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20 June 2017

As Prepared for delivery

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed:

Remarks at Refugee event

Vienna, 20 June 2017

(delivered by Martin Nesirky, Director, UN Information Service (UNIS) Vienna)

VIENNA, 20 June (UN Information Service) - Today [World Refugee Day] is an opportunity to express solidarity with people who have been uprooted from their homes by war or persecution. 

It is something we all need to do every day of the year.

We are privileged today to have a reading by Melissa Fleming from her powerful book "A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea".

We will hear something of the story of Doaa Al Zamel.

Forced to flee because of the war in Syria, Doaa was plunged into a desperate struggle to save her own life and those of her companions.

I am not going to spoil the story for you.  I simply want to highlight that what Melissa has done in her book is to humanize the issue of forced displacement and migration by focusing on one individual.

And that is what we all need to remind ourselves every day: that each statistic is a human story -- daughter or a son, a mother or father, whose life has been cruelly transformed.

And, indeed, the statistics are sobering.

The latest figures from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, show that at least 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced within their own countries or across borders.

That is one out of every 113 members of the human family without a home or a future that they can be sure of.

Syria remains the world's largest source of refugees, but South Sudan is the biggest and fastest-growing new displacement emergency, with 1.4 million refugees and 1.9 million internally displaced.

The vast majority are under 18.

Behind these vast numbers lie individual stories of hardship, separation and loss; of life-threatening journeys in search of safety; of terrible struggles to rebuild lives in difficult circumstances. 

These stories often include great heroism, sacrifice, solidarity and love for family and friends that are a tribute to our common humanity.

These experiences also show us the human cost of armed conflict: millions of jobs lost, millions of children thrust out of school, and millions of lives haunted by trauma and intolerance.

That is why we must show solidarity and compassion.

Last year the United Nations launched a campaign called "Together" to promote respect, safety and dignity for all refugees and migrants.

This year we are highlighting this theme in the 100-day run up to the International Day of Peace, observed every year on 21 September.

Our obligation as an international community is to ensure that everyone forced to flee their homes receives the protection to which they are entitled under international law.

Our duty as a human family is to replace fear with kindness.

We must also work harder to prevent conflicts and their root causes.

This is the Secretary-General's top priority.

He has called for a surge in diplomacy for peace to prevent new conflicts from emerging and escalating, and to resolve those that are already causing calamity. 

And he is also appealing to Member States to do far more to protect people fleeing for their lives, to buttress the international protection regime, and to find solutions so that people are not left in limbo for years on end.

We must share this responsibility fairly, and together.

Throughout history, communities living next to crisis zones, as well as those far from the frontlines, have welcomed the uprooted and given them shelter.

In return, refugees have given back by enriching their host societies.

Today, 84 per cent of the world's refugees are hosted by low- or middle-income countries. 

We cannot continue to allow a small number of countries - often the world's poorest -- to shoulder this weight alone.

This not about sharing a burden.  It is about sharing a global responsibility, based on the broad idea of our common humanity and the very specific obligations of international law. 

Here, in Austria, you can be proud of how your country has opened its doors and its hearts to people in need.

That is the spirit the world needs, not just towards refugees but to all people who feel they are being left behind.

If we show more compassion, we can address the root causes of conflict and live together in a world of peace, prosperity and hope for all people.

Thank you.

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