10 November 2005

Rise of Intolerance Clear Danger for Peace, Social Cohesion Refugee High Commissioner Tells Third Committee

As Committee Begins Debate on Refugee Issues, Human Rights Texts Introduced, Discussion on Racism Concluded

NEW YORK, 9 November (UN Headquarters) -- The rise of intolerance in today's world and the inability of different people to live together was a clear danger for world peace and the social cohesion of societies, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said today, as he presented the report of his Office to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).

Speaking as the Committee began its consideration of questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian issues, Mr. Guterres said the UNHCR, a protection agency, was faced today with increasing challenges, including confronting rising intolerance in modern societies, preserving asylum in complex population flows, and addressing the clear gap that still existed between humanitarian relief and development to make solutions last.  Societies were becoming more and more multi-ethnic, multicultural and multireligious, but only in a tolerant environment could complex societal problems be solved.

To meet those challenges, the UNHCR needed strong partnerships and a healthy funding base, and also required transparency, accountability and structural reform, he continued.  Stressing that the fight against intolerance involved all Member States, he said everyone must band together and stand against irrationality, suspicion and the clamour for exclusion.  Rather than bow to public opinion, it was necessary to aim to lead it, holding firm to values and principles and reaffirming accountability to refugees.

In an interactive debate following his presentation, in which the representatives of the Sudan, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Georgia, Belarus and Indonesia participated, Mr. Guterres further stressed that, unless people were able to live together, there would be no achievement of global peace or social cohesion in the countries themselves.  What was being witnessed today was proof of the need to fight all forms of irrationality in political behaviour that did not allow people to live together in harmony while respecting differences, he said.

When the Committee began its discussion on the refugee issue, it heard statements from the representatives of the United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union), Angola (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Japan, China, Switzerland, Canada, Algeria, the United Republic of Tanzania, Russian Federation, Malta, Turkey, Zambia, United States, Ukraine and Ethiopia, as well as the observers of the International Organization for Migration and the Holy See and the representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of five draft resolutions on human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The representative of Qatar introduced a draft resolution on the establishment of a United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for Southwest Asia and the Arab Region.  Austria's representative introduced draft resolutions on human rights in the administration of justice and on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.  The representative of the United Kingdom introduced draft texts on the situation of human rights in the Sudan and Uzbekistan.

The representative of Uzbekistan spoke in the exercise of the right of reply, following the introduction of the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in his country.

The Committee also concluded its discussion of issues related to the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the right of peoples to self-determination. The representatives of the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Saint Lucia, Croatia, Dominica, Brazil, Jordan, Israel, South Africa, Armenia and Azerbaijan made statements on those issues.

Following those statements, the representatives of Israel and Palestine spoke in the exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., on Thursday, 10 November, to continue its discussion on refugees and humanitarian questions, as well as take action on draft resolutions on human rights questions.


The Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian) met today to conclude its general debate on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the right of peoples to self-determination.

The Committee also met to begin consideration of the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons, and humanitarian questions.

The Committee had before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/60/12), which concludes that the UNHCR had launched many initiatives in recent years to improve its internal functioning and external response and performance.

The Committee also had before it the Report of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/60/12/Add.1), which highlights the work, conclusions and decisions of the Executive Committee during its fifty-sixth session, held from 3 to 7 October 2005.

In addition, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General's report on follow-up to the regional conference to address the problems of refugees, displaced persons, other forms of involuntary displacement and returnees in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and relevant neighbouring States (document A/60/276), which would have the General Assembly note with satisfaction the efforts of the UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to develop strategies and tools for more effective capacity-building in countries of origin, and to enhance programmes to address the CIS concerns.

The report states that the 1996 Geneva Conference and its follow-up process provided the first major framework for international cooperation in migration, displacement and asylum in the post-Soviet era.  Further, it states that the 10-year process has been successful in developing strategies and practical tools for capacity-building; promoting adherence to international standards and practices; and facilitating cooperation through regional and international partnerships.  The UNHCR remains committed to partnerships within a revamped Geneva Conference framework tailored to the evolving needs of the 12 CIS member countries and their relationships both within and beyond their geographical borders.

The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General's report on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/60/293), which contains an overview of developments, detailed regional updates, information about specific areas of inter-agency cooperation and cooperation with regional organizations and efforts to coordinate resources.  The report covers the period between 2004 and the first half of 2005.

The text concludes that sustainable reintegration of returnees and internally displaced persons in post-conflict situations remains key to ensuring peace and much-needed development.  To end forced displacement and resolve the problem of refugees and other displaced populations in Africa, concerted efforts by the international community to address the root causes of conflict, including socio-economic deprivation, political repression, inter-communal disputes, unemployment, lack of basic infrastructure and services, and depletion of natural resources must remain a priority.

The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General's report on assistance to unaccompanied refugee minors (document A/60/300), which takes note of the efforts of the UNHCR and other organizations to protect and assist unaccompanied refugee minors.  The report includes information for the two-year period since the last report, as well as information provided by the UNHCR, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and other organizations.

The report concludes that serious challenges remain and hamper protection and safeguarding of the rights of refugee children, including unaccompanied and separated children.  Those challenges include lack of accountability for violations; security concerns for both refugees and staff; insufficient human and financial resources; discrimination towards girls; and, in some instances, lack of political will by States to implement or comply with international norms and standards.  The report states that the UNHCR's collaboration and mutual support, with its sister agencies and United Nations partners, would be vital as it seeks to implement the Secretary-General's reforms, implement the millennium targets, build greater accountability and transparency, and improve its all-around performance.

Also before the Committee was a letter dated 17 October 2005 from the Permanent Representative of Yemen to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/60/440-S/2005/658), which transmits the final communiqué of the annual coordination meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the States members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, held at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 23 September 2005.

The Committee was also expected to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the establishment of a United Nations human rights training and documentation centre for South-West Asia and the Arab region (document A/C.3/60/L.32).

In addition, the Committee was also expected to hear the introduction of four drafts on human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives.  They included drafts on human rights in the administration of justice (document A/C.3/60/L.38); effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/C.3/60/L.39); the situation of human rights in the Sudan (document A/C.3/60/L.47); and the situation of human rights in Uzbekistan (document A/C.3/60/L.51).

(For further information, see Press Releases GA/SHC/3835 of 7 November and GA/SHC/3836 of 8 November.)

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said he was heartened by the recognition in the World Summit Outcome Document that the international community had the responsibility to protect civilian populations against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  As the Secretary-General had recently noted, most of the mass displacements of people over the past decade and a half had been sparked by such crimes.  Reasserting that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was, above all, a protection agency, he stressed that protection must inform all actions and be the starting point for the solutions sought for people in the care of Member States.

