What's In Blue

Posted Wed 29 May 2024

Briefing by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Tomorrow afternoon (30 May), 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 global situation for displaced people and refugees, highlighting key challenges faced by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He is likely to draw attention to the increasing number of emergencies causing large-scale displacement, including armed conflicts, climate emergencies, natural disasters, as well as energy and food crises.

UNHCR is set to publish in June its next global trends report, which will offer detailed information on the number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) worldwide for 2023. In his briefing tomorrow, Grandi may share some preliminary data that will be included in this report.

Over the past decade, the number of displaced people and refugees has continued to rise steadily. At the end of 2022, that number had reached 108.4 million, a 19 million increase from late 2021. By late September 2023, UNHCR estimated that there were over 114 million displaced people and refugees worldwide.

Given that the main audience for this briefing is the Security Council, Grandi is likely to focus on some of the main refugee crises resulting from breaches of international peace and conflict.

The escalating conflict in Israel and Gaza has featured prominently on the Council’s agenda during the past eight months. According to the latest estimates by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), some 1.7 million people are displaced across the Gaza Strip. While Grandi is likely to mention these alarming developments, he is not expected to brief on this 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. In their statements tomorrow, some members might also draw attention to the IDP population in Gaza.

Grandi and several Council members may also raise concerns about the sharp escalation of violence in Sudan, particularly in North Darfur, over the past several weeks. Since 15 April 2023, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group, have been locked in a civil war that has had devastating humanitarian consequences for the civilian population. Over 8.8 million people have been displaced since the conflict began, 1.8 million of whom have sought refuge in neighbouring countries—the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan—according to data provided by UNHCR.

Grandi is likely to address the record levels of displacement in Myanmar. The conflict in the country has continued to escalate during the first quarter of 2024, further exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in the country. According to UNHCR, as at 1 May, some 2.7 million people have been internally displaced in Myanmar since February 2021.

In his briefing, Grandi may draw attention to some other conflicts that have been receiving less Council attention and exposure in media outlets. In this regard, he may highlight the situation of displaced populations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Sahel region, Syria, and Ukraine, among others.

Grandi may note that worsening geopolitical divisions are hampering the international community’s ability to respond to crises. He is also likely to emphasise the challenges faced by UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations operating in conflict zones.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications