UN: Movement Of Populations Destined To Be Key Question Of 21st Cent


United Nations General Assembly
Nov 8 2006

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees tells Third Committee As
Discussion On Refugee Issues Begins, Committee Concludes Consideration
of Racial Discrimination, Self-Determination

Sixty-first General Assembly
Third Committee
40th & 41st Meetings (AM & PM)

Refugees returning to their homelands could not be expected to live
on hope alone, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,
Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, told the Third Committee (Social,
Humanitarian and Cultural) today as he drew a link between returnees
and the failures of the international community to make good on
pledges of sustainable development.

Reporting on the past year’s work of his Geneva-based Office,
Mr. Guterres said there had been fewer armed conflicts in the past

However, natural catastrophes, crushing poverty and other forms of
insecurity had kept millions on the move. The pattern and scale of
changes had brought the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) to a moment of truth, presenting two major
challenges: a reassessment of UNHCR’s mission, and the need for deep
structural and management reform.

The movement of populations was destined to be one of the key questions
of the twenty-first century, he said, and while illegal migration
was not among UNHCR’s responsibilities — "we know the difference
between a migrant and a refugee" — people in need of international
protection were to be found among migrants. UNHCR’s role was to
help create an environment where such people could be identified and
afforded protection, including fair treatment of their claims.

Mr. Guterres recalled a mission to the Great Lakes region of Africa
in March, where he watched several hundred Congolese returnees —
"filled with anticipation and greeted with shouts and music from crowds
of family and neighbours" — disembark from a boat that had brought
them from the United Republic of Tanzania. Some 23,000 refugees from
the Democratic Republic of the Congo had returned home with UNHCR
assistance this year; elsewhere, 33,000 Burundians had returned,
and in Afghanistan, returns — through lower than in recent years —
remained the largest in the world for the fifth year running.

But he added: "UNHCR only promotes return after minimum conditions
are met and we are able to verify that people will be safe following
their repatriation. But in doing so, we — and when I say we, I mean
the international community, as a whole — routinely ignore a simple
fact: that returnees cannot live on hope alone."

"Addressing transition problems after wars or conflict end, and before
sustainable development is in place, is not something at which the
international community excels," he said, adding that for that reason,
UNHCR was pleased with the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission,
and was eager to work with it.

In the discussion period that followed his statement, Mr. Guterres
said the situation in Afghanistan had been typical of the international
community’s failure to provide effective assistance during transitional
periods. The international community knew how to act in cases of
emergency, but things tended to be slower on the development side,
with effective aid only coming when it was too late. Formulas of
cooperation between international financial institutions, States,
and United Nations agencies were needed to create quick improvements
and allow people to return. Once peace was established, spontaneous
returns by huge numbers of people would happen regardless, so that
flow should be managed and organized.

In other business, the Third Committee concluded its discussion on
the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the right
of peoples to self-determination, during which the representatives
of Pakistan, Venezuela, Algeria, Libya, India, Armenia, Israel, the
Republic of Moldova, Syria, Indonesia, Azerbaijan and Iran spoke. The
observer of Palestine also made a statement.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives
of China, Israel, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the observer of Palestine.

In the afternoon session, statements on the report of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were made by the representatives
of Finland, Japan, Switzerland, Egypt, Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Norway, United States, China, Canada, Jordan, United Republic
of Tanzania, Serbia and Côte d’Ivoire.

The representative of the Sudan spoke in exercise of the right
of reply.

The Chairman of the Third Committee, Hamid Al Bayati (Iraq), told
representatives that, with 11 days left, action had only been taken on
7 out of 45 draft resolutions. He called upon delegations to expedite
their work, with a view to finishing on schedule by 21 November.

The Committee was expected to reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday,
8 November to conclude its general discussion on UNHCR, and to hear
the introduction of draft resolutions on the promotion and protection
of human rights, and on the enlargement of the executive committee
of the programme of UNHCR.


The Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian) met today
to continue its consideration of elimination of racism and racial
discrimination and of the right of peoples to self-determination. For
more background, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3867 of 6 November.

The Committee also met to begin consideration of the report of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to
refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions.

The Committee had before it the Report of the Office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (document A/61/12),
which covers the UNHCR response during 2005 and the first half of 2006
to the needs of the 20.8 million refugees worldwide. It describes major
developments regarding international protection, assistance and the
search for durable solutions for refugees and others concerned. It also
reviews partnerships and coordination outside the United Nations system
and provides an update on current management and oversight issues.

The report concludes that UNHCR is committed to its core mandate
and to rising to new challenges in a rapidly evolving operational
environment as evidenced by, among other things, its strong support
for the cluster leadership approach to internal displacement and the
High Commissioner’s structural and management reform. UNHCR aims to
devote a larger share of its resources to field operations and to
improve the quality of life-sustaining, protective and other services
for refugees. Beneficiaries must be involved in needs identification
and programme design. A human resources strategy that emphasizes
quality management, individual performance and accountability is
also essential.

Also before the Committee was the Report of the Executive Committee
of the Programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (document A/61/12/Add.1), which gives an overview of the
work of the Committee’s fifty-seventh session from 2 to 6 October
2006, including its conclusions and decisions on women and girls
at risk; identification, prevention and reduction of statelessness
and protection of stateless persons; administrative, financial and
programme matters; the Standing Committee’s 2007 programme of work; the
provisional agenda for the fifty-eighth session; and the participation
of observers in the Standing Committee’s 2006-2007 meetings.

The Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report on
assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa
(document A/61/301), which contains an overview of developments and
information about specific areas of inter-agency cooperation as well
as cooperation with regional organizations and efforts to coordinate
resources and more detailed regional updates during 2005 and the
first half of 2006. The report concludes that despite stability and
security in some places, in many situations, displaced persons were
still unable to return home, and they were denied or had limited
access to humanitarian assistance. Governments, cooperating with
the international community, must take firm action to ensure the
civilian character of refugee camps and prevent the forced recruitment
of refugee children. Funding predictability is crucial to ensure
assistance and protection for displaced persons. Commitments to peace
agreements as well as enhanced good governance and conflict prevention
must be implemented to end and prevent displacement.