As a protection agency, the UNHCR was faced today with increasing challenges, including confronting rising intolerance in modern societies, preserving asylum in complex population flows, and addressing the clear gap that still existed between humanitarian relief and development to make solutions last.  The first of those challenges -- intolerance -- was perhaps the most difficult to address, he said, and it was a clear danger for world peace and the social cohesion of societies.  Societies were becoming more and more multi-ethnic, multicultural and multireligious.  Only in a tolerant environment could complex societal problems be solved.

The second challenge -- asylum and migration flows -- related to the first, he continued.  Preserving asylum required that those in need of protection were able to be found when they were concealed by complex migration flows.  All States were entitled to the responsible management of their borders and to adopt appropriate migration policies.  They should also act forcefully to eliminate the smuggling and trafficking of human beings and severely punish the profiteers.  But guarding borders must not prevent physical access to asylum procedures or fair refugee status determination for those entitled to it by international law.

The third challenge represented a major problem for the international community, he said.  The lack of an effective link between relief and development remained a great handicap.  That was particularly true of repatriation, where large-scale returns were difficult to sustain if development stalled and instability grew.  Furthermore, prevention and post-conflict management were both crucial to avoiding population displacement.  For that reason, the UNHCR was very enthusiastic about the advent of the Peacebuilding Commission and intended to play an active role in the Commission's Support Office.

There was today a general consensus, underlined by the Humanitarian Response Review, that the inability to address internal displacement had become the single biggest failure in humanitarian action.  That was no longer acceptable, he said.  To meet the challenges described, the UNHCR must demonstrate vision and results.  It needed strong partnerships and a healthy funding base, and also required transparency, accountability and structural reform.  Providing an overview of the UNHCR's operations, he stressed that the fight against intolerance involved all Member States.  Everyone must band together and stand against irrationality, suspicion and the clamour for exclusion.  Rather than bow to public opinion, it was necessary to aim to lead it, holding firm to values and principles and reaffirming accountability to refugees.  The institution of asylum must be defended and cherished at all costs, he added.

Interactive Dialogue

Opening the interactive dialogue with Mr. Guterres, the representative of Sudan asked about measures that could be taken by the UNHCR and the international community to ensure the voluntary return of refugees to southern Sudan.  In response, Mr. GUTERRES said the issue was, of course, of concern to his Office, and the Office was preparing for that now.  The return of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been delayed by actions by the large resistance army both in southern Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so the movement had been delayed because the Office wanted it to be orderly.  It was also very important that the memorandum of understanding was signed with the Governments of the country of origin and of the country of return, and it was necessary to have clarification as to who would sign the memorandum in the Sudan.

Mr. GUTERRES expressed hope that the return of refugees to southern Sudan would be orderly, and said his Office would do its best to cooperate with other actors so that that would be possible.  A crucial question with regard to the issue of the return of refugees was what would happen to the children that had been attending school in the camps when they returned.  He added that the problem in southern Sudan was not a problem of reconstruction but of construction, and that the sustainability of return was of crucial importance.

Asked by the Sudan's representative about the conflict in Darfur, Mr. GUTERRES said that in relation to Darfur, the possibilities of return were not massive, because the area still had huge security problems.  His Office had been assisting a slow return of people within Darfur, when the population was willing to do so, but a massive return would not be possible.  That was why it was absolutely essential that an agreement be signed.  While it would not be the solution to all of the problems, a lot of other things would have to be done based on that agreement.  He added that his Office would be actively engaged in cooperating with other agencies and actors involved.

The representative of Pakistan said his Government would have preferred to have some explicit reference in the UNHCR's report on the contribution that Pakistan had made and was making since 1979, as well as the price it had paid for housing the largest refugee population in the world.  That was evident by looking at the table of the budgetary resources allocated by the UNHCR, which showed that only about 24 cents per refugee per day were allocated for refugees in Pakistan, which was not even enough to buy a half-litre of milk.  Obviously, the Government and people of Pakistan were doing a lot, and would continue to do so, but they would be extremely heartened if they received more than just a cursory reference in the report.

In response, Mr. GUTERRES said he absolutely agreed with Pakistan's representative.  However, he felt that much more relevant than what was written in the report was what he and his Office had been saying at every forum, by recognizing the extreme generosity of Pakistan in efforts to receive and protect refugees from Afghanistan.  That sentiment should also be extended to Iran, who was also making a huge effort, he said.  He also fully recognized that impacted areas needed international assistance.

Answering questions from United Kingdom's representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, on cluster leads and on mechanisms to facilitate interaction, Mr. GUTERRES said that what had been learned from Pakistan, for example, regarding the cluster lead was that the approach needed to be very flexible.  It would be absurd to wait for all of the mechanisms to be in place, and it was necessary to use the cluster approach as a mechanism in order to have accountability and to make sure that there was a provider of last resort, but that absolutely needed to be flexible.  It was not the reality that must adjust to the theory, but the theory that needed to be adjusted to each reality, he said.

One of the main issues faced today, he continued, was that while many refugees said that they wanted to return, but there must be a set of minimum conditions at the place of return for them to do so.  While his Office sometimes received criticism from the United Kingdom for what it did, there was sometimes absolutely nothing without actions by his Office.  It was necessary for the development actors to come very early in the process to establish a bridge, and he expressed hope that the Peacebuilding Commission would be a very important element in filling that gap.  It was also necessary to be honest and acknowledge that the international community today did not know how to link relief assistance with development assistance.  The solution was still not there, and there was a lot of work that needed to be done.  If not, the return of refugees would not be sustainable, nor would peace, democracy or human rights be possible.

In response to comments from the representative of Georgia regarding conflict and refugees in her country, Mr. GUTERRES said her comments were proof of what occurred when States did not deal with the disease but instead dealt with the symptoms.  It was not possible to achieve the return of refugees or internally displaced persons if political problems were not solved, and there, his Office could do very little.  Political problems must be solved by the main actors with the support of the international community because, if not, there could be no humanitarian solution to the problem.

The key problem in today's world, he continued, was rising intolerance, and the inability of different people to live together.  Unless people were able to live together, there would be no solution to the problems of global peace or the social cohesion of the countries themselves.  What was being witnessed today was proof of the need to fight populism and all forms of irrationality in political behaviour that did not allow people to live together in harmony while being different and respecting each other.

He also thanked Georgia's representative for inviting him to visit her country.

In response to an expression of support from the representative of Belarus, Mr. GUTERRES said his Office had been working quite successfully with the CIS in building up capacities for asylum assistance.

