UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Expected Council Action
In November, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi will brief the Council. The briefing will focus on the situation of refugees in several country-specific situations on the Council’s agenda. No outcome is expected.
Background and Key Recent Developments
Since the 1990s, the Security Council has increasingly considered the links between the situation of refugees and threats to international peace and security. The High Commissioner for Refugees has briefed the Council several times about specific country situations on the Council’s agenda, including the Sahel in December 2012 and Syria in December 2015. In addition to country-specific briefings, the Council has received several briefings under the agenda item “Briefing by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”, which allows for a general update by the High Commissioner on the situation of refugees pertaining to various settings on the Council’s agenda.
The first of these briefings took place on 10 November 2000 by then-High Commissioner Sadako Ogata. Since then, the Council has received four briefings under this agenda item, most recently in December 2021 under Niger’s presidency. In that meeting, High Commissioner Grandi underscored that humanitarian agencies “are not a replacement for real engagement and political solutions” and that forced displacement is one of the many faces of the Council/multilateral system’s inability to prevent conflict. (For more, see our 6 December 2021 What’s in Blue story.)
In the past decade, UN member states have shown significant concern over the issue of forced displacement. In 2016, the General Assembly unanimously adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, reaffirming the importance of the international refugee regime and paving the way for its affirmation of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) two years later. The GCR remains a key global framework for addressing the issue of forced displacement through more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing and offers guidance for states and international organisations about how to support refugees and meet their needs in ways that benefit them and their host communities. Its objectives are to ease pressures on host countries, promote refugee self-reliance, expand access to third-country solutions, and support conditions in countries of origin to facilitate refugees’ safe return.
The main vehicles for follow-up and review under the GCR include the Global Refugee Forums (GRF) held every four years, the High-Level Officials Meeting held two years after each GRF, the biennial GCR indicator report, and the High Commissioner’s annual reporting to the General Assembly. The first High-Level Officials Meeting took place in December 2021. The next Global Refugee Forum is set to take place in December 2023.
The global displacement crisis has worsened since High Commissioner Grandi briefed the Council last year. According to UNHCR, the total number of refugees and displaced people had risen to an unprecedented high of 100 million people by May 2022. UNHCR’s report, Global Trends: Forced Displacement 2021, released earlier this year, observed that 69 percent of people displaced abroad in 2021 came from five countries of origin: Syria (6.8 million), Venezuela (4.6 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.4 million) and Myanmar (1.2 million). Developments in Ukraine are not reflected in these figures. UNHCR estimates that there have been over 7,750,000 refugees from Ukraine, 6,250,000 IDPs, and close to 4.5 million persons who have registered for temporary protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe since the Russian invasion in February.
There have been several Council meetings this year on the displacement caused by the crisis in Ukraine. These include briefings by Grandi on 28 February, the UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Raouf Mazou on 17 March and Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly T. Clements on 19 April. In addition, on 7 September, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo and Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and head of the UN Human Rights Office in New York Ilze Brands Kehris briefed the Council on forced displacements, deportations and “filtration” camps in Ukraine.
Key Issues and Options
One key issue is the combined effects of conflict, COVID, and climate change on the humanitarian needs of refugees and other displaced persons.
Another important issue is addressing the differential effects of displacement on men, women and children. In their interventions in this month’s briefing, members may discuss ways to protect refugees from sexual/gender-based violence, abuse, and exploitation.
Also a key issue is that UNHCR has a funding gap of over $700 million, almost 7% of its budget of $10.5 billion (original programme budget of $8.9 billion and $1.5 billion to address exceptional circumstances in Afghanistan, Cameroon and Ukraine) for 2022. According to UNHCR’s “Underfunded Report” of September 2022, UNHCR’s work in 12 countries (Bangladesh, Chad, Colombia, DRC, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Yemen) is particularly at risk. As at August 2022, these 12 programmes received less than 50% of their necessary funding. If the gap is not addressed, UNHCR says it will have to make catastrophic cuts to lifesaving aid to refugees and displaced people later this year and in early 2023. UNHCR has requested $10.2 billion for 2023, the largest needs-based programme budget it has sought. In their statements, Council members could discuss how the funding gap exacerbates the humanitarian conditions facing persons displaced by conflict and appeal to member states to increase their financial support of UNHCR.
In the future, Council members could consider convening private meetings or informal interactive dialogues to discuss the many challenges related to displacement in particular cases. Unlike closed consultations, these meeting formats allow for the participation of non-Council member states. As a result, they could enable a frank exchange of ideas among Council members and affected countries that may be conducive to strategic thinking and problem-solving with regard to particular displacement crises.
The Council is generally united in its support for UNHCR and the work of the High Commissioner. It appears, however, that political sensitivities in the Council over issues such as Syria and Myanmar have affected Council deliberations on the issue of refugees. While all Council members agree on the need to promote the safe and voluntary return of refugees, there is a divergence of views on whether such conditions for return have already been met in these countries.
Several Council members blame Russia for creating the displacement crisis in Ukraine and have repeatedly urged Russia to withdraw its troops from the country. They have also underscored concerns that Russia is forcibly migrating civilians, including children, to Russia. Russia denies accusations that it is forcibly transporting Ukrainian civilians to Russia, maintaining that such accusations are part of a disinformation campaign by Western countries.
Some countries have highlighted the connection between climate change and refugees. At the High Commissioner’s 2021 briefing, several states noted the links between climate change and displacement. During the 12 October meeting on “Climate and security in Africa”, some Council members highlighted how climate change is destabilising the African continent and increasing displacement.
UN DOCUMENTS ON BRIEFINGS BY THE HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 October 2022S/PV.9150||This was the debate on the theme “Threats to international peace and security: climate and security in Africa”.|
|7 September 2022S/PV.9126||This was a briefing on Ukraine, requested by Albania and the US, which focused on forced displacements, deportations and “filtration” camps in Ukraine.|
|19 April 2022S/PV.9018||This was an open meeting on Ukraine, which focused on the situation of refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and returnees.|
|17 May 2022S/PV.8998||This was a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.|
|28 February 2022S/PV.8983||This was an open meeting on humanitarian developments in Ukraine.|
|7 December 2021S/PV.8919||This was a briefing by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.|
|General Assembly Documents|
|2 September 2022A/AC.96/1224||This was the report which presents the consolidated needs-based 2023 budgetary requirements of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for country and regional programmes, headquarters and global programmes.|
|29 August 2022A/77/12||This was a report of the High Commissioner for Refugees to the General Assembly.|