The report also concludes that promising inter-agency policies and
funding initiatives must be evaluated soon to determine lessons
learned. The international community should focus more on the root
causes of forced displacement in Africa, which extend beyond human
rights violations, poverty and poor employment prospects. That
includes mixed flows of secondary migration movements within Africa
and to other continents to help prevent thousands of individual
tragedies. More action is needed to sustain durable solutions with
adequate socio-economic opportunities for displaced persons returning
home, the report says, noting that, in the past year, hundreds
of thousands of returnees had found little or no infrastructure,
education or health-care facilities.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

for Refugees, said the past year had seen a number of far-reaching
developments in the political and humanitarian context in which
UNHCR functioned. There had been fewer armed conflicts, but natural
catastrophes, crushing poverty and other forms of insecurity had
kept millions on the move. The pattern and scale of changes had
brought UNHCR to a moment of truth, presenting two major challenges:
a reassessment of the UNHCR mission and the need for deep structural
and management reform. In the past year, in situations of internal
displacement, UNHCR had become an integral part of the collective
response by the United Nations system and the broader international
community. For the UNHCR "cluster" approach in conflict-generated
situations — implemented in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Liberia and Somalia — to be effective, it had to be flexible,
light and non-bureaucratic, and undertaken on the understanding that
all humanitarian actors had to be engaged together as full strategic

The movement of populations was destined to be one of the key questions
of the twenty-first century, he said. Curbing illegal migration
required a comprehensive response. Such migration extended beyond
direct responsibilities of UNHCR; it knew the difference between
a migrant and a refugee and it did not want to become a migration
management agency. But, more and more movements had become mixed,
with people in need of international protection to be found among
migrants. Protection capacity had to be built everywhere, not only in
the North but also in the South. The role of UNHCR and identity as a
protection agency remained unchanged. At a time of rising intolerance,
protection also meant firmly opposing refoulement and guaranteeing
respect for international refugee law.

Protection had been at the centre of the UNHCR concern to reduce
statelessness, and it also extended to the sustainability of returns,
he continued. Voluntary repatriations had remained the preferred
solution, but often, their sustainability had been of dramatic
concern. UNHCR only promoted returns once minimum conditions had
been met, but in doing so, the international community had routinely
ignored the fact that refugees could not live on hope alone.

Addressing post-conflict transition before sustained development had
been put into place had not been something in which the international
community had excelled.

In the past year, UNHCR emergency teams had been active in Lebanon,
Timor-Leste, northern Pakistan and northern Kenya, he said. UNHCR had
set a target of being able to respond to an exodus of 500,000 people
by 2007. In other situations, however, its role had been severely
constrained. Faced with a crisis like Darfur, that reality might
seem intolerable, although the UNHCR desperation could not compare
to that of the millions who had been displaced. No clear framework
existed for the exercise of the right to protect. In Iraq, there had
been more and more displacement prompted by ongoing violence, with
1.6 million internally displaced and 1.8 million outside the country.

Earlier this year, UNHCR had embarked on a structural and management
change process, essential to its long-term sustainability, he said.

The change process had been reviewing processes, structures and
staffing, including an examination of what field support could be
moved closer to the point of delivery. UNHCR had to be sensitive to
the concerns and interests of its staff beyond full respect for their
rights; the moral obligation to those UNHCR cared for also could not
be forgotten. Nothing, however, would be possible without political
and financial support. Several donors had raised their contributions
significantly; others that could afford to do likewise were urged to
follow suit. Protection had been at the heart of the UNHCR mandate,
and had to remain at the soul of the organization.


Responding to a question from the representative of Afghanistan, Mr.
GUTERRES said that the Afghan situation was typical of one of the main
failures of the international community, namely providing effective
assistance during transitional periods. The international community
knew how to act in cases of emergency, but things tended to be slower
on the development side, with effective aid only coming when it was
too late. Capacity-building was necessary, but something was needed
in between. Formulas of cooperation between international financial
institutions, States, and United Nations agencies were needed to
create quick improvements and allow people to return. Once peace
was established, spontaneous returns by huge numbers of people would
happen regardless, so that flow should be managed and organized.

Responding to the representative of Uzbekistan on why it was possible
to grant refugee status to persons held in prison for criminal offences
and to those who had taken up arms in Andijan, he said that it was
unfortunate that his agency’s cooperation with Uzbekistan had been
unable to continue. He said that the situation did not represent a
contradiction at all. UNHCR had worked with Kyrgyzstan and decided
that for refugee status determination, it was better to determine a
location far away from the events, which was normal procedure. An
emergency phase involved transferring a few hundred people from
the border area and resettling them. In full compliance with other
conventions, resettlement countries accepted refugees, a normal
and successful operation, and UNHCR had acted consistently with its
interpretation of international law.

Statements on Racism, Self-Determination

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that the right to self-determination
was the most fundamental collective human right of peoples. Four
principles regarding that right needed to be constantly reaffirmed.

The forcible occupation of the territory of a people whose right
of self-determination had been recognized was a clear violation
of international law and the United Nations Charter. The right to
self-determination could be exercised freely only if it was unfettered
by overt and covert coercion and influence. It could not be exercised
freely under conditions of foreign occupation and repression. It was
immutable and could not be extinguished by the passage of time, and
the legitimacy of the struggles of peoples for self-determination could
not be compromised by tarnishing them with the "tarbrush of terrorism".