Answering a question from Indonesia's representative on the UNHCR's involvement in assistance to internally displaced persons in natural disasters, Mr. GUTERRES said the Office's main action was not in natural disasters in relation to the internally displaced, although it would, of course, be available to help with support.  His Office was happy to be cooperating with the Government of Indonesia, but his comments had referred mostly to situations of conflict and not to natural disasters.

ADAM THOMSON ( United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the UNHCR had had another challenging year.  The number of protracted refugee situations was increasing, new emergencies had arisen and the humanitarian situation in Darfur continued.  The recent attack on Aro Sharrow camp was of grave concern.  He urged all parties to the conflict to stop all violence immediately and reach a lasting peace without delay.  He noted the generosity of Chad and other countries hosting Sudanese refugees in the region, adding that he supported the peace accord in southern Sudan and the UNHCR's work to improve conditions for returning Sudanese.  The European Union was doing its part to ease the burden of regions to protect refugees.  Last month, the European Union Justice Council and Home Affairs Council had endorsed conclusions on pilot Regional Protection Programmes intended to improve, in collaboration with the UNHCR and host countries, the protection of persons concerned and find sustainable solutions to their plights, including resettlement.

Such programmes complemented efforts to establish by 2010 a Common European Asylum System, which would give protection to those who required it and deal fairly and efficiently with those without protection requirements, he continued.  That process would entail taking stock of the assessment and monitoring of implementation of already existing asylum instruments and practical cooperation among Member States.  While welcoming the UNHCR's continued efforts to improve protection services and strengthen the international community's capacity to protect, there was still a shortage of protection staff on the ground.  He urged the UNHCR's management to prioritize protection in allocating staff positions.  Effective protection also depended on the UNHCR's productive relations with non-governmental organizations and other United Nations agencies.

ISMAEL GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said despite numerous efforts to address the root causes of refugees and displaced persons in Africa, the region, due to lingering armed conflict and social tension, continued to account for about one third of the global refugee population.  However, positive developments were taking place and would pave the way for the safe and dignified return of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons.  He lauded those African countries that had locally integrated refugees in their territories, and said such developments presented an unprecedented opportunity to find a durable solution for several of the region's protracted refugee situations.  The overall political stability in Central Africa and the Great Lakes region was encouraging.  The SADC supported a holistic approach to the refugee problem, along with African Union initiatives and within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

The SADC Council of Ministers recognized the importance of preventive measures -- that is addressing social, economic and political issues -- to complement protective measures, he said.  The Community was committed to strengthening local capacity to protect and assist refugees, and give effect to the concept of burden sharing.  Voluntary repatriation was the most preferred durable solution for millions of refugees and internally displaced persons.  For example, the successful repatriation of refugees in Angola merited further study.  The return, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction also broaden and expedited poverty reduction.  Comprehensive and institutionalized approaches to reintegration had also been successfully implemented in several countries.  The smooth transition from emergency relief to long-term development remained a key priority, particularly in post-conflict situations.

SHIGEYUKI SHIMAMORI ( Japan) said the adoption last month of the Conclusion on International Protection by the Executive Committee of the UNHCR demonstrated the international community's strong commitment to safeguard the principle of refugee protection.   Japan was doing its part, putting into effect an amended Immigration Control Law, and setting up a system whereby applicants for refugee status were tentatively granted permission to stay in the country under certain conditions, in order to provide them with a more stable legal base.   Japan would continue to assist those countries that accepted a large number of refugees, especially in Africa.  The new post of Assistant High Commissioner for Protection should enable the UNHCR to better respond to refugees' protection needs.

Efforts to achieve durable solutions were important, as a significant number of refugees were returning to their homeland, he said.  Human security emphasized empowerment of refugees and returnees to be self-reliant, and eventually indispensable partners for development.  The concept of human security stressed a coherent approach to overcome the gap between emergency relief and development.  The Human Security Trust Fund had assisted in implementing projects worldwide, with particular emphasis on collaboration among United Nations funds, programmes and agencies.  The issue of internally displaced persons continued to be a challenge to the United Nations.  The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, included in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, indicated that States were primarily responsible for preventing internal displacement of persons and for protecting and assisting them.  The international community should offer assistance to States overwhelmed by massive displacements.  He also supported the UNHCR's willingness to consider a lead role in protection and camp management of internally displaced persons, in consultation with member States of its Executive Committee.

XIE BOHUA ( China) said the latest statistics of the UNHCR showed that the number of refugees worldwide had fallen in 2004 to 9 million, the lowest level in 25 years.  That was the result of the international community's concerted efforts in the spirit of international solidarity and burden sharing.  However, the number of people "of concern" to UNHCR had risen to 19.2 million.  A permanent solution to the global refugee problem remained elusive.  During the 2005 World Summit, Member States committed to addressing the root causes of the refugee problem and reaffirmed that implementation of the Millennium Development Goals was vital to solving the refugee problem.

The UNHCR's Executive Committee agreed in early October to create a new post for an Assistant High Commissioner for Protection to enhance the agency's role in international protection, he continued.  The UNHCR should carry out its international protection mandate in compliance with its Statute and relevant General Assembly resolutions, work on the delivery of international protection and assist countries to find durable solutions for refugees, as well as fulfil its mandate based on full cooperation with Member States.  He expressed hope that the UNHCR would seize the opportunity presented by the United Nations broad reform to further enhance internal management and improve efficiency in its use of funds, so as to better respond to the refugee problem.

SABINA VIGANI ( Switzerland) said she supported any initiative aimed at strengthening protection in the operational activities in the UNHCR, as well as creation of the post of Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, saying it should be integrated as part of a reorganization process intended to strengthen the UNHCR's overall protection capacities.  An assessment should be made after two years to measure the extent to which creation of the post had led to increased protection on the ground.

She favoured the UNHCR's involvement on behalf of displaced persons on the condition that such involvement did not detriment the Agency's main mandate of coordinating international action to protect refugees and seek sustainable solutions to the problem.  She advocated substantial and qualitative improvement in the UNHCR's refugee protection capacities and activities.  Reforms under discussion in the United Nations to define sector-based responsibilities should help increase collaboration of competent organizations to respond to displaced persons' needs.  Detailed consultations must be held within the framework of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, notably with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to avoid duplication and gaps in the protection of displaced persons.

GILBERT LAURIN ( Canada) said it was critically important that all States demonstrated their commitment to refugee protection through concrete action, particularly to the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, which was widely recognized as customary international law.  It was also important to reaffirm the essential, humanitarian and non-political role of the UNHCR in helping States to respond to the needs of refugees.  The past year had been one of contradictions.  As the High Commissioner had noted during the October Executive Committee session, the number of refugee was at its lowest level in almost a quarter century.  Yet, the number of internally displaced people continued to rise.  Large numbers of refugees had been able to return home this year owing to improved conditions, but roughly half of all post-conflict situations slid back into violence within five years.  Major challenges, therefore, remained to prevent the forced displacement of individuals and to ensure that their return was sustainable.

