What's In Blue

Posted Fri 27 Oct 2023

Briefing by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees*

On Tuesday morning* (31 October), following the briefing on Ukraine, the Security Council will convene for a briefing by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi under the agenda item “Briefing by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”.

Grandi is expected to provide an overview of the current situation of displaced people and refugees globally, as well as some of the main challenges facing the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He is likely to draw attention to a growing number of emergencies causing large-scale displacement. These include armed conflicts, climate emergencies, natural disasters, as well as energy and food crises.

Over the past decade, the number of displaced people and refugees has continued to rise steadily. At the end of 2022, that number has reached 108.4 million, a 19 million increase from late 2021. By the end of September, UNHCR estimated that there were over 114 million displaced people and refugees worldwide.

UNHCR’s report, Global Trends: Forced Displacement 2022, which was released earlier this year, indicates that, in 2022, 52 percent of all refugees and other people in need of international protection came from three countries: Syria (6.5 million), Ukraine (5.7 million), and Afghanistan (5.7 million). The countries hosting the largest number of refugees are Türkiye (3.6 million), Iran (3.4 million), Colombia (2.5 million), Germany (2.1 million), and Pakistan (1.7 million). In his briefing on Monday, Grandi may elaborate on these and other situations covered in the report. He is also likely to discuss other crises that have led to significant displacement, such as Ethiopia, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Grandi and several Council members may also raise concerns about the situation in Sudan, where fighting erupted on 15 April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group. According to data released by UNHCR in September, about one million Sudanese people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. UNHCR projects that the number of Sudanese refugees will reach 1.8 million by the end of 2023.

There may also be discussion of developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijan’s reclaiming of the disputed area on 19 September has forced approximately 100,000 ethnic Armenians to flee to neighbouring Armenia, prompting the UN to send its first mission to the territory in about 30 years to identify the humanitarian needs of people who remain in the area and those who are on the move.

In recent weeks, the Security Council has held several meetings on the recent escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza, and the ensuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. According to a 24 October OCHA flash update, an estimated 1.4 million people in Gaza are internally displaced, with nearly 590,000 sheltering in 150 UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)-designated emergency shelters. In their statements, some Council members might reflect on these developments and on the Council’s failure to adopt an outcome on the crisis. (For more information, see our 7, 12, 16, 23, and 25 October What’s in Blue stories.) While Grandi might mention these alarming developments, he is not expected to brief on the situation, given that UNHCR’s mandate does not cover Palestinian refugees. UNRWA has the mandate to provide direct assistance to Palestinian refugees in its field of operations, which includes Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Grandi may note that several natural disasters have also caused significant displacement this year. In October, several earthquakes hit Afghanistan, a country that already has over 3.2 million internally displaced people. In September, devastating floods in eastern Libya caused the displacement of over 40,000 people. In February, earthquakes in south-eastern Türkiye and northern Syria displaced an estimated three million, including in areas already hosting displaced persons from the Syrian conflict.

Grandi may note that worsening geopolitical divisions are hindering the international community’s response to ongoing crises. He is likely to highlight in this regard challenges facing UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations operating in conflict zones, absent political solutions and processes.

A major issue for UNHCR is its funding gap. In 2023, UNHCR’s budget rose to $10.8 billion due to the increase in displaced people globally. According to data provided by UNHCR, only 32 percent of its global budget has been funded to date. Grandi might use this briefing to appeal to donors to close this funding gap.

Grandi and some Council members may also reference the upcoming Global Refugee Forum, which will take place in December in Switzerland. Held every four years, the meeting’s purpose is to support the practical implementation of the goals set out in the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). 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 on how to support refugees and meet their needs in ways that benefit them and their host communities.

Several Council members may emphasise in their statements the need to enhance protection of refugees and displaced persons, including taking account of the differential effects of displacement on men, women, and children. These members may emphasise the need to protect refugees from sexual and gender-based violence, abuse, and exploitation.


Post-script (28 October): A previous version of this story indicated that the briefing by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi will take place on Monday afternoon (30 October). After the story’s publication, the meeting was postponed to Tuesday morning (31 October) because an emergency meeting on the situation in Gaza was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

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