He said that the free exercise of the right to self-determination
had been denied in several parts of the world, such as Jammu and
Kashmir, and Palestine. Six decades had passed since the Kashmiri
people had been promised the exercise of that right by the Security
Council, which had pronounced that the area’s future would be decided
through a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under United Nations
auspices. After decades of confrontation and conflict, largely over
Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan and India had been engaged in dialogue
for three years to resolve the issue. Several confidence-building
measures had been adopted. The President of Pakistan had advanced
several creative ideas, including demilitarization, self-rule and
joint administration. Any durable solution would require flexibility
and boldness on both sides and be acceptable to Pakistan and India and,
above all, to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

RAQUEL ESCOBAR-GÓMEZ (Venezuela) said her country rejected any form
of discrimination. Any doctrine of superiority based on racial
distinctions was scientifically false, morally condemnable and
dangerous. Venezuela was a multi-ethnic and multicultural society
and had created a culture of respect for differences. Nevertheless,
prejudice, racism and inequality continued to affect its peoples. It
was important to be alert to new forms of discrimination. While the
vast majority of the world was fighting intolerance, empires were
building walls of racism and humiliation based on the superiority of
one race or nationality over another.

She said it was regrettable that in the United States, terrorists were
treated like privileged immigrants while immigrants from the South
were treated as terrorists. Migrants were pursued, hunted down, and
exploited. She hoped that terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, protected
by the United States Government, would be extradited immediately to
stand trial, along with other individuals accused of carrying out
attacks against diplomatic headquarters in Venezuela.

She said that Venezuela rejected any attempt to squelch the
self-determination of peoples, national unity and territorial integrity
of States and joined in the causes of Puerto Rico, Argentina and
Palestine. The international community must promote programmes to
provide victims of intolerance with access to development. If the
major imbalances in the world today were not halted, there would not
be sufficient walls to hold back the flows of poor people worldwide
seeking what the most powerful had always denied them.

SALIMA ABDELHAQ (Algeria ) said that setbacks in the fight against
racism, characterised by the trivialization of racism, were a
genuine threat to democratic progress and to a culture of tolerance
indispensable for increasingly multicultural societies. The time had
come to reverse that trend. One of the first actions would be for the
General Assembly to adopt the Durban review process that had been
proposed by the "Group of 77" developing countries and China. Such
a process would enable the international community to renew its
commitment to fighting racism and to measure the progress that had
been made.

Regarding Islamophobia, she said that the Muslim community had,
in the past year, been offended and wounded by attacks in the media
on its most sacred symbols which had, strangely, been defended on
grounds of freedom of expression. Such practices had to be halted.

The organization by the Human Rights Council of a conference
on dialogue between civilizations would be a good opportunity to
relaunch an alliance between cultures and civilizations. The right to
self-determination had enabled the majority of people represented at
the United Nations, including the Algerian people, to free themselves
from colonialism. The people of Western Sahara had been waiting
for three decades to exercise their right to self-determination;
in occupied Palestine, meanwhile, the Palestinian people continued
to be denied the right to self-determination and their legitimate
aspirations for building an independent State.

MOHAMED REDA DUKALI (Libya) said that, while the Durban Declaration
was an important step forward, racism and discrimination, nonetheless,
continued to grow. He condemned the disfigurement of religion and
the acts directed against Islam in recent years, as a result of the
tragic events of 2001, which had left the stamp of terrorism on the
Muslim religion in Western countries, giving rise to some extreme
right-wing movements and expressions in the media, which stirred up
hatred against Muslims and religious symbols.

Self-expression was being used to justify hatred and ethnic supremacy.

He said that his country was opposed to the racial discrimination
and ill-treatment of migrants in developed countries and called on
the international community to implement all relevant resolutions
to end the suffering and violations of the legitimate rights of
migrant workers.

He expressed outrage at the fate of Palestinians under occupation,
who suffered from the worst forms of pillage of land and property,
destruction of trees and fruits, all a result of the construction
of a wall condemned by the international community. The Palestinians
had a right to create their own independent State and exercise their
sovereign rights over territory, which was being pillaged at present.

NADYA RASHEED, Observer of Palestine, said that for 39 years, the
right of self-determination had been forcefully withheld from the
Palestinian people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,
including East Jerusalem, by Israel, the occupying Power, in the
most brutal and inhuman manner. The right to self-determination and
foreign occupation stood in fundamental conflict to one another,
and continued to be the root cause of the dangerous situation in the
Occupied Palestinian Territory. Such prolonged occupation inevitably
posed a threat to most basic human rights, as Israel had perpetuated
its occupation by violence and the threat of violence, resulting in
the death of 4,300 Palestinians, including 850 children, and at least
50,000 injuries.

The construction of illegal settlements and the wall had
seriously undermined the territorial integrity and contiguity of
Palestinian territory, making the vision of a two-State solution
— and the Palestinian people’s true enjoyment of their right to
self-determination — nearly impossible, she said. The vision of a
Palestinian State would be unattainable without a viable Palestinian
territory. The Palestinian people had made historical compromises to
achieve their aspirations, and they would never succumb or surrender
to the will of the occupation. The enjoyment of the Palestinian people
of self-determination and independence was essential to achieve a
comprehensive, permanent and lasting peace in the Middle East. The
continuation of the occupation, however, would not only affect
peace and security in the region, but surely would affect many other
countries worldwide. The national rights of the Palestinian people,
like those of any other people, had to be recognized.

SHATRUGHAN SINHA (India) said that, as the world worked to free itself
from the racial prejudices of the past, it must especially guard
against new manifestations of racial intolerance. There continued
to be instances of destruction of constitutional order to promote
policies based on racial or ethnic discrimination. Today, Palestine
remained the unfinished task in the realization of the right of peoples
to self-determination. There could be no military solution to the
Palestinian issue. The solution did not lie in more violence but in
pursuing the path of political dialogue. The international community
needed to exercise due vigilance to ensure that the legitimate freedom
struggle of the Palestinian people was not undermined by equating
terrorist activities with the struggle of the people of Palestine.

He said that self-determination had long been recognized as the
right of peoples of Non-Self-Governing colonies and trust territories
to independence and self-government. Attempts continued to be made
at the United Nations and elsewhere to reinvent some of the basic
principles of the Charter, such as self-determination, and to apply
them selectively for narrow political ends. No right, including the
right to self-determination, could be used to promote subversion
and erode the political cohesion or territorial integrity of Member
States. That right could not be abused to encourage secessionism and
undermine pluralistic, democratic States, and there was no room for it
to be distorted and misinterpreted as a right of a group, on the basis
of ethnicity, religion or racial criteria and use it to undermine the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. Ethnic or religious
segregation and chauvinism could not be legitimized on the ground that
societies needed to be constituted on homogeneous lines before they
could be tolerant towards diversity and accept multiculturalism. Such
a view only aided forces of narrow chauvinism and ethnic, religious
and racial exclusivity.