The General Assembly played a critical role in addressing those challenges by promoting the development and implementation of initiatives that addressed the causes of forced displacement and which supported reconciliation.  The international community had several tools by which to mitigate those circumstances that could lead to refugee flows, and must continue to promote respect for human rights, human security and stability.  The UNHCR could feed into such efforts while continuing to strengthen its own capacity to respond to emergencies and to fulfil its role in relation to refugee protection.  The UNHCR remained the pre-eminent international agency mandated to meet the protection needs of refugees, he added.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said the reports of the UNHCR and the Secretary-General had revealed a notable reduction in the number of refugees worldwide, thanks to voluntary repatriation, particularly in Africa.  But certain regions in Africa still suffered from armed conflict and social tension.  Africa accounted for one third of the 19.2 million refugees worldwide.  The heavy burden of host countries to take in such refugees was also despairing.  During the 2005 World Summit, Member States had committed to finding lasting solutions to the refugee problem, and had agreed to the continued need for international solidarity, burden sharing, protection of women and children.

He supported the Convention Plus initiative of the Commission on Human Rights to allow for the integral application of instruments to resolve the refugee problem, and to seek long-term solutions.  The UNHCR's partnerships with other United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations were essential.  He noted with satisfaction that strengthening partnerships with additional donors, including the private sector, had allowed the UNHCR to make progress in collecting funds, but more efforts were needed to improve the financial deficit.   Algeria had welcomed refugees from Western Sahara, despite the great financial burden it placed on the struggling Algerian economy.  He said he was surprised by the fact that the UNHCR had revised its figures of subsistence assistance from 155,000 refugees in Algeria after 2000 to 158,000 refugees in 2004, and then downgrading that figure recently to 90,000.  He supported efforts by a joint delegation of the UNHCR and the World Food Programme to re-evaluate the situation and ensure that the correct figures were registered so as to make the necessary relief available to those refugees.

JUDITH MTAWALI (United Republic of Tanzania) said her country had continued to host the largest protracted refugee caseload in Africa.  With a registered refugee population of more than 500,000, compounded with an added figure of some 200,000 unregistered refugees, Tanzania had pursued its international obligation towards the refugee cause with sheer courage and commitment over the decades, despite the dwindling trend of international assistance and support.  As a country with enormous responsibility regarding the refugee cause, Tanzania was in need of more assistance for the provision of essential facilities and services.  Stressing that voluntary repatriation was the most durable solution to the refugee problem, she commended the UNHCR for its commitment and support in undertaking that noble humanitarian cause.

Her country was currently involved in two major voluntary repatriation operations -- that of Burundian refugees and refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said.  While there was a great desire by the refugees to return to their homeland, the voluntary repatriation exercise faced challenges that called for concerted efforts in addressing them.  While the areas of return in Burundi experienced absorption and reintegration challenges caused by the mounting pressure of incoming returnees amid limited existing capacities, her country experienced many logistical support problems caused by the non-existence of a voluntary repatriation budget.  She was also very much concerned that the repatriation exercise to Burundi might be reduced or suspended altogether if the funds were not provided.

BORIS CHERNENKO ( Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation was working to enhance cooperation with the UNHCR.  Many people who were seeking asylum were going to economically developed countries.  Many of those people were economic migrants and did not need the kind of protection given to asylum seekers.  The lack of discrepancy between assistance provided to asylum seekers and assistance provided to economic migrants undermined the authority of the UNHCR.  The Russian Federation did not support the idea of setting up screening camps.  Doing so would be degrading to countries in which it was proposed to set up such camps since the intention of people leaving was not to escape harassment but to settle in economically advanced countries.

The flood of non-genuine asylum seekers was the result of tough entry controls set up by developed countries.  In destination countries, illegal migration took root in all its destructive consequences, including religious extremism, he said.  Strict controls of those who violated the rules of asylum should be complemented by well-thought out policies to control labour migration and combat illegal migration.  During its 10 October meeting, the Conference of the CIS had moved beyond addressing emergency relief and towards addressing effective control of migration flows.  When the Conference process was complete, bilateral and regional cooperation would continue effectively.  The Russian Federation was encouraged by the overall drop in the number of internally displaced persons worldwide.  States should be primarily responsible for such persons and should provide them with legal protection.  The UNHCR's work for internally displaced persons was quite effective and constructive.  He favoured maintenance of the existing principle of voluntary funding for the UNHCR and intended to continue to offer financial support.

DEBORAH ATTARD-MONTALTO ( Malta) said her country recognized its international and moral responsibilities to provide asylum or protected humanitarian status to those who genuinely needed it and in accordance with international conventions.  Malta had been generous, just and humane in its response to the plight of refugees.   Malta's civil society had also played an active and positive role to help alleviate their plight.  From 2002 to 2004, her country had granted refugee status or protected humanitarian status to an average of 53 per cent of asylum seekers -- the highest acceptance rate in Europe.  It had also further improved its capacity-building to ensure a faster status determination process, which permitted early release from detention.

Over the last few years, Malta had experienced a constant increase of irregular immigrants, she said.  The activities of an international criminal network of human smuggling and trafficking across the Mediterranean constituted one of the causes of that problem.  The situation was serious, not only owing to the problems posed by the reception of large numbers of illegal immigrants, many of whom had to be rescued at sea, but also to the loss of life.  Recent tragic events in the Mediterranean proved the need to reinforce international cooperation regarding rescues at sea, especially the protection elements involved.  Furthermore, special efforts should be undertaken to fight illegal migration and human trafficking which, if unaddressed, could prove prejudicial to the rights of genuine refugees and persons qualifying for humanitarian status in accordance with international law.  That should be done in a spirit of burden-sharing and in line with the principles of international humanitarian law.

SERHAT AKSEN ( Turkey) said the root cause of internal displacement in his country had been the scourge of terrorism, from which it suffered for two decades.  His Government attached great importance to the successful return of displaced persons on a voluntary basis.  In that regard, the Return to Village and Rehabilitation Project had been implemented since 1994.  As of September, 127,050 individuals, constituting more than one third of the total amount of displaced persons, had returned to their villages.  A dialogue had also been initiated with the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Commission representatives in Turkey, with a view to defining possible cooperation areas and methods.

