77th Session of the Standing Committee of UNHCR
Agenda Item No. 3
Regional activities and global programmes: Regional update on UNHCR’s operations in Asia and the Pacific
Statement delivered by Ambassador Khalil Hashmi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan
10 March 2020
Deputy High Commissioner Clement,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank Director Indrika Ratwatte of the Asia Bureau for presenting the update on UNHCR’s operations in the region.
We commend the UNHCR for its continuing efforts in the face of several challenges across the global refugee landscape.
We welcome UNHCR’s commitment to build on the Global Compact on Refugees, to broaden the base of support for refugees and host communities and to ensure durable solutions.
As outlined in the update, the Afghan refugees represent the world’s second largest refugee population even after 40 years of displacement.
Pakistan hosted around 5 million refugees at the peak of the Afghan refugee situation. For nearly 22 years, Pakistan was the largest refugee hosting country in the world
I would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on some of the activities that Pakistan has been engaged in support of UNHCR work.
Following Pakistan’s co-convening of the First Global Refugee Forum, we hosted an International Conference last month in Islamabad to mark 40 years of hosting the Afghan refugees. We thank UNHCR for its collaboration with Pakistan in organizing this important gathering,
I am pleased to report that the Conference was attended by more than 500 participants, including the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Second Vice President of Afghanistan, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Other high-ranking representatives of Governments, international organizations, humanitarian and development agencies, international financial institutions, civil society, private sector, academia, media, as well as refugees.
The Conference provided a useful opportunity to reflect on the achievements, challenges and lessons learned over the past forty years.
Let me share some of the key messages emerging out of this Conference.
It stressed the urgent need to move away from the status quo towards a renewed partnership for solidarity, building on the outcomes of the Global Compact on Refugees and the first Global Refugee Forum.
It acknowledged that the international support for the two principal host countries has significantly declined over the past years.
Accordingly, it underlined the need for equitable burden and responsibility-sharing by the international community.
It underscored that repatriation and reintegration of Afghan refugees should be part of any peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
It encouraged UNHCR and the Government of Pakistan to work together to identify particular pledges which may be relevant for the Afghan refugee situation.
It recognized that the Support Platform for the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR), launched in December 2019, provided an important momentum to redefine the way in which the international community as a whole responded to the Afghan refugee situation.
To this end, the participants emphasized the need to strengthen the existing partnerships and to forge new ones to broaden and diversify the base of support through engagement of non-traditional donors, development agencies, private sector and other relevant stakeholders.
The Foreign Minister of Pakistan rolled out a seven-point agenda aimed at addressing the Afghan refugee situation in Pakistan and operationalizing the SSAR Support Platform, including a proposal to establish an international fund to support the return of Afghan refugees.
We have circulated the Chair’s summary of the Conference to the Permanent Missions in Geneva.
The First GRF has generated a positive momentum towards broadening the base of support from a range of international actors.
We welcome the wide-ranging pledges made at the first GRF and the launch of Support Platforms.
Delivering on the key objectives of the Support Platforms will be a litmus test for the Global Compact on Refugees – particularly its applicability to the most protracted refugee situations and its promise of greater responsibility-sharing with countries that have shouldered the burden.
We look forward to exploring avenues to match the pledges made at the GRF with the needs of the Afghan refugees and host communities. We welcome UNHCR’s commitment to prioritize this key objective.
I thank you.