He said that references made earlier in the day by the delegate of
Pakistan to the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir were irrelevant to
the present deliberations, which were meant to focus on the right of
peoples to self-determination. The people of Jammu and Kashmir had
exercised that right at the time of India’s independence and since
then had repeatedly participated in free, fair and open elections. In
contrast, Pakistan continued to deny such opportunities to its own
people and to those in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

ARMEN MARTIROSYAN (Armenia) said that new countries had emerged,
new borders had been drawn and re-drawn, and divided countries had
become reunified. Those changes, in effect, superseded the rigid
adherence to the principles of inviolability of borders and territorial
integrity. Claims for territorial integrity had become increasingly
questionable and even invalid in the case of multi-ethnic States,
which were built on the shaky basis of historical injustice and
legal and political gerrymandering. The very notion of sovereignty
had historically emerged from the responsibilities of States towards
their citizens. Therefore, Governments that discriminated against,
and persecuted certain groups of their population, could not claim
the right to govern those people.

He said each claim for self-determination must be considered on
its own merits and against its own historic, political and legal
background. The defining element in all those cases was the level
of trust and confidence between various constituencies, between the
title nation and ethnic groups. The international community could not
disregard those cases when, because of serious historic, cultural or
ethnic problems, secession would provide longer and lasting solutions
to the conflict. It was impossible to trust a Government with a
history of discriminating against, and persecuting its citizens,
organizing pogroms and ethnic cleansing, and waging full-scale war
against them. Such Governments completely lost their credibility, and
any moral right, to govern the people they claimed to represent. The
referendum was one of the most effective ways to define the level of
trust between Government and governed, since it was the most democratic
way of providing people an opportunity to express their will.

MEIRAV EILON SHAHAR (Israel) said her country knew, by bitter
experience, the deep trauma inflicted by racism, which had been the
reality of the Jewish people for centuries. Last year had seen a
significant rise in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide; of the many
thousands that had been reported, hundreds had been violent. The
latest ugly wave of anti-Semitism had swept Europe and the Middle
East. Iran, in particular, had been a source of the vilest anti-Semitic
rhetoric heard anywhere, with its President denying the Holocaust and
calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, while Iran acquired the
capabilities to do so. Such odious statements — aimed at inciting
violent attacks against Israel, and against Jewish people around the
world — were a wake-up call to the international community to stand
with a resolute, unwavering voice against Iran’s dangerous regime
and to condemn its racist ideology.

The last few months, she said, had seen a spike in the number of
anti-Semitic incidents around the world, accompanied by a deliberate
conflation of legitimate political discourse with anti-Semitism.

Israel, a democratic State with a pluralist and open society,
supported meaningful political dialogue, but there was a delicate
balance between legitimate freedom of expression and incitement.

Israel agreed with the Special Rapporteur on racism that there had
been a growing tendency for cynical politicians to exploit people’s
fears and insecurity. There had been encouraging signs, however,
that the fight against anti-Semitism had gained new momentum, and
Israel had been encouraged by the General Assembly’s adoption last
year of a resolution on Holocaust remembrance.

Israel was a land of immigrants, she added, and its diversity was
a daily reminder that the line between "us" and "the other" was
fluid, and often an artefact of history, or chance. Everyone had to
take a more active role in combating racism and the ignorance that
fostered it.

ALEXEI TULBURE (Republic of Moldova) said his country was a
multicultural and multi-ethnic State. Tolerance and respect for the
ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identities of all ethnic
communities were common. Moldova’s national legislation on citizenship,
and in the field of the functioning of languages, was one of the most
liberal in Eastern Europe. The law on approving the national policy
conception of the Republic of Moldova, adopted three years ago,
was the most comprehensive legal instrument in that regard. By the
law, the State committed itself to provide proper conditions for the
preservation, development and free expression of the ethnic, cultural,
religious and linguistic identity of all ethnic communities living
in Moldova.

He said Moldova had also signed a number of bilateral treaties with
States that were the ethno-historical motherlands of minorities
living on its territory. Those treaties contained special articles
providing for the maintenance and protection of the rights of people
belonging to national minorities. Moldova also ensured the right
to choose the language of education and training at all levels and
stages of education. Regarding the specific socio-cultural situation
of the Gypsies/Roma, the Government had made necessary efforts to
improve their situation. According to the reports of national and
international experts, the provisions of the International Convention
were implemented efficiently in Moldova, and cases of discriminatory
acts as defined in the Convention had not been registered there.

WARIF HALABI (Syria) said that foreign occupation was still a form of
domination, despite the belief that it needed to be eliminated. The
international community must solve that problem, which threatened
peace and security and went against the United Nations Charter.

Racism and racial discrimination were still a risk to the future
of mankind. Recent examples of xenophobia, discrimination against
foreigners, and religious slander had been seen in developed countries,
which was a source of concern.

She said that foreign occupation and the repression of those under
occupation could not be accepted or tolerated. Self determination
was a fundamental and sacred right. Syria continued to support the
right of peoples to regain their independence. Despite numerous United
Nations resolutions on Palestine, regretfully it had not been possible
for Palestinians to exercise that right. Refugees continued to wait
to return, and to face massacres in violation of all humanitarian
laws. There had been a spread of racism in new forms, particularly
against Arabs and Muslims on various pretexts, and an increase in
intolerance. One of the clearest examples of xenophobia against Arabs
was the repeated printing by European newspapers of caricatures that
had provoked reaction from Muslims worldwide. That went beyond freedom
of expression, and showed a lack of understanding of the religions
of other peoples.