His Government had also recently prepared an Integrated Strategy document, which aimed to enhance activities pursued by relevant Turkish authorities regarding internally displaced persons on a more integrated basis.  The United Nations guiding principles on internal displacement provided the basis for that document.  In line with the Integrated Strategy document, which had already been endorsed by the Turkish Cabinet and the President, a new unit would be established in the Ministry of the Interior that would exclusively be responsible for the implementation and coordination of the integrated strategy towards internally displaced persons.

TENS C. KAPOMA ( Zambia) said his delegation was pleased to note that the refugee population worldwide was in decline.  Despite positive developments on the issue, however, he noted that there were more than 230,000 refugees who fled their countries, thus creating new large-scale emergencies.  The recent case of Darfur, in which more than 200,000 people had sought refuge in Chad by mid-2005, presented a complex humanitarian situation.  His own country had been a traditional host of refugees for more than three decades, and currently hosted about 200,000 refugees.  Since 2003, Zambia had been preoccupied with the voluntary repatriation of refugees from Angola and Rwanda.  Although the exercise had been successful in part, it had not been without challenges.  The main issue had been the lack of resources to transport every Angolan refugee seeking voluntary repatriation.

Regarding the repatriation of refugees from Rwanda, he continued, progress had been rather slow, despite the restoration of peace and stability in the country.  Out of about 6,000 refugees, only 132 had been repatriated.  That slow progress was of concern to his Government, and due to the reluctance of refugees to voluntary return, the Government was addressing the problem within the framework of the Tripartite Commission.  His Government had also developed, in collaboration with the UNHCR, the Zambian Initiative, which promoted development through local integration.  The project took a holistic approach in addressing the needs of refugee-hosting areas, whose objective was to alleviate the effects of food deficit, poor infrastructure and limited access to public services.

JOAN PLAISTED ( United States) said she supported creation of the position of Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, and hoped it would bring further improvements to refugees in the field.  Too many refugees were caught in protracted situations.  They were often denied freedom of movement, access to education and employment opportunities.  It was imperative to find durable solutions and improve their lives.  Resolution of conflicts in countries including Afghanistan, Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone had significantly reduced the global refugee population.  She also was encouraged by the large refugee returns to southern Sudan, Congo, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo expected during the coming year.

Resettlement was another important solution for refugees, particularly for many in protracted situations, she said.  The United States had resettled more than 2.6 million refugees since 1975, and its commitment remained strong.  Over the past year, the United States opened its doors to nearly 54,000 refugees from over 50 countries.  In the coming year, it would rely on the UNHCR to help it achieve its goal for continued growth of its refugee programme.  She applauded the UNHCR's partnerships with the World Food Programme (WFP) on life-saving feeding issues and its work with other international agencies and non-governmental organizations.  However, she said refugee feeding programmes remained drastically under-funded and donors must commit to do more.

MICHAEL SCHULZ, representing the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that while a great deal of work had been done at the current session of the General Assembly on issues at the heart of the world's humanitarian agenda, there was still not much coherent discussion in the United Nations system of the issues of population movement.  That was despite the acknowledgement of their urgency by nearly all Governments and regional groups.  There was now increasingly a call for the national societies of his organization to accept responsibilities in the field of population movement.  The call was not just from vulnerable and marginalized people, but more often from Governments and international agencies, which saw the organization as equipped to take on responsibilities for certain conditions of uprooted people living in an irregular situation.

His organization could only accept responsibilities that were in conformity with the fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, he said.  That meant that its priority would be to protect and assist vulnerable people, including refugees, internally displaced persons, undocumented migrants and victims of smuggling and trafficking, and that it would provide humanitarian support to people without discrimination of any kind and irrespective of their legal status.  In some countries, among the greatest concerns were those people marginalized by the fact that many Governments had still not adopted migration policies or legislation that made it possible for migration to take place in an orderly manner.  Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies enjoyed the right to dialogue with public authorities in their countries on matters of humanitarian concern.  That positioning was at the heart of the urgent wish of the International Federation to see Governments find new ways of addressing population movement in a holistic manner.  His organization was also increasingly concerned about the propensity of Governments to see the establishment of camps as the standard solution to respond to an influx of asylum seekers, he added.

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

The representative of Qatar introduced the draft on the establishment of a United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for Southwest Asia and the Arab Region (document A/C.3/60/L.32).  He noted that the Gulf Cooperation States had welcomed the offer by Qatar to house the Centre.  The Centre aimed to contribute to the promotion of human rights in the region through training, documentation, information dissemination and best practice exchange, as well as to encourage States to adopt human rights policies and ratify international human rights conventions.  It would work to train law enforcement officials to better protect human rights and promote the creation of national human rights commissions and the independence of such commissions.

Introducing a draft resolution on human rights in the administration of justice (document A/C.3/60/L.38), the representative of Austria said the text expressed the conviction that the independence and impartiality of the judiciary were essential prerequisites for the protection of human rights and for ensuring that there was no discrimination in the administration of justice.  The draft resolution emphasized the right to access to justice as an important basis for strengthening the rule of law through the administration of justice.  It also reaffirmed existing standards in the field and called for their better implementation, as well as addressed capacity-building in the field of the administration of justice in post-conflict situations.  Furthermore, this year's draft highlighted the work of the Inter-Agency Coordination Panel on Juvenile Justice, he said.

The same representative also introduced a draft resolution on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/C.3/60/L.39), which he said reflected the appointment of the independent expert on minority issues by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 29 July.  The draft resolution called on the Working Group on Minorities of the sub-commission on the promotion and protection of human rights to focus its work on conceptual support of and dialogue with the independent expert.  The text also invited the High Commissioner for Human Rights to facilitate the effective participation of representatives of non-governmental organizations, persons belonging to minorities, and experts on minority issues, in particular from the developing countries, in minority-related issues being considered by the United Nations.

The representative of the United Kingdom introduced the draft on the situation of human rights in Sudan (document A/C.3/60/L.47).  He noted progress in recent months in the Sudan to implement the peace agreement and commended the cooperative spirit in which the Government of National Unity had welcomed the Special Rapporteur and Special Advisor.  However, the European Union continued to have grave concerns regarding widespread violation of human rights in the Sudan, particularly in Darfur.  The draft called on the Government of National Unity to protect human rights and end the prevailing culture of impunity against violators.  The international community must send a strong signal to Sudanese officials to do the same.

He then introduced the draft on the situation of human rights in Uzbekistan (document A/C.3/60/L.51), as orally amended, saying that this was the first resolution on the situation in Uzbekistan introduced in the General Assembly.  The human rights situation in that country remained grave.  The scale of deaths, human rights violations and the continued refusal of the Uzbek Government to cooperate with the United Nations all required the General Assembly to address this issue.

