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UNHCR - Executive Committee -Denmark’s statement in the general debate on 5 October

UNHCR, 66th ExCom, General Debate on 5 October 2015,
Denmark, Ambassador Carsten Staur, Permanent Representative
I want to begin by acknowledging that UNHCR today is in a much stronger place than   it was10 years ago. And that much of the credits for that belong the High Commissioner personally.  You have always been a strong and staunch advocate for the people of concern of UNHCR. In fact, you have managed to make them the concern of all of us. As they should be. We commend you for that achievement.

Still, the challenges haven’t actually diminished these past ten years. On the contrary. They have grown in almost all manners possible, especially over the last 5-6 years. More crises. Deeper crises. More protracted crises. More lives lost.

We are witnessing a turn in the wrong direction at the global level. UNHCR has had to continually adjust its response to new situations, while at the same time the various existing crises have become more complex and regional in scope.  Clearly, all this put great strains on the organisation in terms of operational response, effectiveness and - not least – the security and pressure on its staff. It also calls for increased demands for generosity from both donors and host countries.

The challenges facing the organization are real, significant and overwhelming. But let us also reflect on all what is actually achieved. Let us remember the millions of people around the globe that receive protection due to UNHCR. Let us celebrate that some 230.000 refugees in 2014 found a durable solution – either as being able to return to their country of origin or being resettled. While the number is small, the vision is not. And we must all do more to assist UNHCR achieving that vision. Let us also bear in mind that although the gap between needs and available funds grows bigger, the funding level has never been higher. Donors are stepping up, although still not commensurate with the increase in needs.

It is almost impossible to say something new about the Syria-Iraq-crisis. This devastating conflict, this terrible civil war, will in March next year enter into its 5th year and thus, by definition, become another protracted crisis. This is simply not acceptable. It is extremely discouraging and discomforting to realize how little progress there is in finding a political solution to this conflict.

Some of the countries present here today as ExCom-members are  also members of the Security Council, others are members of regional organisations and other fora where they – we, all of us – could exert more influence. The political inaction has incredible and brutal costs in both human lives and ever growing humanitarian needs. No one should be left behind, our leaders agreed last week in New York. Here we leave a whole generation of Syrians and Syrian children behind.

That the humanitarian system is financially broke, but not systemically broken is an often made observation, also by the High Commissioner this morning. The system is clearly almost bankrupt, calling for increased focus on fundraising, organisational efficiency and working methods, including better cooperation between agencies and between humanitarian and development actor. We fully agree with the High Commissioner on this.  Therefore, we also need to look for new types of assistance that is focused on strengthening resilience and not least on increased self-reliance and achieving solutions for refugees and IDP’s. This will be an issue on which we will focus even more in the time to come.

UNHCR must lead the way in finding new approaches when responding to protracted displacement – and in finding solutions. It is not for UNHCR to carry the entire burden. Instead, UNHCR must play a catalytic role in engaging a much broader range of actors around these overall and important goals. In this, UNHCR must be a principled watchdog but also a constructive partner in building relevant response strategies together with other key actors.

UNHCR is dependent on its partners, be they NGOs or other UN agencies, funds and programmes. The question is, however, whether UNHCR has been able to fully reap the benefits of working with these partners. It is our impression that UNHCR often is dealing with its partners as implementing agents of an agenda that is entirely controlled by UNHCR itself. With the growing complexity and the ever more protracted nature of displacement and crisis, this is not an appropriate approach anymore.

We therefore call on UNHCR to redouble efforts to transform its existing partnerships into relevant strategic partnerships where partners are co-responsible for ensuring protection and in developing new solutions-oriented approaches to displacement, based on their own resources.

I thank you.