement and ensure the safety of millions of those affected by conflict, violence and climate change.

The representative of Afghanistan said Afghan refugees have endured more than four decades of forced displacement due to protracted conflicts and man-made disasters.  Voicing concern over the vulnerable situation of Afghan refugees, which leaves them in need of protection, he asked the High Commissioner to comment on the deportation of 1.4 million Afghan refugees from Pakistan. 

Venezuela’s delegate, on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, asked about the impact of unilateral coercive measures on refugees.

“Is the model broken?”, asked Canada’s delegate, adding that the international community might rethink ways of raising money from Governments and the private sector.

The delegate for Ukraine noted that, almost 20 months after the Russian Federation's invasion, more than 11 million Ukrainians are still displaced and called upon UNHCR to focus on programmes that support resilience, recovery and reintegration efforts. 

The representative of Egypt said more needs to be done to promote equitable burden and responsibility sharing for refugees.  Taking up the theme, the delegate for Malta noted that more than 80 per cent of refugees are hosted by low- and middle-income countries and asked how greater capacity and responsibility sharing can be encouraged without exacerbating existing financial burdens of hosting nations.

On the same topic, the delegate for Greece, noting that his country receives large numbers of migrants and refugees relative to its population, asked how other countries can be encouraged or mobilize to do more for people in need of international protection. 

The representative of Armenia asked what mechanisms can be employed to facilitate the voluntary, safe return of refugees under the umbrella of UNHCR, since it is obvious that people will not go back to their places of origin without meaningful international guarantees.  The representative of Lebanon asked how UNHCR is assisting local communities in Syria to support returning refugees.  Echoing Lebanon, the representative of Syria emphasized the importance of preparing the environment for refugees’ dignified return and noted the need for cooperation on rebuilding.

The delegate for Bangladesh asked how humanitarian operations will continue to respond as conflicts keep growing, and how UNHCR can help highlight the unquantified costs borne by the host countries. 

The delegate for Algeria asked how the non-earmarked funding model impacts UNHCR’s work on the ground. 

The representative of China said the international community, especially developed countries, should honor their commitments and provide refugee-hosting countries financial and technical assistance to increase assistance to refugees.

The delegate for Sudan asked, in the context of large-scale displacement in her country, what the most effective methods are to address their humanitarian needs.

The representative of Cameroon asked what strategy is in place to ensure access to education for refugee and internally displaced children, including through information and communication technologies, and what support UNHCR can give regarding the right to family reunification.

The representative of Denmark, on behalf of the Nordic countries — Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden — called the increasing gap between needs and funding deeply worrying and asked about key outcomes expected from the upcoming Global Refugee Forum. 

In response, Mr. GRANDI recalled the 67 staff of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) who were killed, noting that international humanitarian law prohibits the targeting of civilians, including humanitarian workers. Increased investment in staff security is needed.  Given challenges the Agency is facing in humanitarian funding, it is important to look at new models, he said, noting that cooperation with the World Bank is one, as is systematic utilization of Islamic funding.  Earmarked funding is indeed a big issue, as only 12 per cent of total funding that his office received last year was not, he said, appealing for funds to be given without restriction.  The model is indeed inadequate and needs refreshing, he said, noting a $600 million gap that needs filling in the meantime. 

The Global Refugee Forum will not be a pledging conference but a way to share good practices and information, featuring a whole of society ‑ not just States ‑ approach, he said.  States must avoid politicization, he stressed, noting that his office is not politicized.  It is important that international support help Iran host Afghan refugees, he said, calling on Pakistan to deal humanely with unregistered Afghans in the country, who will face high risk if they are returned. Refugees can only return to the Karabakh voluntarily and with a larger political agreement, which his office does not have a hand on.  The office will be available to help with the voluntary return of both Armenian and Azerbaijani refugees.  More generally, two things are needed for the return of refugees ‑ building of trust to ensure the returned population’s security, and early recovery measures. His office is focusing on the displaced population in Ukraine itself, as its needs are more acute than those of other hosting countries, he said, noting that aid is humanitarian and geared toward early recovery. 