Statement in Exercise of the Right of Reply

The representative of Uzbekistan said most delegations believed that the world must put an end to the practice of human rights double standards and selectivity.  Western countries had manipulated the activities of the Third Committee to draw up resolutions on human rights situations targeting developing countries.  Such resolutions served as a tool to put political pressure on certain Member States, but they also had negative repercussions on the efficiency of United Nations human rights bodies.  That did not improve human rights cooperation.  The statement by the representative of the European Union on Uzbekistan was proof of the will of certain countries to abuse their financial and political influence, without actually helping the human rights situation.

Statements on Racism, Racial Discrimination and Self-Determination

The Committee then concluded its general debate on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the right of peoples to self-determination.

IDREES MOHAMMED ALI SAEED ( Sudan) said the propagation and development of xenophobia and racial discrimination in several parts of the world -- mainly against refugees, minorities and immigrants -- represented a disquieting sign that efforts must be redoubled to eradicate the phenomena.  The phenomena were borne from a singular way or thinking and ethnic supremacy, and were in complete contradiction with the system of religious and humanist values, which called for peaceful settlement among civilizations.  The transitional constitution in the Sudan clearly said that the standards for the exercise of the rights of citizenship did not discriminate toward ethnic or religious groups.  All citizens enjoyed the same rights as stipulated by the constitution.

The Durban Declaration represented a great step ahead to deal with the dangerous phenomena, and it was necessary to reaffirm a determination and will to face the situation, and to take action on regional and international measures in that respect, he said.  His delegation had recently noted problems regarding the affirmation of religion, such as not taking into account religious symbols, and a lack of respect for the sacredness and sanctity of beliefs.  Such problems naturally led to confrontation among civilizations and represented a threat to international peace and security.  It was necessary to tackle and eradicate the phenomenon by conducting a world-awareness campaign.  Furthermore, the Arab and Muslim communities of the world were suffering after 11 September from racial discrimination and a denial of their political, cultural and social rights.  It was necessary to guarantee their legitimate rights so that they could live in calm, security and peace.  Regarding the right of self-determination, the Sudan believed that it was very important to recognize that the right could not be used or interpreted to divide States, destroy their social fabric, or interfere in their national affairs or territorial integrity.

Mr. ALRISHIDAN ( Saudi Arabia) stressed the importance of greater efforts to fight racism, xenophobia and racial discrimination.  Many attempts had been made in the international community to disparage Muslims and their beliefs, the latest being against the Prophet Mohammad.  That was occurring in the Western media under the guise of what was called freedom of opinion.   Saudi Arabia was concerned about the growth in Islamaphobia.  In his periodic report, the Special Rapporteur on current forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia of the Commission on Human Rights stressed that the General Assembly should step up efforts against racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia emanating from new forms of terrorism, social categories and communities.

It was important to study Islamaphobia, he said, urging all Member States to counter all attempts at religious defamation.   Saudi Arabia was guided by Islamic precepts in order to achieve equity and non-discrimination.  The principle of Islamic Shari'a was to promote a spirit of tolerance, regardless of race, sex or nationality.  At the international level, Saudi Arabia had contributed to global efforts to ratify several human rights conventions.  Global ratification was in reach if the international community had good intentions and respected the principles of fraternity and cooperation.

MICHELLE JOSEPH ( Saint Lucia) said the realization of the fundamental human right to self-determination continued to elude the people of the remaining, mostly small island, Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Despite the adoption of the Decolonization Declaration 44 years ago and the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, there were still 16 such territories.  In order to ensure that the people of those territories had a legitimate opportunity to exercise the fundamental human right of self-determination, the issue must be addressed in the various Assembly committees, in the Economic and Social Council and in relevant human rights conventions.

She said the international community must accelerate its efforts to ensure that the basic right is achieved, through implementation of the actions called for in Assembly resolutions, including:  development of awareness programmes in the territories; participation of the territories in programmes of the United Nations, which would build capacity; and ownership and control of the natural resources in the territories by the people of those territories as a crucial part of sustainable development.  Those were long-standing Assembly mandates.  She, therefore, asked for support for implementation in the various bodies of the United Nations system.  "We must take a qualitative leap from principle to realization", she said.

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ ( Croatia) said her country was currently preparing a comprehensive national strategy against discrimination.  It would be based on the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and on other relevant European instruments.  She said the Croatian Constitution proclaimed equal rights and freedom as among the highest values.  The law also stipulated that any call or instigation to national, racial, or religious hatred or any form of intolerance should be prohibited and punished.  To combat discrimination against the Roma, the Government had adopted a wide national platform with measures for their integration into society.

She noted that Croatia was a State party to a number of international instruments that provided protection against discrimination of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including their respective complaint procedures.  Croatia had become the third State party to the European Convention on Human Rights.  She said her country's legal steps and activities clearly reflected Croatia's determination to create a comprehensive legal framework for the promotion of human rights and the protection of vulnerable social groups.

CRISPIN S. GREGOIRE (Dominica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that, having survived centuries of slavery and colonialism, the people of CARICOM Member States were all too aware of the ills associated with racism and racial discrimination and their lingering effects on the development process.  The international community must remain steadfast in its commitment to usher in a new era free of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and the relevant bodies of the United Nations system must continue to challenge the international community to maintain its focus on those issues.  The CARICOM States were alarmed at the growing popularity in some Member States of political parties that were promoting racism and xenophobia.

He said, at the regional level, CARICOM acknowledged the important workshop in Brazil last year, co-sponsored by the Pan American Health Organization and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), on overcoming discrimination through the effective implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and encouraged such collaboration between regional and international institutions.  It also took note of the important seminar held in Santiago, Chile, by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on indigenous peoples and African-descendent peoples of the Americas.  Such ECLAC initiatives should in the future include a wide range of countries, especially from the Caribbean area.

The CARICOM States fully supported the provisions of Assembly resolution 59/176 on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and expressed appreciation for the engagement of the Committee in the follow-up to the Durban process.  It also concurred with the recommendations contained in Assembly resolution 59/177 on global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive follow-up to the Durban Programme of Action.  The international community must continue to ensure that the decisions of Durban were given effect to the benefit of the marginalized, of those who were discriminated against because of race and other factors, of the formerly colonized and of those who still remained under colonial domination.

RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG ( Brazil) acknowledged the persistence of racial discrimination in Brazil.  Inequalities and discrimination of a racist nature could be clearly observed in levels of income, access to education, literacy rates and poverty, he said.  Brazil understood that a purely universal policy that disregarded disparities between racial groups would merely perpetuate existing inequalities.  The Special Secretariat of Policies for the Promotion of Racial Separation, created in 2003, had made affirmative action a priority, and had set up incentives for the adoption of quotas in universities and in the workplace.

