The United Nations’ top refugee official is urging nations to strengthen their support for people fleeing conflict, persecution, and violence and to keep their borders open to people in need of international protection.
In a video, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, sets the scene for this two-day virtual event: “for centuries, experiences of exile and traditions of refuge have formed part of our collective heritage,” Grandi notes on the video clip. The meeting is the first follow-up to the Global Refugee Forum held two years ago. Nearly 1,400 pledges were made then to better support refugees and host communities.
Senior government officials, refugees and various partners are here to take stock of how many pledges have been kept. High Commissioner Grandi gives the global picture a mixed review.
He says countries are doing better at including refugees in national COVID-19 and health care responses, and in providing protection and greater livelihood opportunities. He says progress has been made toward eradicating statelessness and in the field of education.
He warns, however, that too many countries are turning their backs on people in need of safety and protection.
“To this end, I must repeat my grave concerns regarding certain trends in some of the world’s industrialized countries, including closed borders, sometimes very violent pushbacks, the construction of walls and barriers, the outsourcing of international legal and moral obligations concerning people’s right to seek asylum,” he expressed.
The UNHCR reports at least 83.4 million people have been forcibly displaced around the world, and of that number, 26.4 million are refugees. Developing countries host about 85 percent of the world’s refugees.
Grandi is calling on wealthier countries to assume a greater share of this responsibility. He also is appealing for more third country solutions to intractable refugee problems.
“Resettlement is of course a key avenue, and I am grateful to all those states that have continued to maintain or increase their resettlement quotas over the past years, as well as to the United States of America for reinvigorating its resettlement program,” he pointed out.
Officials attending the event will spotlight several key areas, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate action, and displacement.