General Debate 

BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, expressed concern about growing challenges faced by refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, Stateless people and host communities.  A strong collective effort is required to support and ensure the dignity of forcibly displaced persons around the world.  Condemning the increasing number of international humanitarian law violations, he underscored that humanitarian access and space must always be safeguarded and the safety of aid and medical workers ensured by parties to conflict, be they State or non-State actors.  In 2022, total humanitarian aid contributions by the European Union reached 12.2 billion euros, 30 per cent of global humanitarian funding.  Most of it is allocated to projects addressing the needs of forcibly displaced persons and host communities.

In 2023, the European Union adopted commitments to mobilize more resources, improve performance, reduce needs and reach out to emerging and potential humanitarian donors, he pointed out.  The right to seek and enjoy asylum and the principle of non-refoulement remain at the heart of European law, policy and action.  “We are grateful to Governments and host communities who have generously taken in forcibly displaced persons worldwide,” he said, noting the Union’s contribution to global resettlement efforts.  In this regard, the upcoming second Global Refugee Forum is an important stepping stone for all actors to mobilize renewed and enhanced commitment and cooperation to jointly solve the plight of refugees. Given the challenges of forced displacement, mobilizing resources and supporting host countries remains of paramount importance. 

ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela), on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, called for the provision of international protection to the heroic Palestinian people who have endured years of brutal aggression.  He emphasized that the United Nation’s founding Charter included the promotion of friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principles of equal rights, self-determination and the settlement of disputes through dialogue and cooperation.  These political foundations are increasingly under threat by the advent of unilateral tendencies that are attempting to undermine the validity of multilateralism, he said.  The Group of Friends sees unilateralism, extremism, exceptionalism and foreign interventionism as root causes of global crises that generate massive human displacements around the world.

Separately, he noted that human action based on a model of unequal economic accumulation and exploitation of resources has exacerbated the current climate catastrophe. Unfortunately, these circumstances also result in mobility crises that must be addressed through solidarity and cooperation.  He urged all parties to operate in strict compliance with national and international legislation and to prevent their work from being misused for economic or commercial advantage by some sectors interested in profiting from human tragedies, and in prolonging them indefinitely.  He said the Group of Friends reaffirms its willingness to collaborate at the national, regional and international levels on this important matter, while reiterating the importance of addressing issues inherent to its mandate. 

Ms. RASMUSSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said this decade has been a sad milestone, with a record number of newly displaced persons.  Worse, 67 per cent of the world’s refugees are in protracted situations.  The issue affects not only the 10 million displaced people themselves, but countries hosting them, she said, highlighting their generosity.  Hailing the work of UNHCR, she underlined that human rights law must be respected by all parties to conflict, providing humanitarian access and aid to those in need.  While the last decade has been turbulent, the international community has also taken important steps, such as adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Compact on Refugees. 

The Nordic countries remain fully committed to solidarity and burden sharing, she said, welcoming UNHCR’s efforts to advocate for the protection of refugees, specifically efforts to prevent and mitigate sexual and gender-based violence, as the issue is of particular importance to her group.  She hailed other measures ensuring an age, gender and diversity approach to make crisis responses inclusive, without discrimination due to disability, sexual orientation or other factors.  Drivers of displacement are more complex and protracted, she said, noting that nexus approaches, including multiple sustainable development factors, are needed.  She further welcomed expanded cooperation with development partners, including the World Bank.  Moreover, she welcomed UNHCR’s focus on climate action, calling on it to step up its efforts in addressing climate change-induced displacement.  We need national ownership as well as the engagement of all humanitarian and development actors to address the needs of displaced persons, she said, looking forward to the Global Refugee Forum to strengthen the Global Compact on Refugees. 

Mr. AL JARADI (Oman), speaking on behalf of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, emphasized the Council’s desire to provide aid to refugees and support every person in need.  Voicing concern over the increasing number of displaced persons and refugees worldwide, she condemned the activities carried out by the illegal Israeli occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, rejecting any plans to deport Palestinian people.  She also called for the full protection of displaced persons in Gaza who suffer from indiscriminate shelling, stressing the importance of reaching a ceasefire, and applauded efforts made by Member States to ensure health and food support for refugees.

