Thank you High Commissioner Grandi for your briefing. It is important that this Council is briefed on a regular basis on UNHCR activities and their relevance for our work. We appreciate this follow up to the briefing in April last year during our Presidency.
Germany appreciates the indispensable role of UNHCR in protecting and assisting millions of refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide. This is all the more important these days: While the pandemic is affecting everyone across the globe, its impact will be most devastating for people in most vulnerable situations, including refugees and displaced persons.
We commend the work of UNCHR’s staff who continue to provide protection and assistance to the most vulnerable – despite lockdown measures and often at the risk of their own health and safety. Prevention measures introduced in displacement sites so far have helped to avoid a major outbreak of COVID-19.
Germany has also supported UNHCR financially in their endeavor to keep those under its mandate safe from COVID-19: In reaction to the Global Humanitarian Response Plan and UNHCR’s COVID-19 Appeal, Germany provided 300 million EUR in additional funding; 35 million EUR especially for UNHCR. We provided overall funding in a way that gives organizations, including UNHCR, the leeway they need to adapt their humanitarian operations flexibly to the continuously changing situation and needs.
In the face of this crisis, we strongly believe that determined action, global solidarity and multilateralism are more needed than ever before. We strongly echo the High Commissioner’s statement that an effective response to the pandemic and respecting international refugee law and standards are not mutually exclusive. We call on all member states to ensure and protect the rights of refugees in their preventive measures, to safeguard humanitarian space and grant exemptions for humanitarian workers and goods.
More equitable burden-sharing is indispensable if we want to provide sustainable solutions for refugees and those who host them. Therefore it is very encouraging to see six months after the very successful first ever Global Refugee Forum that the implementation process of the many pledges and other instruments provided at the forum is progressing.
The impressive variety of pledges, good practices and new initiatives are indeed encouraging and require meaningful and dedicated implementation and follow up.
Germany as a co-Convener of the Global Refugee Forum is fully committed to further supporting the implementation process. We call upon all member states to contribute to the achievement of the compact’s objectives.
Today’s meeting can also help encourage the broader membership to engage in the follow-up process, mobilize serious commitments and make substantial contributions. This Council should stand firmly by UNHCR’s side in this endeavor.
On the country situations, the High Commissioner referred to a broad array of very important and relevant situations, talking about the Sahel, 4.5 million displaced Venezuelans, Myanmar, Sudan and South Sudan. I just want to limit my remarks to three specific situations. Firstly, we are deeply concerned about consistent reports on the humanitarian and human rights situation of refugees and migrants in Libya, in particular in detention centres.
Regarding overarching principles for the repatriation of refugees, we strongly appreciate UNHCR staying firm on the necessity of having key protection mechanisms in place as a precondition of any assisted voluntary repatriation. We recall once more that in case of refugees and IDPs, all repatriations must be voluntary, safe, dignified and well-informed.
We call for progress on providing the Rohingya refugees with a perspective for the future, which includes freedom of movement, a decent livelihood - and in the long run - a prospect of gaining Myanmar citizenship. We appreciate the willingness of the government of Bangladesh to continue hosting the Rohingya refugees.
In this context, I also want to speak about Syria: it is not the lack of infrastructure keeping IDPs and refugees from returning home. The main barrier is the climate of fear and injustice as well as the lack of rule of law in Syria. Damascus must provide credible and verifiable security guarantees that would allow for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Syrians to their country.
Meanwhile, crossborder humanitarian assistance remains fundamental to reach those in need in the Northwest and the Northeast of Syria. As co-penholder of the Syrian humanitarian file in this Council, Germany is strongly committed to supporting UNHCR and other humanitarian actors in securing as much humanitarian access as possible, more important than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahead of World Refugee Day this Saturday you reminded us that the number of displaced people has even further increased from last year’s record numbers; and that there is a strong need for humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors to further enhance their cooperation to effectively address today’s manifold and often protracted displacement situations and to foster durable solutions – in the interest of the displaced and those who host them.
You are aware of Germany’s ongoing work on the prevention of sexual violence in conflict situations. In the light of the COVID-19 crisis the prevalence of SGBV has risen to truly alarming levels. Against this backdrop, we encourage UNHCR to strongly focus on its protection mandate, in particular with regard to women and girls who are often the most marginalized in a displacement context.
Let me assure you that Germany will remain a committed and reliable partner and donor of UNHCR across the board of your activities, especially in these unprecedented times of COVID-19.