The Ministry of External Relations implemented an affirmative action programme in 2002 through which grants were distributed to finance the studies of Afro-Brazilians seeking to take the Diplomatic Academy's exams.  Anti-discrimination policies also sought to coordinate actions of different ministries to specifically target and benefit the Afro-Brazilian population living in poverty, including support for health and housing programmes, as well as capacity-building and access to credit for Afro-Brazilian-run businesses.  Further, they put particular emphasis on fostering international cooperation for the promotion of racial equality.  Next year, Brazil intended to host a regional conference of the Americas on racism and the follow-up to Durban.  Brazil also sponsored the creation of a working group at the Organization of American States (OAS) with a view to elaborating an Inter-American Convention against Racism and Racial Discrimination.

MUTAZ HYASSAT ( Jordan) said the right of self-determination was of significant importance to the international community in promoting and enhancing friendly relations among States and nations.  It embodied the free will and aspirations of peoples to determine their own political status, as well as their economic, social and cultural development.  That was the general principle of self-determination as enshrined in the Charter, the human rights Covenants, the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning friendly relations and cooperation among States in accordance with the United Nations Charter, and as confirmed most recently in the Outcome Document.  The same was true with respect to the right of self-determination in colonial situations, where people remained under alien domination or foreign occupation.

It was alarming to note that the right of Palestinian peoples to self-determination was still being violated and denied by Israel, he said.  That was stressed by the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion regarding the wall.  Jordan, therefore, called on the Israeli Government to fulfil its obligations in accordance with international law and all relevant United Nations resolutions so that the Palestinian people could freely exercise their right and establish their own sovereign State.  That fulfilment, as well as ending to violence, would lead to a just and lasting peace agreement in which the two-State solution could become a reality, and where Israel, as well as the whole region, could enjoy peace and security.

DANIEL MERON ( Israel) said it was that it was troubling that 60 years after the end of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism had increased throughout the world in recent years and in some areas with widespread acceptance.  That vicious phenomenon had remerged in the form of violent attacks, arsons of synagogues, vandalism, desecration of cemeteries, and rhetoric disguised as anti-Zionism.  The Jewish people had not been the target of such extreme intolerance since the end of World War II.  After centuries of respectful cohabitation between Muslims and Jews in Islamic countries, radical elements in the Islamic world now more frequently preached hatred against Jews and Israel, notably in the media.  Such virulent anti-Semitism inflamed an already frustrated and alienated youth, who vented their anger violently on Jews.

Israel applauded the United Nations for its recent efforts to combat that dangerous phenomenon, he said, noting that last year the General Assembly's annual resolution against racial intolerance included a condemnation of anti-Semitism.  In January, the Assembly held a special session to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps and installed an exhibit on Auschwitz in the lobby of United Nations headquarters.

LUVUYO LONSDALE NDIMENI ( South Africa) said humanity was in its first decade of the twenty-first century.  People lived in an age that was characterized by new technological developments and the quest to explore new frontiers for the betterment of humankind.  However, humankind seemed unwilling to rid itself of the scourge of racism.  Four years following the third World Conference against racism, South Africa was concerned that the follow-up to the Conference had proven to be a slow process.  The political will to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, to which the international community committed itself, was sorely lacking.

For its part, the South African Government had recently embarked on a Programme of Action to take stock of its own commitment and progress towards the transformation of the country into a truly non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.  His delegation called upon Member States to continue to support and implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.   South Africa had also actively participated in the sessions of the two working groups on the follow-up to the Durban Conference.  Regrettably, the implementation of the outcomes of the working groups had, to date, been virtually nil.  However, all was not lost.  The adoption of a five-year review process would provide the opportunity for stock-taking and strategizing in the global fight against racism and racial discrimination.  As South Africa entered its second decade of freedom, his Government would continue to pursue policies that provided for a society based on justice and equality for all.

MARINE DAVTYAN ( Armenia) said there was no moral or legal foundation to dismiss the legitimate needs of people and to deny their inalienable right to self-determination.  It was necessary to define a balanced framework within which those two principles were not considered on an "either-or" basis, but were effectively reconciled based on merit and taking into account each case's historic, political and legal background.  That should be the guiding principle during negotiations.  In the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan's claim for territorial integrity was a clear demonstration of ill-fated attempts to create a collision between the two fundamental principles.  However, that was legally, politically and morally invalid.

Nagorno-Karabakh had never been part of an independent Azerbaijan.  It was forcibly placed under Soviet Azerbaijani rule in 1921 by an arbitrary decision by then-Soviet leader Josef Stalin, she continued.  Attempts to deny the right of Nagorno-Karabakh's people to self-determination were also invalid.  Nagorno-Karabakh had proven its viability by successfully defending itself against Azerbaijan's attacks, by building and sustaining institutions and by performing state functions, including holding regular elections.  The June 2005 Parliamentary elections were monitored by about 100 observers from various countries, who had concluded that Nagorno-Karabakh had made demonstrable progress in building democracy and the rule of law.

ILGAR MAMMADOV ( Azerbaijan) said his country adhered to the norms and principles of international law, including the right of peoples to self-determination.  Those norms and principles constituted the foundation of its policy and activities in the international arena.  At the same time, her delegation reiterated the inadmissibility of artificial attempts to demonstrate contradiction between those norms and principles, particularly the principle of the territorial integrity of States and that of the right of peoples to self-determination.  It was necessary to recall that international documents that considered the right of peoples to self-determination contained important restrictive provisions, according to which the right should not be exercised in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.

Regarding the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, it could be stated with certainty that there were no grounds whatsoever for citing the problem of the conflict that allegedly existed between the principles of territorial integrity and the right of peoples to self-determination.  In any event, one formed the impression that one of those principles was being artificially linked to the other.  The question should arise as to how, in the end, the conflict could be settled, he said.  In order to answer that question, it was essential to recognize that the State should be the common home for its resident population under conditions of equality, with separate group identities being preserved for those who wanted it, under conditions making it possible to develop those identities.  Neither majorities nor minorities should be entitled to assert their identity in ways that denied the possibility for others to do the same, or which led to discrimination against others in the common domain.  The settlement of the conflict should, therefore, be based primarily on the restoration and strict maintenance of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the preservation and encouragement of the identity of the Armenian minority living in its territory, he said.

Statement in Exercise of the Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Israel said the Palestinians would always be Israel's neighbours, and that Israel would always respect them and their right to a State of their own.  Some 25 years ago, Israel recognized the rights of Palestinians within the framework of the Palestinian accords.  Since then Israel had entered into several agreements to end the conflict.  Israeli and Palestinian leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to two States living side by side.  The withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip had reinvigorated the peace process.  Now it was up to the Palestinian Authority to comply with its agreement under the Road Map to dismantle illegal weapons.

