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Thursday, June 23, 2011

World Refugee Day 2011

Statement by the UN Resident Coordinator
Mr. Alberic Kacou

Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
UNHCR Representative for Tanzania, Oluseyi Bajulaiye,
UN Colleagues,
Newly Naturalized Tanzanian, Grace Samson,
Refugees and former refugees,
 Members of the Media,
Children and Students, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening.

On behalf of the entire United Nations Country Team, I wish to express gratitude to the organizers and sponsors of this important event. As you know, Tanzania plays an important role for refugees in the region.  For over 4 decades this nation has hosted thousands of people fleeing conflicts in neighboring countries. The act of receiving people in a moment of extreme vulnerability is rooted in a shared humanity - and a shared belief that there are no tolerable levels of suffering.  Tanzania’s generosity should be applauded and supported.

I would like to share with you the message of the United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon on this occasion:

I quote:

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention.  It is also 60 years since UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, was established.  In that time the work of helping the world’s refugees and other forcibly displaced people has neither decreased nor become easier.

Then as now, the major cause of displacement is war.  Prolonged conflicts or instability in places such as Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan, and unfolding crises in North Africa and the Middle East, are among the contributors to the current world population of almost 44 million forcibly displaced people.
End of quote:

The Secretary-General goes on to remind us, however, that our world is increasingly more complex. As a result, so are the reasons why people are forced to abandon their homes— often taking life-imperiling means and routes—in search of peace, stability and a livelihood.

Again, I quote:

But, in today’s world, the reasons for displacement are more diverse.  Whereas traditionally UNHCR would be called on to support people escaping conflict or persecution, people are increasingly fleeing their homes because of extreme poverty, environmental degradation, climate change and the growing and complex interrelationship between these factors and conflict.

End of quote

To give you a sense of how much the landscape has shifted, let me share this little known fact: While some sixty years ago Europe was home to most of the world’s refuges, today the vast majority are hosted and cared for in developing countries, like Tanzania.

Again, I quote the Secretary-General:

 The burden of helping the world’s forcibly displaced people is starkly uneven.  Poor countries host vastly more displaced people than wealthier ones.  While anti-refugee sentiment is heard loudest in industralized countries, developing nations host 80 per cent of the world’s refugees.  This situation demands an equitable solution.

End of quote.

And in Tanzania, the Government of Tanzania, with support from the United Nations, has chosen to go a step further than simply hosting refugees. 364,000 Burundi and 66,000 Congolese camp refugees have been assisted in returning home beginning in 2002 and 2005 respectively. In addition, Government has decided to naturalize over 162,000 former Burundian refugees living in old settlements in the Tabora and Rukwa regions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me end by sharing the final words from the Secretary General for this year’s World refugee Day:

No-one wants to become a refugee.  No-one should have to endure this humiliating and arduous ordeal.  Yet, millions do.  Even one refugee forced to flee, one refugee forced to return to danger is one too many.  On this year’s World Refugee Day, I ask people everywhere to spare a thought for the millions of children, women and men who have been forced from their homes, who are at risk of their lives, and who, in most cases, want nothing more than to return home or to start afresh.  Let us never lose sight of our shared humanity.

Thank you for your attention. 

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