Government of Canada Intervention to the 67th Session of the UNHCR Executive Committee
Thank you Mr. Chair,
With global forced displacement at a record high, and international attention focused on the need for better responses and enhanced responsibility sharing, we have reached a crucial moment in the history of international protection. Building on commitments from the UN High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants and the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York, the time to determine our path forward is now.
Canada recognizes the immense challenges faced by states in close proximity to significant displacement crises, and commends the generosity of states hosting large numbers of refugees. It is not for them to bear the responsibility alone. Despite generous responses by donor and resettlement countries, far more is needed, including contributions from other countries. Recognizing that piloting the Comprehensive Refugees Response Framework and then developing a Global Compact on refugees will be a challenging process, Canada looks forward to actively engaging with states and UNHCR on this endeavour over the next two years.
Today, I will focus my comments on the need for all members of the global community to live up to their shared responsibility to safeguard the international protection regime, and to advance comprehensive, longer-term approaches to secure a positive future for the forcibly displaced and their host and receiving communities.
The High Commissioner is to be commended for his leadership, and that leadership will continue to be essential moving forward. Canada firmly supports UNHCR’s unique protection mandate and acknowledges the invaluable work of its staff and partners. At the same time, Canada wishes to underscore the fundamental responsibility of states to uphold and effectively implement the principles of the refugee protection regime.
Refugees are not only a shared responsibility, but they also represent people who can make a positive contribution. Canada has welcomed thousands and thousands of refugees from many different countries over the years and we have seen those refugees and their children become tremendously productive and contributing members of our society, our cultural life and our economy.
The New York Declaration reaffirmed the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol as the foundation of refugee protection. It also reaffirmed respect for the institution of asylum and the principle of non-refoulement. Unfortunately, there are still too many states not signatory to the Convention and too often even signatories are not providing refugees with the protections required by the Convention. On our path forward, it will be important to support UNHCR in encouraging more states to sign on to the 1951 Convention, and to support all efforts to improve the quality of protection provided to refugees and other persons of concern.
Effective protection requires a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment. Many refugees have fled discrimination, intolerance, and xenophobia in their home countries. They should not face the same treatment in receiving countries and communities. Children are at particular risk, and women encounter a higher risk of gender-based violence. We encourage UNHCR to ensure protection interventions, such as preventing and addressing gender-based violence, are prioritized from the onset of an emergency, and mainstreamed in UNHCR’s work. Canada welcomes and notes the timeliness of UNHCR’s upcoming High Commissioner’s Dialogue on “Children on the move” to address the needs of record numbers of unaccompanied and separated children seeking asylum.
We need to reenergize the global response and move towards comprehensive approaches to address not only immediate needs, but foster resilience to pave the way for sustainable solutions. Too many people are living in protracted displacement situations without hope for longer-term solutions. Our approaches should engage and benefit the displaced and their host and receiving communities, leading to improved social and economic outcomes. This is true whether solutions ultimately involve voluntary repatriation, location integration or resettlement to a third country.
Education is a critical component of immediate and long-term strategies for protection and solutions. It can foster social cohesion within communities, offer a stable environment for children, provide access to life-saving information, address psychosocial needs, and promote self-sufficiency and inclusion. Canada calls for a renewed focus on education for refugees and technical/vocational training by UNHCR and by other agencies and partners as central for self-sufficiency, with particular attention to the needs of children, youth and women.
Global responsibility sharing engages a range of partners and can be demonstrated through a variety of means: humanitarian and development assistance, resettlement and alternative pathways to third countries, technical assistance, sharing of best practices, and sustained political leadership and dialogue.
Forward-looking approaches will require predictable funding. In line with this, Canada was pleased to announce recently in New York, multi-year core humanitarian assistance funding to UNHCR, and multi-year funding for UNHCR in Syria and Iraq.
As a long-standing country of resettlement, Canada applauds the UN Secretary General’s call to resettle at least 10% of the total refugee population, and we encourage other states to join in efforts to meet resettlement needs projected by UNHCR. With political will, innovation and partnerships, much can be accomplished. In Canada’s experience, the support and participation of civil society, the private sector, and organizations play a key role in successful resettlement and long-term integration, with mutual adaptation of newcomers and the receiving society leading to long-term benefits for everyone.
UNHCR’s role is crucial in facilitating responsibility-sharing, and coordinated, long-term approaches. Canada encourages the Agency to further strengthen its partnerships, including with other UN Agencies, international financial institutions, and host states, and to maintain a strong focus on solutions programming, using innovative and practical approaches. Further, Canada calls on the Agency to ensure it allocates adequate resources to solutions, and to promote the strategic use of resettlement in coordination with other humanitarian and development activities benefitting refugees.
In closing Mr. Chair,
Canada calls on all ExCom members to honour commitments made throughout various high level meetings in 2016, to support UNHCR in implementing the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, and to play a constructive role in developing a Global Compact on Refugees by 2018.
As members of this Executive Committee, we have a particular responsibility to provide constructive advice on today’s protection challenges, and work cooperatively with UNHCR to achieve solutions and create a more balanced global vision for the world’s displaced. Canada notes the achievement of consensus on ExCom Conclusions on International Protection for the first time since 2013, and encourages ExCom members to continue to work constructively on Conclusions themes in 2017.
Canada looks forward to a fruitful and forward-looking debate during this session.
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