UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
More must be done to protect refugees, respect their rights and address the reasons why people leave their homes in the first place, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, meeting for the first time.
“Now more than ever, we need international cooperation and practical, effective responses. We need better answers for those who flee, and better help for communities and countries that receive and host them.” he said.
Speaking a year after countries signed the Global Compact on Refugees in New York – described by Guterres as the “blueprint” to reaffirm their human rights – the global forum comes after what experts have called “a decade of displacement”.
In his appeal for joint action, Guterres described the Global Compact on Refugees as “our collective achievement and our collective responsibility. It speaks to the plight of millions of people. And it speaks to the heart of the mission of the United Nations.”
In reference to the main international agreements that have for decades underpinned assistance to refugees, the Secretary-General said that there is a need today to “re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime”, based on the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol.
“Indeed, at a time when the right to asylum is under assault, when so many borders and doors are being closed to refugees, when even child refugees are being detained and divided from their families, we need to reaffirm the human rights of refugees,” Guterres said.
“This is a moment for ambition”, Guterres told delegates. “It is a moment to jettison a model of support that too often left refugees for decades with their lives on hold: confined to camps, just scraping by, unable to flourish or contribute. It is a moment to build a more equitable response to refugee crises through a sharing of responsibility.”
More than 70 million people are forcibly displaced – double the level 20 years ago, and 2.3 million more than just one year ago, according to UN data.
More than 25 million of them are refugees, having fled across international borders, unable to return to their homes.