The Jewish people had spent most of modern history defending the right to self-determination in their ancient homeland, he said, including the right to live in peace and security.   Israel respected the right of its neighbours to self determination.  Jews also had that right. The statements of the representatives of Palestine on Tuesday contradicted that principle.   Israel was committed to a two-State solution, so that Israelis and Palestinians could live side by side in peace and security.

Also exercising the right of reply, the observer of Palestine said the only way to achieve peace and stability in the region was for Israel to commit itself once and for all to adhering to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to which it was a party.  However, Israel continued to plan and facilitate attacks on Palestinian land and officials, often injuring and killing innocent bystanders.  The Palestinian leadership had condemned Tuesday's attack, and had unilaterally declared a ceasefire.  He said the Israeli representative had asked why the Palestinian Authority had not withdrawn militarily since Israel had left Gaza.  In that regard, Israel's statement was a half-truth.

Palestine had welcomed the withdrawal from Gaza.  But, the international community must not be misled.  Although significant, the withdrawal was unilateral and was 38 years late.  Gaza and its 1.2 million inhabitants were imprisoned and without access to the rest of world.  Israeli occupation forces continued to maintain effective control over Gaza's land, sea and air.  Because of that, Israel remained obliged under international law to respect its obligations as an occupying power.   Israel continued to disregard international humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions.  Only when Israel recognized those rights would peace and stability reign in the region.

HENNADIY UDOVENKO ( Ukraine) said that in view of continuing conflict and human rights abuses around the world, his delegation fully supported the proposals to strengthen the United Nation's ability to respond, made by the Secretary-General in his report In Larger Freedom.  Ukraine was committed to the United Nations reform in that area, including through the functioning of the humanitarian response system.  It also supported the intentions of the UNHCR to closely engage in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee process to strengthen sectoral capacity gaps in humanitarian response.

It was obvious that the continuing growth of irregular migratory trends and the fear of international terrorism had kept asylum seekers in the headlines as a highly charged political issue, he said.  Not surprisingly, irregular migration had risen to the top of the international security and political agendas because it was viewed as a threat to sovereignty, and had been linked to problems such as crime and drugs.  That was why concerns about global terrorism and the confusion between migration and asylum issues increased pressure on the international protection regime and the right of refugees to seek asylum.  In recent years, Ukraine had come under scrutiny as a source and transit country for irregular migrants.  However, the phenomenon itself was extremely difficult to measure, and he saw additional opportunities for cooperation with the High Commissioner's Office.

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer of the Holy See, said that since the movement of peoples was acknowledged in the last century, serious attempts had been made at the international level to find solutions to the problems associated with that important humanitarian question.  Although there had been a recent decline in refugees specifically, the number of people of direct concern to the UNHCR had increased worldwide to some 19 million, including asylum-seekers, returnees, internally displaced persons and others at risk in the world.  The scale alone of that human phenomenon merited close international attention.  Given that each individual State had the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, the concept, as reflected in the Summit Outcome, had rightly gained acceptance for humanitarian reasons.  Protection of those in distress and assistance to them went hand in hand with lucid analysis and public awareness of the causes of humanitarian crises.  However, crises by their very nature demanded swift action and predictable funding.

In terms of the UNHCR mandate, the concept of protection had long-term consequences, especially in the case of the vast majority of refugees who were living in protracted refugee situations.  Protection, not just defence from outside hostile forces, touched the whole spectrum of the human rights of those forced to flee.  Such rights remained constant during all phases of repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction, he said.  Protection included safeguarding people's physical security and the full enjoyment of their rights, as well as creating a safe environment, especially for women, children, the elderly and the disabled.  It also meant ensuring adequate nutrition, which presented a perennial problem in refugee situations.  Protection needs were not related to whether borders were crossed or not.  A reliable system, embedded in an appropriate institutional framework, could play an effective role in responding to the security and protection needs of the internally displaced and in helping the concerned local authorities fulfil their responsibility towards the displaced, he added.

FESSEHA TESFU ( Ethiopia) said Africa was hosting the largest number of refugees and displaced persons in the world.  The number of refugees continued to decrease slightly, from 2.9 million at the end of 2003 to 2.8 million at the end of 2004.  However, African refugees still represented about one third of the global refugee population and Africa had some 200,000 asylum seekers and 330,000 returnees.  Of the world's 25 million internally displaced persons, 13 million were from Africa.  As a signatory to all United Nations and African Union conventions and owing to its traditional open door policy, Ethiopia was currently hosting about 100,764 refugees in seven refugee camps.  In the early 1990s, before the successful repatriation of hundreds of thousands of refugees, Ethiopia used to host more than 1 million Sudanese and Somali refugees.

In the light of ongoing refugee problems, African countries had paid enormous sacrifices in terms of environmental degradation, deforestation, depletion of water resources, soil erosion and destruction of infrastructure in refugee camps and their surrounding areas, he continued.  The magnitude of the problem was a strong reminder for Africans that they needed to resolutely address the root causes and work relentlessly to foster peace, stability, democracy and economic development throughout the continent.  Peace initiatives currently taking place under the auspices and of the African Union were bearing fruit.  He noted the historical comprehensive peace agreement signed between the Sudanese Government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army.   Ethiopia, in collaboration with the UNHCR, had begun to register Sudanese refugees in the camps to prepare for their eventual repatriation to southern Sudan.

LUCA DALL'OGLIO, Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration, said that, in his statement, the High Commissioner for Refugees had described as one of the three main challenges facing the UNHCR today the preservation of international protection amid what in his report was described as the confusion between migration and asylum issues.  The confusion reflected the growing difficulty to distinguish, at times, between forced and voluntary migration.  Reduced access to asylum systems, restrictive immigration policies and strengthened border controls pushed both economic migrants and refugees to using similar modes of travel and methods of entry, often resorting to the same unscrupulous transnational networks feeding trafficking and smuggling.  Because of that, the capacity to preserve an effective asylum regime was linked with the mutual reinforcement of migration and asylum law and practices.  The Office of the High Commissioner and his organization were working jointly in that area.

Inter-agency coherence in addressing migration required a larger framework, he continued.  Another area of significant cooperation between the UNHCR and his organization was the one of massive displacement in humanitarian situations.  The cluster approach, endorsed by the Interagency Standing Committee, had been adopted to guide the inter-agency response to the devastating earthquake in South Asia.  In that emergency, his Organization had been tasked with the role of cluster leader in the area of emergency shelter, and was working in active cooperation with the UNHCR and other agencies.

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