NELLY BANAKEN ELEL (Cameroon), on behalf of the African Group, expressed concern at the rising number of refugees and displaced people worldwide and emphasized the need to develop a holistic approach to addressing large movements of people in Africa.  The continent, she said, is home to more than one third of the world’s forcibly displaced people, including more than 6 million refugees and asylum seekers and almost 15 million internally displaced people.  She said UNHCR and some of its partners ensured that displaced people have access to training, and the agency also works to reduce and prevent statelessness. However, the African Group is concerned that several national humanitarian programmes remain substantially underfunded.  It is therefore crucial that the burden and responsibility sharing mechanism be enhanced to fund robust solutions, taking into account the impact of the ongoing global food, energy, economic and financial crises and the adverse effects of climate change.

In this regard, the African Group calls for increased international solidarity and renewed political commitment to address the challenges of financing and creating an enabling environment for sustainable development and economic growth, particularly in developing countries hosting the greatest share of refugees globally, she said. The increase in number of refugees and displaced people in Africa in recent years raises a number of concerns, which include increased pressure on country resources, particularly in the areas of health, education, infrastructure and social services.  The African Group reaffirms the importance of the Global Compact on Refugees and recognizes the centrality of the principle of international solidarity and the importance of burden and responsibility sharing for the implementation of the Global Compact.  In this regard, the Group looks forward to the upcoming Global Refugee Forum in December in Geneva to take stock of pledges and initiatives since the last meeting in 2019. 

MOHAMED OMAR ELFAROUK HASSAN MOHAMED (Egypt), aligning with the African Group, said UNHCR’s report highlights that a growing number of refugees, displaced by factors beyond their control, must either wait for conditions to be appropriate for voluntary return or integrate into their host countries.  Egypt continues to uphold its commitment to refugees and displaced persons, giving them the same access to services that citizens have.  Egypt has always fulfilled its duties to refugees and displaced persons out of moral obligation and will continue to do so. International efforts must be pooled to find lasting solutions, and necessary resources must be allocated to host countries in the best interest of refugees.  Implementing the Global Compact on Refugees must also be prioritized as well as political solutions to crises producing refugee flows in the first place.  Voicing concern over UNHCR’s funding shortage, he called on the international community to make necessary contributions.

HADI HACHEM (Lebanon) said that, 12 years after the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, his country continues to suffer under the burden of hosting more than 2 million displaced persons.  Waves of displacement burden Lebanon, and their repercussions affect all fields of life in the country.  Despite many positive developments —including negotiations between Syria and Türkiye — Syrians constitute over 42 per cent of Lebanon’s population. Such developments demographically and existentially threaten Lebanon, he said, rejecting the strategy followed by UNHCR. Lebanon can no longer wait for a political solution, he said, voicing concern over the 12-year vicious circle faced by his country.  Instead, UNCHR must provide incentives to displaced persons and refugees to go back to safe areas in Syria.  To this end, Lebanon’s Government and the United Nations must work together, he asserted, adding:  “The current situation cannot continue; we either work together or an explosion is definitely coming.”

ZHANG SISI (China) said the global refugee situation continues to worsen.  Most refugees are in developing countries, where they place a heavy burden on economic and social development as well as security.  She stressed the need to address both the symptoms and the root causes of forced displacement.  Member States should provide solutions focusing on peace and development in refugees’ countries of origin, facilitating peace talks, scaling up development assistance and upgrading conditions for their return.  Developed countries should honor their commitments of assistance and scale up efforts.  Additionally, humanitarian issues should not be politicized, she said, adding that protection of civilians should be a priority for all parties. She expressed deep sympathy with the people of Gaza and solemnly called on the parties to the conflict to cease all hostilities and reach a humanitarian truce. 

VATHAYUDH VICHANKAIYAKIJ (Thailand) voiced alarm that the number of forcibly displaced people has more than doubled in the past decade to over 108 million, underscoring the importance for the international community to redouble its efforts.  Burden and responsibility sharing must be upheld, he said, noting that the forthcoming second Global Refugee Forum will be an opportunity to demonstrate more solidarity and underscoring that the Rohingya population hosted in Bangladesh should receive assistance.  In that vein, Bangladesh and transit countries should not carry responsibility for the refugee population on their own, she underscored.  Conflict-induced displacement requires both humanitarian assistance and addressing the root causes.  As a host and transit country, Thailand aids displaced persons and respects the principle of non-refoulement.  The country also launched its National Screening Mechanism for displaced persons to streamline their access to health care and education, she added, highlighting further work to resolve statelessness. 

