"Pakistan continues to pursue an inclusive, generous, and compassionate approach towards refugees consistent with humanitarian principles: Ambassador Munir Akram

New York, 16 December 2021

Ambassador Munir Akram reiterated today that "Pakistan continues to pursue an inclusive, generous, and compassionate approach towards these refugees consistent with humanitarian principles. Before and during the on-going pandemic, Pakistan provided equal and unhindered access to public health facilities, education, and livelihood to refugees". He was speaking at the Virtual Panel Discussion organized by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) as a panelist. The webinar was entitled: "The Global Compact on Refugees Three Years On: Translating Cooperation into concrete Responses to Forced Displacement" The resolution on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees affirms the global compact on refugees (as contained in A/73/12 (Part II)) was adopted by the General Assembly on 17 December 2018 (A/RES/73/151).

While mentioning easing the pressure on refugees hosting countries; enhancing refugee self-reliance; expanding access to third-country solutions; and supporting conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity as four key objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). Ambassador Munir Akram, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan at the UN, maintained that these objectives are premised on the principle of "burden and responsibility sharing". "The first GCR Indicator Report covering period from 2016-2021 indicates that much needs to be done to achieve these objectives, especially to "operationalize" the principle of burden-sharing": he added.

"At the end of 2020, twenty countries are hosting more than three-quarters of the world's refugees and 86% of people displaced across borders lived in developing countries. Twenty countries are hosting more than three-quarters of the world's refugees" he said.

He further deliberated on Pakistan's contributions, saying that "Although Pakistan is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and despite our challenges and resource constraints, Pakistan continues to host over 3.5 million Afghan refugees - the second largest concentration of refugees - for the longest time - 40 years".

He warned that, "If the current humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan is not addressed, Pakistan and the world may face the prospect of the inflow of millions of Afghan refugees escaping hunger and starvation".

To avoid a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan, and to prevent another massive outflow of refugees, he suggested that "the international community must provide urgent humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan's deprived and desperate population". To address the protracted refugee situations around the world and translate objectives of GCR into tangible outcomes, he suggested that "financial support to host countries must be on a grant basis. Providing loans to host countries that adds to their debt burden is a contravention of the principle of burden-sharing". "Donors should provide timely, predictable and multi-year and sector specific grant funding to large refugee hosting countries for the sustenance of refugees", he added.

"Enhanced refugee self-reliance requires most importantly education and skill development which can be imparted through financial and technical assistance to them in the host country or in institutions in third countries and offering them employment and other opportunities in host or third country" he further suggested.

He insisted that "there is an obvious need to advance third country solutions. Thus, the decrease in number of receiving countries for resettlement of refugees from 37 to 25 in 2020 should be urgently addressed. He stressed the developed countries, to establish multi-year resettlement schemes; ensure that resettlement processing is predictable, efficient, and effective; and in spirit of burden and responsibility sharing fix quotas for resettling refugees in their countries. "The developed countries should also open pathways for migration of people from countries which are facing humanitarian emergencies and provide them equal and unhindered access to health services, education and employment opportunities" he added.

On the repatriation of refugees, "he said that "it is beyond the capacity of the UNHCR or other international organizations to simply manage the ever-increasing number of refugees and displaced people across the globe because of humanitarian emergencies". He regarded, "voluntary repatriation and reintegration in the refugees in their countries of origin" as the best durable solution for protracted refugee situations. To this end, much greater attention is needed to promote the resolution of conflicts and to redress the consequent humanitarian emergencies. He insisted on incentivizing the voluntary return of refugees and their reintegration in the countries of origin. "The international community should introduce fully funded repatriation programs for refugee hosting countries and countries of origin; increase ODA for countries of origin to enable them to receive returnees; invest in developing their infrastructure; introduce programs for creating livelihood opportunities; and lift sanctions for providing unhindered humanitarian assistance, as in the case of Afghanistan" he said. "There is much that remains to be done to implement the Global Compact on Refugees. The architecture for addressing refugee situation constructed after the Second World War needs to be reviewed and re-built to address the refugee challenges of today" he concluded.

Ms. Ruvendrini Menikdiwela -the Director of UNHCR's Office in New York moderated the event. The other panelists include, Dr Waheed Arian, Dr Azza Karam, Noni Rossini, Gregory Maniatis and others