Statement at the UNSC Briefing by UNHCR
Statement02 November 2022
Thank you Mr. President,
And thank you, High Commissioner, for your briefing today. Once again, a sobering briefing. But the dedication of your team, Filippo, and all UNHCR staff to alleviate suffering of refugee populations gives us hope. It demonstrates our collective will to address displacement, even if we are failing to demonstrate an equal will to address the root causes.
Hunger, climate events, and the economic crisis are all driving displacement. But, as you told the Executive Committee in Geneva last month, conflict remains the biggest driver of forced displacement.
So I think around this table we need to be frank and clear. You are doing your job Mr. High Commissioner; we are not doing ours.
As a Security Council we are failing to live up to our mandate to prevent and to resolve conflict. And the forced displacement and related suffering of millions is the consequence.
The numbers speak for themselves – we have heard today more than 100 million people displaced:
1.3 million internally displaced in Myanmar and 670,000 Rohinyga refugees outside;
More than 7 million Venezuelans forced to escape hunger, violence and deprivation;
4.2 million people displaced, many due to the ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia;
7 million Afghans have fled Taliban violence and repression;
And 6.6 million refugees forced to flee the conflict in Syria, with another almost 7 million internally displaced and in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
Each of these situations on our agenda – or that should be on our agenda - represent a failure to prevent or address conflict.
But, even worse, nine months ago one UN member state chose to wage war against another.
A member of this Council. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine spurred the greatest displacement of people on the European continent since WW2. It has also accelerated a global food insecurity crisis, further driving displacement and suffering across Africa, the Middle East and beyond.
6.2 million people are now internally displaced in Ukraine and 7.7m million Ukrainians are refugees.
Ireland has welcomed and given shelter to tens of thousands from Ukrainians. In doing the same, many of us here have experienced refugee inflows at scale for the first time.
It has been a sobering and humbling experience. An experience that I hope will translate to greater solidarity with long term and large-scale refugee hosting countries – such as Kenya. But also Bangladesh, Lebanon, Turkey, Colombia, Uganda, Germany and Pakistan.
A changing climate is shifting the calculation for refugees and displaced persons. Future returns, always difficult, may now be impossible.
The link between climate and displacement is irrefutable. Climate crises threaten lives and livelihoods and contribute to instability and conflict. Ireland asserts that to fully understand conflict drivers, and consequences such as displacement, the Security Council has a responsibility to understand the impacts of climate on security.
We already see the evidence across our agenda. Startlingly so in the Horn of Africa where millions bear the disproportionate consequences of conflict, hunger and climate. Greater humanitarian aid is needed for the Horn but it won’t be enough. We must redouble the Council’s attention to instability, conflict and the pursuit of peace.
We cannot address the needs of millions of displaced persons without humanitarian access. Those blocking aid delivery must cease and facilitate immediate unhindered access. There can be no impunity for those who target humanitarian actors. Nor for those who seek to use starvation as a weapon of war. The Council must ensure accountability for violations of IHL.
Gang violence has internally displaced more than 115,000 people in Haiti. Adding to those already displaced by the earthquake.
Many Haitians are undertaking precarious journeys to seek refugee protection. They should not be turned away nor sent back.
Last month, this Council used one of its tools and established a new sanctions regime for Haiti. That resolution included an important carve out to ensure the vital work of UNHCR and other humanitarians is unhindered by sanctions.
This is an important principle for any sanctions regime. And, as the United States mentioned, that is why Ireland is working with the United States to put forward a proposal to mainstream a humanitarian carve out across all sanction regimes. And I took note of your comments in that regard, High Commissioner. The Council has a responsibility to use the tools available when required. But these have to be effective and without unintended consequences for humanitarian efforts.
The High Commissioner and his colleagues are doing their job. What more can we do?
First, as the High Commissioner asked us at the beginning, we must do better.
We must redouble our efforts to support inclusive political solutions that can end violence, stem displacement, facilitate humanitarian access and allow safe return. We must do so without fear or favour.
Second, we must hear directly from refugees and displaced people; those bearing the brunt of our inaction and inadequacy. Those whose eyes the High Commissioner asked us to look through as we look at this issue. And we must fulfil our mandate and end the persistent conflicts driving displacement in the countries and regions on our agenda.
In closing Mr President,
I want to reiterate Ireland’s steadfast support to the High Commissioner and to UNHCR. Ireland’s funding to UNHCR continues to grow. Our core funding is at its highest level ever. We will continue to advocate for those who seek shelter as refugees and IDPs and we will work with you, High Commissioner, to provide humanitarian support. We know that your work would be so much easier if we, in this Council, did ours better. .