SYLVIA PAOLA MENDOZA ELGUEA (Mexico) said that, in the 1970s, Mexico received refugees fleeing dictatorships, and in the 1980s and 1990s, it received refugees fleeing war in Central America, noting her country’s cooperation with the UNHCR.  Mexico is now a final destination country for many refugees, she noted.  Ranking fourth worldwide in refugee applications, the country set up offices along borders and hopes for better bilateral agreements with the United States, she said. Mexico will cooperate with UNHCR, International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the region to fulfill its obligations.  To that end, the Government has implemented programmes, including “Youth Building the Future”.  Humanitarian assistance is vital to supporting UNHCR, but not enough, she said, calling on the international community to address the underlying causes of displacement.  Focus must be given to addressing conflicts and the capacity of institutions must be strengthened to find lasting solutions.

ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada) said the 110 million refugees and internally displaced worldwide are not a simple statistic, but an incredible human story of resilience and hope, which compels States’ cooperation towards a lasting solution.  He drew attention to the notion of human dignity and respect for the principle of non-refoulement.  Highlighting the importance of collective efforts to reduce humanitarian needs, improve good governance, mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure respect for humanitarian law, he voiced concern over the shortage of humanitarian funding.  The displacement crisis is mostly felt by low- and middle-income countries that have shown enormous generosity in hosting almost 76 per cent of the world’s displaced population, despite economic and institutional challenges they face.  In promoting durable solutions, the meaningful participation of refugees themselves is key, he emphasized.

MUHAMMAD USMAN IQBAL JADOON (Pakistan) said much more needs to be done to support refugees in developing countries like Pakistan, including through the following measures:  first, it is critical to reach out to new partners, States and institutions for enhanced humanitarian funding; second, UNHCR, while devising its global operations policy, should be sensitive to local requirements of refugee-hosting countries; third, given that 85 per cent of refugees continue to be hosted by developing countries with limited resources, the burden becomes more difficult and disproportionate.  In that regard, development-financing instruments need to be redesigned and implemented in ways that do not worsen the already existing high debt burdens of refugee-hosting countries, he said. 

IGOR PILIPENKO (Belarus), aligning with the Group of Friends in the Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, noted the negative effects of unilateral coercive measures on refugees.  Conflicts do not take place in a vacuum, he said, noting that they occur for reasons.  Moreover, food insecurity can be due to sanctions by a well-known group of countries. Belarus has discharged its commitments to UNHCR, he said, acknowledging the agency in that regard, as well as its help organizing refugee reception from Ukraine.  Settlement of refugees is impossible without cooperation, he said, adding that it is counterproductive to block cooperation for political reasons. He called on UNHCR to ensure cooperation and dialogue with all affected States.  Hailing the Global Compact on Refugees, he called on UNHCR to include the impact of unilateral coercive measures in the next report.

Ms. MORUKE (South Africa), aligning herself with the African Group, said that, in light of her country’s history of institutionalized racial discrimination, her Government’s priority is to ensure that refugees and internally displaced persons have the right to life and security. Out of 110 million refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide, 41 million are hosted in Africa, she said, stressing the need to address the root causes of displacement. In this regard, post-conflict reconstruction and development are crucial.  Also, it is necessary to safeguard the credibility of international humanitarian law, combat human trafficking, ensure that those who need international protection receive it and reinforce collaboration with UNHCR though voluntary contributions.

ESCOPPER ZUMILLA MICHAEL JAWA (Malaysia) voiced shock over the escalation of the conflict in Gaza by Israel, resulting in mass displacement of Palestinians, and underscored his condemnation for Israel’s heinous acts.  Currently, Malaysia hosts approximately 200,000 asylum seekers, most of them Rohingya from Myanmar.  While the country is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Malaysia continues to provide humanitarian assistance to asylum seekers and refugees to the best of its ability, he said, noting that UNCHR card holders have access to health care at a discounted rate in comparison to expatriates to ensure education for refugee children.  The continued influx of asylum seekers and refugees, exacerbated by escalating conflicts and unrest, is increasing the strain on national resources of host countries. Further compounding this situation is the slow resettlement process to third countries, and the absence of prospects for asylum seekers and refugees due to the lack of skills or education, he stressed.

