Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Program
Protection Debate

Statement by the Government of Canada

Delivered by Mr. Andrew Shore Director Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Response Group DFATD to the 65th SESSION of the EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES

Geneva, 29 September – 3 October 2014

GOVERNMENT OF CANADA INTERVENTION TO THE 65TH SESSION OF THE UNHCR EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

PROTECTION STATEMENT

Thank you Mr. Chair,

Canada appreciates the overview of protection challenges provided by the Director of the Division of International Protection. It is tragic that we continue to witness abject brutality in far too many parts of the world this past year, resulting in a record number of people displaced globally. Coupled with a significant number of simultaneous major natural disasters and other crises, this has tested UNHCR and the international community’s capacity to deliver both assistance and protection, and underscores the need for strengthened collaboration to prevent and effectively respond to forced displacement crises.

Mr. Chair,

UNHCR’s raison d’etre is protection, and protection most fundamentally is about ensuring that the human rights and dignity of all displaced people are respected, including the principle of non-refoulement; and that durable solutions are achieved.  Sadly, Canada must again this year express our deep concern about continuing incidents of refoulement in different regions, and calls upon all States to respect this corner-stone of the international protection regime.

With respect to durable solutions, Canada welcomes UNHCR’s efforts to test new approaches including through the Seeds for Solutions initiative and the Solutions Alliance. Continued efforts to forge effective partnerships, including with development actors, will be critical going forward, as will UNHCR’s own need to break down internal silos within the agency. This will be imperative to achieve the cultural shift necessary to ensure a focus on self-reliance and solutions-oriented programming, and to do so from the very outset of forced displacement crises. The formation of the Solutions Steering Group is a positive move in this direction.

Similarly, we call on the UNHCR to reflect upon what lessons can be drawn from examples of promising solutions strategies to date, such as the Transitional Solutions Initiatives in in Zambia and Colombia. Canada is pleased to support UNHCR’s efforts in both these countries and looks forward to working with others to build on those examples to develop practical, replicable global approaches to aiding those stricken by displacement.

At the same time more needs to be done to strengthen linkages between resettlement efforts and other solutions initiatives, in order to more fully realize the potential to use resettlement strategically. Canada applauds the progress Resettlement Core Groups are making in mobilizing multilateral resettlement efforts for Syrian and Congolese refugees, and thank Sweden and the U.S. for their leadership. In this respect we also wish to recognize the important contribution made by non-traditional resettlement countries in Europe and Latin America and urge other States to give positive consideration to establishing or expanding resettlement or humanitarian admissions programs.

Mr. Chair,

Canada was supportive of efforts this year to negotiate a Conclusion on the topic of Voluntary Repatriation and Sustainable Reintegration. It has been 10 years since this Executive Committee has tackled issues specific to this vitally important durable solution and while we have not yet achieved consensus on all points, Canada believes it is important to continue our efforts to craft a strong, protection-centric Conclusion to better galvanize our joint efforts to protect and assist those affected by migration crises.

Mr. Chair,

Canada remains preoccupied with the protection of refugee and internally displaced women and children, and notes the increase in unaccompanied and separated children as well as the sustained risk of sexual and gender-based violence.  In this respect, I wish to emphasize the need to ensure that country operations are well placed to respond to these needs, including from the outset of emergency operations, and to adapting the Framework for the Protection of Children, Education Strategy and SGBV strategy at the field level. As such, we welcome updates to ExCom members to identify challenges and limitations on the implementation of these strategies, and how these can be addressed.

We also take this opportunity to underline the importance of registration as the foundation for effective protection interventions and well-targeted solutions strategies, and call on UNHCR to strengthen the functional linkages between registration and protection/solutions activities both in the field and at HQ.

Mr. Chair,

Last year’s High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges focused on protection of internally displaced persons. We welcome the follow-up flowing from this event, with the release of Provisional Guidance on UNHCR’s engagement in situations of internal displacement.

In the months to come, we look forward to the upcoming High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, which will focus this year on Protection at Sea. Canada anticipates a constructive dialogue that will advance our collective efforts to respond to issues that force thousands of people to put themselves at risk on the high seas, as well as the need to take determined action to deal with the criminal organizations who profit, even while being responsible for so much misery and death.

Thank you