When people are forced to flee from their homes through no fault of their own, they should be able to continue living in dignity and safety in a new place, and to go home as soon as it is safe to do so.
However, the system is under pressure like never before. 2023 has brought a devastating new conflict in Sudan, continued misery in Ukraine, a string of coups in the Sahel region, more violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, displacement in Myanmar, and a renewed conflict in Gaza that has raised risks across the region.
Regrettably, more emergencies cannot be ruled out in 2024, and UNHCR will respond rapidly with life-saving assistance and protection for those who are displaced. It means more than giving them help, but also working to empower them to make their own decisions and enable them to contribute to their societies. To this end, we will also work to further the trend towards the inclusion of refugees, along with greater international support for host countries. It also means working to ensure refugees have access to education and avenues to employment, and we will continue to step up efforts to find solutions to their plight. This takes cooperation and we are encouraged by the launch of a new solutions platform for the displacement caused by violence in the Central African Republic, and a new Global Alliance to End Statelessness, amongst other critical initiatives.
We are also encouraged by the increasing involvement of development actors, who have brought a vast amount of new funding to support States hosting refugees. The growing interest in connections between forced displacement and the climate crisis has also been critical to strengthen resilience and to find solutions for both the host communities and those displaced and living in climate-vulnerable locations.
We are keen to keep forging links between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding work, and are working closely with many partners, especially the International Organization for Migration, to foster a “panoramic” mindset when it comes to mixed flows of refugees and migrants through the Darién jungle or the Sahara, and across the Bay of Bengal, the Mediterranean or elsewhere.
In an ideal world, many things could take a rapid turn for the better. States could stop wars and efforts could go into maximizing the dividends of peace rather than simply mitigating people’s suffering. But the reality is that forced displacement will continue and there remains a need for UNHCR and our partners.
This vital work would be impossible without the generosity of our donors, and without the solidarity of those States doing so much to host and include forcibly displaced and stateless populations. Funding is indeed generous, but not growing fast enough to keep pace with the needs, and money is increasingly being earmarked for specific causes.
The result is a widening funding gap, especially in terms of support for many of the most desperate and vulnerable people worldwide. UNHCR is prioritizing every day to make the most of the available funding, rationalizing its expenditure where possible and realigning staffing structures globally, reducing the number of posts to maintain focus on delivery.
But when UNHCR operations are underfunded, there is often nobody else to fill the gap. People fleeing from violence are exposed to a panoply of risks and dangers, as well as uncertainty about their futures. We want to help 24,000 Burundian refugees who want to go home, for example, but a lack of funds has so far made this impossible. Must they really wait, and how long does the world expect them to do so?
To fulfil our mandate, and to make the system work, we need more help. We need your help. Please read our Appeal to find out more.
– High Commissioner Filippo Grandi