Government of Canada Intervention to the 69th Session of the UNHCR Executive Committee (2018)

General Statement

Madame Chair, High-Commissioner Grandi,

On behalf of the Canadian delegation, I wish to thank the High Commissioner for his opening remarks and for his strong and effective leadership over the last year.  We commend the Agency, its staff, and its partners for their tireless efforts in seeking protection and solutions for refugees and other persons of concern.  This is a critical year as, together, we take the final steps to endorse the Global Compact on Refugees. The Compact presents a unique opportunity to build greater international solidarity, and to support approaches that benefit both refugees and our own societies. As we move to the Compact’s endorsement, we must now prepare for its effective implementation. We all have a stake in this process, and we must all contribute in the most appropriate ways to its success.

Madam Chair, Canada is a committed partner of UNHCR and strongly supports its mandate. We provide UNHCR with timely, multi-year, unearmarked institutional funding, and our country- and regional-level support is flexible to enable UNHCR to determine where support is most needed.  Canada will continue to grow our resettlement program, including an additional 1000 women and girls, demonstrating our whole-of-society engagement and commitment to responsibility sharing.

Going forward, Canada sees the Global Compact as an opportunity to deepen the use of comprehensive approaches and new actors in support of both host communities and refugees. For example, our recent partnership with the World Bank to unlock increased IDA 18 funding for Bangladesh demonstrates our interest in supporting innovative financing approaches to provide additional resources. Our whole-of-government response to the Rohingya crisis also testifies to our commitment to comprehensive approaches, as does our ongoing $1.1 billion multi-year humanitarian and development assistance response to the Syria crisis.  Similarly, we are fully committed to sharing lessons from Canada’s refugee resettlement and complementary pathway programs to show how beneficial these can be. 

Madam Chair, comprehensive refugee responses show how we can unlock the powerful potential of inclusive approaches. Education is an important example of this. Including refugees in host country education systems allows investments into national, rather than parallel, systems. This increases refugees’ access to safe, quality education, dramatically increasing their potential to contribute positively to host societies and their home countries. Canada is proud of our investments in supporting access to education, including the recent $3.8 billion G7 investment in education for women and girls in crisis and conflict situations, and we look forward to the new opportunities the Global Compact brings in this area.

Canada greatly values the emphasis on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the Global Compact. We also see the recent G7 commitment to work with humanitarian agencies and their executive boards to make gender equality an organizational priority as a way to improve the quality of refugee responses. Collectively, however, more work is needed to “walk the talk” and reach the most vulnerable. As such, while we commend the Agency for its recent gender audit, we urge UNHCR to allocate the necessary resources and staff to apply the new Age, Gender and Diversity policy effectively.

Finally, we urge strengthened support to refugee participation in global policy discussions. We applaud the refugees who participated in the Global Compact consultations, and also the organizers of last June’s first-ever Global Summit of Refugees in Geneva. We firmly believe that UNHCR’s Executive Committee should systematize opportunities for refugee policy and responses to be informed by refugees themselves.

Madam Chair, in closing, I urge us all to remember why we are here. At a time when we see borders hardening and growing rhetoric vilifying those seeking safety and protection, we, as ExCom members, should call even greater attention to the plight of those driven from their homes and honour our responsibility towards them. We must remember our common humanity, and how our collective security is best preserved by responses grounded in respect for human rights and a rules-based international order.

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