ADE PETRANTO (Indonesia) expressed concern at the rise of racist
violence, and at the resurgent activities of associations with racist
and xenophobic platforms in some parts of the world. Member States
needed to pay close attention to the link between combating racism,
racial discrimination and xenophobia, on the one hand, and the
construction of a democratic, interactive and multicultural society,
on the other. There needed to be a strategy to combat racism through
education, and the adoption of initiatives to encourage interaction
and cross-fertilization between different national communities. For
the Government of Indonesia, promoting dialogue through education
was the way to instill the principle of respect. In recent times,
some people, and critics, in Western circles had attributed to Islam
a propensity to violence; extensive dialogue was the only way to
liberate the human mind from such errors.

A balance between freedom of expression, and religious freedom,
had to be established, he said. Exercising the right to freedom of
expression carried special duties and responsibilities, and could
therefore be subject to certain restrictions: respect of the rights or
reputations of others, and protection of national security or public
order, or public health and morals. Concrete action should be taken
to address poverty and underdevelopment, as racism thrived on the
frustrations and disparities that they created. Regarding the right
to self-determination, Indonesia — whose right of self-determination
had, for more than 300 years, been in the hands of foreigners —
stressed the right of Palestinian people to self-determination,
leading to the creation of an independent Palestinian State.

Ms. ADTALOVA (Azerbaijan) said that the right of peoples to
self-determination could not apply to the Armenian population of
the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, because they were a
minority residing in the territory of a sovereign State. Several
reaffirmations by the Security Council of respect for the sovereignty
and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan made all disputes over which
State Nagorno-Karabakh was part of completely senseless.

She said that, in order to settle the conflict, it was essential
to recognize that the State should be the common home for all its
resident population under conditions of equality, with separate
identities being preserved and developed. Neither majorities nor
minorities should be entitled to assert their identity in ways that
denied the possibility for others to do the same, or which led to
discrimination against others in the common domain. The settlement of
the conflict should therefore be based primarily on the restoration
and strict maintenance of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan,
and the preservation and encouragement of the identity of the Armenian
minority living in its territory.

She said that international law did not include specific mandatory
provisions recognizing the right of individuals belonging to
minorities to self-determination, or autonomy. Nevertheless, some
forms of self-rule might in certain cases ensure the preservation of
a national identity of an ethnic group. On that basis, Azerbaijan had
repeatedly expressed its willingness to confer on Nagorno-Karabakh
the highest degree of self-rule within the country. Settlement
of the conflict would remain impossible to reach, so long as one
party ignored relevant decisions by international organizations, and
continued to try to impose its own interpretation of international
law on the international community.

Mr. ZAMANI (Iran) said the adoption of the Durban declaration had
been a defining moment in the collective campaign against racism,
xenophobia and discrimination. Joint action against racism, at the
international and national levels, was indispensable. Iran was ready to
cooperate closely with the international community to eradicate such an
inhuman phenomenon. Iran shared the Special Rapporteur’s concern about
Islamophobia, which had been on the rise, most visibly in Europe. Most
worryingly, the culture of Islamophobia, or incitement against Islam,
had been transformed into political ideologies. Dividing the nature of
unity among world religions was a real danger for peace and security.

To free the world from Islamophobia, a collective approach was
required, he said. Cultural diversity had to be respected, and public
opinion protected from phoney mass media. Global society needed a
restructuring of the identity of multiculturalism, and the creation
of an atmosphere for the coexistence of sundry religions in various
societies. Defamation — in particular, blindly interpreting Islam
and putting it in the same category as terrorism and violence —
would impact upon the tolerance of Muslim communities. Iran would
continue to pursue policies that provided for a society based on
justice and equality; it called upon political leaders to pursue
international efforts to eradicate racism in general, and different
phobias, in particular.

Statements in Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of China endorsed
the role of education in fighting racism, particularly among young
people. It was China’s view that a great nation could grasp its future
only by reflecting on its history.

The representative of Israel said her country supported the Palestinian
people’s right to self-determination; however, that right could not
come at the expense of the security of Israel, and its people. The
Palestinian Authority was led by a terrorist organization, Hamas,
which was uninterested in living side by side with Israel. Israel
had recognized the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people since
the Camp David accords, but by electing Hamas, the Palestinian people
had opted for terror over peace.

Regarding the security fence, it had no other purpose than to defend
the security of the Israeli people. The stationary of the Palestinian
delegation featured a logo depicting a map of Israel; the underlying
message was obvious to all. The current Palestinian leadership would
never recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist, and the
Palestinian people — who could have embraced the Quartet Road Map,
but did not — had opted for terror.

The representative of Armenia, referring to the Azerbaijani statement,
said that upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, it had been Azerbaijan
that had unleashed warfare to incorporate Nagorno-Karabakh into its
territory. Prior to Soviet rule, Nagorno-Karabakh had been a separate
political unit. Any claim of Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh was
illegal, unjustified and unfounded.

The observer of Palestine, responding to the statement by her Israeli
counterpart, said that the basic law of Israel had referred to Israel
as a Jewish State, setting the basis for discrimination against
Palestinian people living within Israel. While lecturing others on
human rights, Israel had negated the right of the Palestinian people
to exist. Racist remarks had been made by high-ranking Government
officials, army generals and even religious leaders, with Palestinians
being described as snakes, insects and cancerous.

Twenty-seven years had elapsed between the beginning of occupation
and the start of attacks. Israel could not be allowed to get away
with citing self-defence to justify its policies.

The representative of Azerbaijan said that her country’s position
regarding Nagorno-Karabakh had been based on norms and principles
of international law. Armenia should recall that Azerbaijan had
been accepted into the United Nations, and other organizations, on
the basis of its territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh. The right to
self-determination did not imply a unilateral right to secession, and
the assertion that Nagorno-Karabakh had never been part of Azerbaijan
was groundless.

The representative of Israel said his country was proud of the fact
that it had Arab members of Parliament and an Arab Supreme Court
judge. Arabic was the second official language, and minorities
enjoyed equal rights under the law, as enshrined in the Declaration
of Independence. Hamas had refused to accept the basic conditions set
out by the Quartet: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence
and accepting existing agreements. Its real goal was to destroy Israel.

