Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, during a press conference for UNHCR's annual Global Trends report on forced displacement at the UN European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. 16 June 2020 | Photo: EPA/SALVATORE DI NOLFI
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, during a press conference for UNHCR's annual Global Trends report on forced displacement at the UN European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. 16 June 2020 | Photo: EPA/SALVATORE DI NOLFI

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, speaking on the 70th anniversary of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said the organization is "not in the mood to celebrate," and recalled that the number of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people in the world continues to grow.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR "dedicated to protecting people forced to flee", turned 70 years old on Monday. In a statement, the organization recalled that it was founded on 14 December, 1950 with the adoption of its statute by the UN General Assembly.

"For seven decades, the UN Refugee Agency has worked tirelessly to protect those forced to flee. Given the rising number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people in the world, this is no time to celebrate. However, our 70th anniversary allows us to reflect on the dedication of UNHCR personnel, past and present, and on the fundamental importance of our mandate to aid the most vulnerable," the statement said.

Over 80 million refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced or stateless

"UNHCR colleagues past and present take great pride in the differences they have made, in the lives they have protected, changed and saved," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

"They take pride in rising to new challenges, such as the impact of climate change or, most recently, the coronavirus pandemic - factors which magnify the already significant problems posed by displacement. At the same time, they wish they didn't have to do it. If warring parties would agree ceasefires, if displaced people could return home safely, if governments shared the responsibility of resettlement, if states would keep to their obligations under international law regarding asylum and the principle of non-refoulement, then we at UNHCR would have much less to worry about," he said.

The statement recalled that UNHCR was founded with a time-limited and geographically specific mandate to help Europeans who were uprooted by the Second World War. However, reality ended up being much different.

Today over 80 million people are refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced or stateless, according to the new UNHCR report Mid-Year Trends.

UNHCR operates in 135 countries in the world.

'Need for better shared responsibility'

"Solutions through voluntary return, integration and resettlement are unable to keep pace with new forced displacements," UNHCR said.

"We need better shared responsibility on an international level, otherwise this gap could become unbridgeable. At the same time, we need concerted international action and the political will to solve new and prolonged conflicts and crises. World leaders must do better in promoting peace and stability if they want to put an end to the cycle of violence, suffering and forced migration.

"However, there is reason to hope. The 2018 Global Compact on Refugees established a public-private project with the involvement of humanitarian and development agencies to strengthen cooperation and solidarity with refugees and host countries.

"The first Global Forum on Refugees in December 2019 allowed for sharing best practices and brought economic support and political commitments on solutions and protection. UNHCR is part of a global effort to create a more just and sustainable world. While the UN turns 75 and we turn 70, no one must be left behind," the statement said.

 

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