NATHALIA SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA (Colombia) called once again on Israel and Palestine to renew dialogue and start a peace process.  Echoing the calls of the majority of UN Member States, she urged an immediate end to hostilities, guaranteed access to humanitarian assistance in Gaza and other territories affected by the conflict, and the upholding of international humanitarian law.  She thanked UNHCR for supporting her country’s efforts to address migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.  She voiced hope that Colombia, as the co-convener of the second Global Refugee Forum, can draw from best practices and lessons learned and find an institutional response to address migratory flows and needs of displaced populations.  She further expressed hope that commitments made at the Forum will address the triple humanitarian-development-peace nexus to advance the consolidation of peace in various territories.

FATEMEH ARAB BAFRANI (Iran) noted that her country has hosted refugees displaced from foreign military interventions in the region for decades now.  Regardless of their status, Iran provides health, education and other social services to refugees and foreign displaced persons.  To that end, more than 700,000 students have been registered in public schools per academic year, and foreign nationals with incurable diseases receive free medical services.  Vaccinations are also provided for free.  Hospitality by developing countries must not be taken for granted, she said, noting that the United States’ unilateral coercive measures have adversely affected refugees living in her country as only a limited amount of relevant assistance is provided, despite the humanitarian exemption to the sanctions.  Worse, the large influx of Afghan refugees in border regions following the United States withdrawal from the nation has put a strain on education, employment, energy and water. 

OUMAROU GANOU (Burkina Faso), voicing concern over major humanitarian challenges facing the world, welcomed UNHCR’s commitment to the protection of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons.  In Burkina Faso, refugees and asylum seekers are welcomed every year, he said, adding that they were estimated at 36,000 in June 2023. In addition to continuing registration activities and issuing documents to people who have lost everything in their forced displacement, Burkina Faso is currently strengthening its legal system. This will contribute to the fight against statelessness, he stressed.  To strengthen the resilience of these people, his Government has also adopted a national strategy for the recovery of internally displaced persons and host communities with a three-year operational action plan (2023 to 2025). 

Mr. SURKOV (Russian Federation), stressing that the climate change issue has received increasing attention from UNHCR, while this is unjustified and outside its mandate, noted UNHCR’s efforts to deal with Ukrainian internally displaced persons and refugees. He stressed that, since 2014, hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine have fled.  “Since 2022, more than 5 million people were forced to leave Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts in Ukraine and moved to other regions of Russia,” he said, adding that Western countries do not show the same political will when it comes to refugees from other regions, who are not from Ukraine.  He emphasized that the situation in the Mediterranean looks especially tragic, as hundreds of people continue to die there.  Recalling that over 50,000 Syrians returned to their country last year, he noted that UNHCR admitted it “did not promote or facilitate the return of refugees to Syria”, while repatriation to Syria would be much more significant had such facilitation been provided.

KATHERINE ANAS AHMAD AL-HALIQUE (Jordan) said Jordan ranks second today in the world’s refugee-hosting countries with more than 300 million refugees. Palestinians and Syrians comprise most of the refugee population.  A model in terms of refugee crisis management, Jordan provides access to health and education for all.  The country faces challenges in hosting refugees, however, mainly due to the financial strain.  She also spotlighted a lack of funding for UNRWA, calling on increased assistance so the Agency can fulfil its mandate in Gaza.  She reiterated the importance of UNRWA in protecting Palestinian refugees’ rights, noting that it must continue providing financial and psychological support to Palestinian refugees until a solution can be found internationally. Further, the Syrian crisis is only getting worse, she said, calling on the international community to ensure that Syrians can return as well as stability in the country.

Mr. SHAMAN (Saudi Arabia), aligning himself with the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, applauded efforts made by UNHCR and voiced concern over the rising number of refugees due to armed conflict and natural disasters.  Stressing that 40 per cent of displaced persons and refugees are children facing numerous threats, he underlined the need to mitigate their suffering and ensure full realization of their rights.  Spotlighting his Government’s humanitarian assistance projects, he said it has supported UNHCR’s efforts in Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Jordan and Bangladesh through financial support, coordination, monitoring and capacity-building. Saudi Arabia is among countries hosting the greatest number of refugees, he added.  Turning to the situation in Palestine, he categorically rejected displacing people in the Gaza strip and called on the international community to put an end to military escalation, protect civilians and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

For information media. Not an official record.