The observer of Palestine said that Israel defined itself not as a
State of its citizens, but as a state of all Jews in the world. Jews
from anywhere could go there and claim citizenship. Such rights had
been denied to Palestinians who had lived in the area for thousands
of years. It was widely known that there were four levels of
Israeli citizenship, the first three being various levels of Jewish
participation in Israeli society. Israel treated Palestinians as
being less than human; this had been rooted in the basic law of the
Israeli State.

Statement on Refugees

JARL-HAKAN ROSENGREN (Finland), on behalf of the European Union,
said that it was of great concern that, worldwide, some 23 million
people remained internally displaced as a result of violence
and armed conflicts. The European Union was also concerned at the
ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur. In all crisis situations, all
parties should grant free and secure access to affected populations
by humanitarian personnel. The principle of non-refoulement should
be respected in all circumstances. Refugees and asylum seekers
should not be returned forcibly to their country of origin. UNHCR
should be able to monitor the voluntary return process. It was
regrettable that its office in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, had been closed
last April. UNHCR should have access to all Uzbek refugees who had
returned to Uzbekistan.

He urged those not party to the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol
to ratify and implement them. Next year there would be a wide debate
on the future of the European Union’s asylum policy, the results of
which would set the road map for achieving the Common European Asylum
System. While the number of asylum applicants had fallen sharply in
the European Union, the number of irregular migrants had increased.

By the end of the year, the European Union would issue a paper on
reinforcing the southern maritime border which would also address
protection and asylum related issues.

TETSUJI MIYAMOTO (Japan) said that while the overall number of refugees
had decreased in recent years, there still remained some protracted
refugee situations. The role played by UNHCR had been crucial and
its activities needed to be supported. In addressing refugee issues,
it was important to take an approach based on human security, which
served as a durable solution by enabling each individual to contribute
to society. Japan had helped to set up the United Nations Trust Fund
for Human Security, which assisted UNHCR and other United Nations
agencies in translating the concept of human security into action.

Assistance to internally displaced people and organizational reform
were serious challenges facing UNHCR, he said. There were more than 25
million internally displaced people all over the world, including newly
generated ones in Iraq and Somalia. UNHCR’s role in assisting them
was important; but avoiding an adverse affect on refugee operations,
clarifying responsibilities among relevant organizations, and ensuring
financial resources remained challenges that the Executive Committee
of UNHCR should deliberate upon closely. Japan supported UNHCR reform
under the leadership of Mr. Guterres and looked forward to the fruits
of his efforts. Every reform brought pain, but Japan hoped that the
High Commissioner’s initiative would be supported by UNHCR staff.

BARBARA FONTANA (Switzerland) said that migration flows were often
mixed, with refugees and migrants travelling together. The phenomenon
was becoming more widespread, and had now attained inter-continental
dimensions, which called for a global response. For Switzerland,
the distinction between refugees and migrants was a fundamental one,
and a means of ensuring that measures to control irregular migration
did not in any way impede the rights and the granting of international
protection to refugees.

She said that, a major challenge facing UNHCR was the protection of
internally displaced persons. The issue had been ignored for a long
time, but was now being discussed in the international community. It
was important to be careful, in conflict situations, not to make
systematic distinctions between the needs of internally displaced
persons and those of host or resident populations. The segmentation
of the humanitarian response and the division of beneficiaries into
different categories brought with it a considerable risk of leaving
the civil populations that were directly, or indirectly, affected
in a situation that was as precarious as, or more precarious than,
that of internally displaced persons.

She said that it was the primary responsibility of States to provide
protection and assistance to such persons, but Switzerland also
supported a collaborative approach. A clear, coherent and realistic
vision capable of guiding UNHCR activity on behalf of internally
displaced persons still needed to be defined.

HESHAM MOHAMED EMAN AFIFI (Egypt) said that his country had undertaken
to respect all norms and principles of international refugee law,
and was working to strengthen them. It had always worked to channel
cooperation with UNHCR in the framework of humanitarian responsibility
for refugees who took asylum in Egypt, particularly from brother
African countries. Despite significant achievements, the report still
showed a financing crisis as one of the major problems.

That had been stressed in previous reports and was now a matter of
concern because UNHCR was unable to carry out its mandate. It had
experienced reductions compared to last year, yet its expenses grew day
by day. He appealed to all parties to grant unconditional and stable
financial support to the agency with as few restrictions as possible.

He said it was important to strengthen international action through a
series of major measures regarding refugees. The causes of the world’s
conflicts needed to be dealt with since they were the main cause for
the growing refugee problem. The Security Council had an important
role to play in that area. International solidarity needed to be
strengthened. Most countries with refugees were developing countries,
so the refugees must be dealt with in the framework of international
humanitarian and human rights law. The Peacebuilding Commission was
an important tool for dealing with problems of asylum.

The problem of refugees was a humanitarian problem first and foremost,
but it was also a political and economic one. To protect refugees,
countries of asylum must also be supported as a matter of priority
on the international agenda.

ATOKI ILEKA (Democratic Republic of the Congo), speaking on behalf of
the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that a lasting
solution to the problem of refugees depended on peace, security and
development. The international community should continue to support
regional initiatives such as those that had resulted in peace brokerage
in conflict areas like Liberia, Burundi, and his country. Progress
achieved in some places should not detract from the ongoing plight
of millions of others engulfed in violent internal conflicts, not to
mention the flow of migration that was resulting in the loss of lives
as people attempted to cross the seas in search of a better life for
themselves and their families.

He expressed hope that UNHCR would take into account the difficulties
of developing host countries and give equal importance to protection
and development. The international community should continue to address
the root causes of refugee movements. Support for peacebuilding,
conflict resolution and prevention efforts was essential. UNHCR should
be actively involved in the work of the Peacebuilding Commission
to ensure that the needs of refugees were also incorporated in the
reconstruction process. National Governments emerging from conflict
situations should also ensure that the needs of returnees were
incorporated into national development programmes, including poverty
reduction strategies.

