Statement by H.E. Archbishop Celestino Migliore
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy
Before the Third Committee of the
60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
on item 39: Report of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
York, 9 November 2005
Having read the Report of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees,
returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions, my delegation
salutes the work of the UNHCR, especially that undertaken in the most dangerous
and difficult of circumstances.
Since the movement of peoples was acknowledged in the last century, serious
attempts have been made at the international level to find solutions to the
problems associated with this important humanitarian question.
Although there has been a recent
decline in refugees specifically, the number of people of direct concern to
UNHCR has increased worldwide to some 19 million, including asylum-seekers,
returnees, IDPs and others at risk in the world. The scale alone of this human
phenomenon merits every international attention.
The High Commissioner for Refugees
has recently underscored the UNHCR’s role as a protection agency, whose actions
must be protection-minded and judged by their protection implications. Given
that each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations
from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, this
concept, as reflected in the World Summit Outcome document, has rightly gained
acceptance for humanitarian reasons. Protection of those in distress and
assistance to them go hand in hand with lucid analysis and public awareness of
the causes of humanitarian crises; but crises by their very nature demand swift
action and predictable funding.
In terms of the UNHCR mandate, the
concept of protection has long-term consequences, especially in the case of the
vast majority of refugees who are living in protracted refugee situations.
Protection, not just defence from outside hostile forces, touches the whole
spectrum of human rights of those forced to flee. Such rights remain constant
during all phases of repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and
Protection firstly includes
safeguarding the people’s physical security and the full enjoyment of their
rights. Secondly, it includes creating a safe environment, especially for women,
children, the elderly and the disabled. The design and implementation of all
prevention and response measures need to ensure in particular the protection of
women and children from all forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.
Thirdly, protection means assuring adequate nutrition, a perennial problem in
refugee situations. Facing the nutritional challenge also involves States
granting refugees the necessary freedom of movement and residence and the right
to a livelihood.
The question of sustained voluntary
repatriation deserves re-examination. This involves not just return in safety
and dignity, but also social and economic aspects of post-conflict
reconstruction by establishing in particular an effective link between
humanitarian relief and sustainable development. Concretely, that means the
restoration of infrastructure, health, education, agriculture, employment and
priority access to food.
The inability to address internal
displacement is now considered the single biggest failure in the humanitarian
action of the international community. Protection needs are not related to
whether borders are crossed or not. A reliable system, embedded in an
appropriate institutional framework, could play an effective role in responding
to the security and protection needs of the internally displaced and in helping
the concerned local authorities fulfil their responsibility towards the
Finally, as the concept of
Peacebuilding is being fleshed out, it would be well to include in it a focus on
returnees. Their repatriation should always take place with adequate funding,
for the sake of the returnees themselves, but also in order to maintain the
standards set by the UNHCR itself.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.