IPI HomeEventsPanel DiscussionsGuterres: New Crises Multiplying While Old Ones Persist

 

print print  |  share share back back

Panel Discussions - Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guterres: New Crises Multiplying While Old Ones Persist

“We are witnessing the combination of two very worrying factors: crises are multiplying, old crises never seem to die,” António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told an IPI audience on May 31, 2012. Mr. Guterres focused his discussion on the new UNHCR publication, launched earlier that day, The State of the World's Refugees: In Search of Solidarity, which addresses key developments related to internal and cross-border displacement of people and the means by which to help states shoulder their responsibilities for the forcibly displaced.

Mr. Guterres said that the world today is neither unipolar nor multipolar. The uncertainty with this transition, he said, is making “conflicts pop up” that are “difficult to predict.” This situation is further complicated by the “enormous limitations in the international community both for the prevention of conflict and resolution of conflict,” he said.

“The number of new refugees that emerged last year was the highest in a decade. At the same time, we have more and more refugees in a protracted refugee situation,” he said. “Today more than 70 percent of refugees under the UNHCR mandate have been refugees for more than five years.”

He explained new trends in forced displacement that are not related to armed conflict. “We are seeing more and more people having to move for other reasons,” he said. The factors are what he termed the “interaction of global megatrends” such as “urbanization, population growth, food insecurity, water scarcity, climate change.”

In addition, humanitarian space is shrinking. “More and more…we have sometimes national armies, international forces, UN and others, we have rebel groups, we have ethnic militias, we have religious militias, and gangsters,” in crisis regions. “More and more areas are becoming totally lawless,” he said, which makes it difficult for humanitarian actors to deliver assistance. Further complicating matters is the blurring of the line between humanitarian and armed actors.

Mr. Guterres mentioned that the 1951 Refugee Convention only provides international legal protection to those fleeing conflict across international borders. As such, it becomes especially difficult if those who flee remain within their borders, where legally their governments are supposed to provide protection. Such protection is not always forthcoming, he said, because governments are often either unable, or in some cases unwilling, to help displaced populations.

On options to rehabilitate refugees, he said, “Resettlement is an instrument of solidarity, facilitates our work in guaranteeing that asylum space is maintained,” although the opportunities for resettlement today are far less than demand.

Other options such as “voluntary repatriation and local integration, are key from the point of view of solutions.” He cautioned however that, “voluntary repatriation and local integration in areas which are extremely poor are not possible without meaningful development programs associated.”

“There is never a humanitarian solution for these problems. The solution is always political,” he said, concluding that “solidarity is extremely important. There is no single, simple solution for these questions. They all now require, because of their complexity, the involvement of a number of actors.”

The event was moderated by Warren Hoge, IPI Senior Adviser for External Relations.

Listen to Global Observatory interview with António Guterres>>



Watch event:

The Global Observatory

Can Russia Reshape Ukraine Without Firing a Shot?
To protect its interests, Russia is pushing for the federalization of Ukraine through economic influence and propaganda, but use of force could still be possible.

Key Global Events to Watch in April
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.

2014 Top 10 Issues to Watch in Peace & Security: The Global Arena
A list of ten key issues to watch that are likely to impact international peace and security in 2014, compiled by IPI's Francesco Mancini.

The Global Observatory, produced by IPI, provides timely analysis on peace and security issues, interviews with leading policymakers, interactive maps, and more.

Recent Events

April 05, 2014
IPI Opens Middle East Regional Office
International Peace Institute President Terje Rød-Larsen inaugurated IPI’s new Middle East Regional Office with a recognition of the area’s critical importance to the world and the rapid political changes underway in the countries of the region, and he asserted that IPI has an “important role” to play there.

March 26, 2014
Derek Plumbly on Lebanese Resilience Amid Rising Challenges
Lebanon has exceeded expectations in dealing with the continuing fallout from the crisis in neighboring Syria, said Derek Plumbly, United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, on March 26th. Speaking at the International Peace Institute, Mr. Plumbly praised the Lebanese people for “actually sustaining a measure of stability in their country.”

March 25, 2014
Adebajo, Panel Discuss African and African-American Nobel Peace Laureates
The ten Africans and three African-Americans who have won the Nobel Peace Prize comprise a complex group of peace leaders, said Adekeye Adebajo, Executive Director of Centre for Conflict Resolution, on March 25th. He spoke as part of a panel at the International Peace Institute’s launch of Africa’s Peacemakers, Nobel Laureates of African Descent, edited by Mr. Adebajo.

View More