He said that it was of vital importance to keep in mind the
humanitarian burden that host countries, in particular developing
countries with meagre resources, were obliged to shoulder in receiving
a large number of refugees and internally displaced persons. The
chronic financial shortfalls that had seriously affected the capacity
of UNHCR to provide and support social services and basic education
programmes was of deep concern. The health issue was another area of
concern. He urged United Nations agencies to ensure that the human
rights of refugees, returnees, and internally displaced persons living
with HIV/AIDS were respected and that combating the spread of the
virus among those populations remained a high priority.

UNNI RAMBOLL (Norway) said UNHCR needed to channel a larger percentage
of its resources into operations that directly benefited people in
need. UNHCR’s management reform was encouraging but great challenges
still lay ahead. She welcomed the adoption of the Conclusion on Women
and Girls at Risk at last month’s Executive Committee meeting, and
said Norway would closely follow its implementation. The Conclusion
should serve as a platform for stronger follow-up in UNHCR of Security
Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. She
expressed hope that the new senior gender advisor would strengthen
the High Commissioner’s efforts to implement the Conclusion, and thus,
improve the protection of women and girls at risk.

She supported UNHCR’s commitment to internally displaced persons.

That commitment was a step in the right direction. The increasing
importance of internally displaced persons’ protection in UNHCR’s work
must be better reflected in the annual budget. The lack of a common
understanding about the cluster lead concept had delayed implementation
of the cluster approach. Non-governmental organizations and other
partners must be actively involved in joint assessments and strategy
formulation. While better coordination was important, agencies should
not be overloaded with administrative burdens that would hinder their
ability to provide support and protection in the field.

CECIL EDWARD FLOYD (United States) expressed appreciation for the work
of the High Commissioner and his staff; the challenges and dangers
of their work could not be underestimated. Regarding critical field
and headquarters reform, the long-term success of UNHCR depended
on much-needed changes to how it did business. The United States
supported results-based management. Difficult decisions would have to
be made; UNHCR should consult with its staff and with Member States,
as its effort was rolled out. Success would depend on Governments,
implementing partners and those who would be affected by the reforms.

Partnerships were key to durable solutions, he said. The
much-anticipated return of refugees in southern Sudan, Burundi and
Democratic Republic of the Congo was promising. Partnerships were
needed between humanitarians and development agencies, not only through
UNHCR and non-governmental organizations, but also with Governments
and host populations. Partnerships were also necessary to define the
internally displaced and respond to their needs; key to this effort
would be a sense of mutual accountability. UNHCR had to be prepared
for the scaling-up of staff and programmes for situations with many
refugees and internally displaced persons, and it had to lead its
partners to be prepared as well. It must also lead its protection
partners to be prepared. The situation in Darfur and the surrounding
region had been on the minds of many; the United States welcomed
Security Council resolution 1706 (2006) to address the regional
security issue. His country remained a committed partner of UNHCR,
contributing nearly $339 million this year.

GUO JIAKUN (China) said that during the past year, refugees had
continually returned home to Africa and Afghanistan, and the number
of refugees worldwide had dropped to 8.3 million. He praised the
international community for making that happen through solidarity
and burden sharing. However, the global refugee situation was still
grave. Civil wars and conflicts in many parts of the world had created
steady flows of new refugees and internally displaced persons. Up to
20 million people were still under UNHCR’s care, and the influx of
refugees had severely strained many developing and under-developed
countries. He called on States to continue to honour their commitment
to the World Summit Outcome Document, and to intensify their efforts to
address the problem holistically in order to find a durable solution.

In recent years, as the plight of internally displaced persons had
received greater international attention, UNHCR had increased human
and financial resources for their protection and assistance, he
continued. UNHCR’s internally displaced persons-related activities
should be carried out in strict conformity with relevant General
Assembly resolutions. Irregular, mixed population movements had
seriously challenged the current international refugee protection
system. The document, "Addressing Mixed Migratory Movement, a 10-Point
Plan of Action", put forward in June by UNHCR, had several valuable
recommendations, but still had room for improvement.

Sovereign States should be consulted prior to its implementation
since they were primarily responsible for managing the migratory
movement. He welcomed UNHCR’s continued participation in follow-up to
the High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, which stressed
the need to enhance cooperation and adopt a more integral approach
to managing global migratory flows.

JESSICA BLITT (Canada) said a flexible and results-oriented UNHCR
was crucial to responding collaboratively to people most in need
of protection and assistance. Despite the news that, this year,
there were the lowest number of refugees in more than 20 years,
there were still significant numbers of internally displaced
persons, more protracted refugee situations and people spending
longer times on average in exile. The General Assembly could be an
effective advocate in promoting international peace and security and
preventing situations that would otherwise lead to refugee movements
and internal displacement. Most refugees had been in exile for more
than a decade and were at great risk of becoming victims of crime,
sexual violence and militancy. Comprehensive approaches drawing on
a mix of diplomatic, humanitarian, development and migratory policy
were necessary for lasting solutions to the refugee plight.

UNHCR voluntary repatriation efforts in Afghanistan and southern
Sudan showed that physical security, buttressed by access to essential
infrastructure, services and livelihoods, effectively functioning civil
institutions and the rule of law were vital to sustaining refugee
return, peace and stability. The Peacebuilding Commission played a
fundamental role in supporting comprehensive solutions, particularly
post-conflict recovery, to protracted refugee situations. United
Nations development agency partners and international financial
institutions must engage sooner, and include the plight of displaced
populations in development strategies and country plans. It was crucial
that the Emergency Relief Coordinator maintain his pressure, and that
UNHCR and other Inter-Agency Standing Committee members sustain the
momentum created over the last year to better coordinate humanitarian
response and protect internally displaced persons. He supported
the UNHCR’s guidelines on preserving the civilian and humanitarian
character of asylum, which would provide concrete guidance on the
separation of armed elements from refugees.

PRINCE ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said it had been gratifying
to note that, during the last 25 years, the General Assembly had
adopted, by consensus, a series of resolutions on the subject of a
new international humanitarian order, which Jordan had introduced
in the Assembly in 1981. This year, it was also gratifying to note
a proposal regarding the development of an agenda for humanitarian
action and the ideas that the Secretary-General had set out in his
report on the New International Humanitarian Order (document A/61/224),
in which he pointed out that the Independent Bureau for Humanitarian
Issues would be involved in developing the proposed Agenda, and assist
in its implementation.

It was worthwhile to recall that the Charter of the United Nations,
in its preamble, reaffirmed the dignity and worth of the human person
and the equal rights of men and women, and of nations big and small.

In preparing the related resolution this year, the wishes and
suggestions of the Secretary-General had been taken into account,
he said. The operational paragraphs would recognize the need to
strengthen efforts to resolve humanitarian problems, call upon the
Independent Bureau for Humanitarian Issues to develop the Agenda
for Humanitarian Action, and ask the Secretary-General to continue to
strengthen efforts in the humanitarian field, and to report accordingly
to the General Assembly at its sixty-third session.

JUDITH MTAWALI (United Republic of Tanzania) said she wished to
register the continued generosity and humanitarian commitment to the
humanitarian cause of Tanzania in providing asylum to refugees. In
the past, the Government had set aside a vast amount of land for
settling them. Due to the large numbers of refugees, it was unable to
allocate additional land; therefore, voluntary repatriation remained
the best option.

She said Tanzania was currently engaged in two major repatriation
operations of refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of
the Congo. A considerable number of Burundian refugees had returned
home with the assistance of UNHCR, but the repatriation process was
facing some serious obstacles. Under-funding continued to derail what
could have been one of the most successful voluntary repatriation
operations south of the Sahara. With Burundi’s signing of the Peace
Agreement with the last rebel group, there was every indication
of a massive repatriation in the near future. That required a
deeper review of priority issues to make the process sustainable,
including strengthening the capacity of the reception centres in the
home country, the allocation of land to returnees and the provision
of assistance during the first few months of their returns. Tanzania
was also very much concerned about the dwindling financial situation
of UNHCR, and urged donors to increase their support.

As for the institutions of protection and asylum in her country, she
said that Tanzania, just like any sovereign State, had the right and
obligation to protect itself from any unlawful entry by aliens. It
continued to crack down on illegal immigrants, regardless of where
they came from. In those operations, the Government was keen to ensure
that bona fide refugees were not expelled.

SLAVKO KRULJEVIC (Serbia) said that, the problem of refugees was,
unfortunately, still very much present in his country. Serbia presently
provided shelter for a very large displaced population as a consequence
of past conflicts in the region. Although the number of refugees had
significantly decreased over the past years, there were, de facto,
more than 350,000 refugees in Serbia, both registered refugees,
and refugees who had obtained citizenship as a first step toward
integration. Voluntary return was the best solution for the remaining
displaced population in the region. A key element was the restitution
of property and full respect for occupancy/tenancy and property rights
without any discrimination. That would provide refugees with the
resources to choose between repatriation and local integration. The
implementation of the Sarajevo Declaration would hopefully overcome
existing problems in that field.

Regarding the 208,000 internally displaced persons from Kosovo and
Metohija in Serbia, he said that the lack of progress in their return
was due to the absence of security and a generally low level of human
rights protection in the province. The return of that population was a
far more complex problem than just their physical return. Necessary
preconditions for sustainable return must be created, such as
guarantees for their property, economic, social and cultural rights.

As for local integration of refugees within Serbia, sufficient
resources for self-reliant projects and assistance for displaced
persons and host communities were necessary. Given the overall
economic situation in Serbia, the assistance of the international
community in that regard was indispensable. Serbia appreciated
UNHCR’s continuing efforts to oppose involuntary returns of minority
populations originating from the province of Kosovo and Metohija. In
situations where basic conditions for sustainable returns to the
province did not exist, involuntary returns of refugees to Serbia
proper, outside of Kosovo and Metohija was not a viable solution.

JEAN-BAPTISTE AMANGOUA (Côte d’Ivoire) said that no region of the world
had been spared the phenomenon of refugees and internally displaced
persons. In Africa, political, social and economic structures had
faced tremendous tests. Côte d’Ivoire wanted to thank UNHCR for the
active role that it had played. Despite the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire,
the repatriation and reintegration of refugees had been proceeding
with success. With help from UNHCR, some 2,000 refugees from Liberia
would be repatriated from Côte d’Ivoire by the end of the year.

The solution to the problem of refugees and internally displaced
persons was to be found in the peaceful settlement of disputes,
fostering a climate for voluntary returns, he said. Africa needed
democratic structures to promote respect for human rights and
fundamental freedoms in order to foster a culture of peace. Generally
speaking, within Africa, countries that had taken in refugees had
been endangering their own social and economic situations, which were
precarious to begin with.

Statement in Right of Reply

The representative of the Sudan said he wished to reply to the
statements of the European Union (Finland) and United States. The
European Union had mentioned the Darfur situation and security
problems for humanitarian workers there — it had referred to that
problem so often, it had become a cliche. The information in the
European Union’s statement was not true. There was a peace agreement
between the Government and the largest rebel group, which had led to
an improvement in the humanitarian situation, and the Government was
making great efforts to include other parties.

Regarding efforts on the flow of humanitarian assistance, he
said that many humanitarian organizations now worked through safe
corridors. Procedures had been set up by the Government for them to
do their work. Any obstacles were the fault of rebel groups. The
European Union just wanted to target the unity and safety of the
Sudan. Those negative references were aimed at destroying the Darfur
Agreements. The unity of the Sudanese people was behind that agreement,
which the international community should support, and call on other
groups to sign. Talking about problems concerning humanitarian work
did not serve the peace process; it only served a hidden agenda.

Regarding the statement by the United States on Security Council
resolution 1706, he said the Third Committee was not the place for
such discussions. The United States’ hidden agenda was known.

Resolution 1706 was aimed at destroying the Sudan, which it would
not allow to happen.


From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS