63rd Session of the UNHCR Executive Committee
1-5 October 2012
Madame Chair, last year we have heard that more people were newly displaced than at any other time in the preceding decade. In this context of growing displacement, securing the basic rights and freedoms of displaced populations is critical.
One year on from the 60th anniversary commemorations of the Refugees Convention, Australia welcomes the opportunity to reflect on progress and renew commitment to our pledges in support of international protection.
Australia has introduced complementary protection legislation and developed guidelines to better identify statelessness. We pledged to enhance the delivery of durable solutions and are expanding our resettlement program and support for new resettlement countries. Regional cooperation and responsibility sharing is a fundamental priority and forms the basis of work to operationalise the Bali Process and the Regional Cooperation Framework, together with our regional partners.
Recognising that the provision of predictable and flexible multi-year funding best enables UNHCR to undertake critical protection work, we recently signed a multi-year, multi-million dollar Australia-UNHCR Partnership Framework. Acknowledging the particular vulnerabilities of women and girls in refugee populations, this funding includes $12 million for protection initiatives to address sexual and gender based violence.
We encourage UNHCR to include women and girls in decision-making that affects their lives, to provide assistance to survivors of sexual and gender based violence, and to further develop prevention strategies that engage men and boys. In Australia we continue to offer a guaranteed component of resettlement places under the ‘Woman at Risk’ program for vulnerable refugee women.
We note that there is also an urgent need to develop the cultural and legal protection spaces for marginalised groups within displaced populations, including people with a disability and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. We support UNHCR’s efforts to build the capacity of its staff in these areas.
Madame Chair, globally almost 12 million people are stateless. Recognising ongoing gaps in the identification of statelessness, Australia introduced guidelines to assess claims of statelessness this year. Today we reaffirm our commitment to the 1954 and 1961 statelessness conventions and encourage States to accede to these instruments. We note that birth registration is vital to the prevention of statelessness.
We recognise that vast numbers of persons of concern to UNHCR live in urban refugee situations that expose them to particular forms of exploitation and harm. We encourage UNHCR to work with development partners to address the protection needs of urban refugees, and the needs of the communities who host them.
Madame Chair, fundamental to maintaining the protection space and securing sustainable solutions is a continued commitment to strategic resettlement, particularly in protracted situations where other durable solutions are initially often difficult to attain.
We are committed to ensuring our priorities align with those identified in the UNHCR Priority Situations initiative.
We applaud the work of UNHCR’s Resettlement Service. Building on UNHCR’s ‘twinning initiative’, we are sharing our knowledge and experience with two new resettlement countries, Romania and Argentina.
We remain acutely aware of the significant gap between resettlement places and resettlement need. We encourage more countries to offer resettlement places and to support emerging countries to sustain their new programs. We stand ready to do so. In the past year, as Chair of the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement and Working Groups on Resettlement, Australia worked closely with UNHCR, resettlement partners and civil society on these issues.
Australia welcomes the announcement that four new countries – Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria and Spain – have established or are in the process of establishing resettlement programs.
We are aware of new innovations in the resettlement space and encourage countries to embrace these to further assist UNHCR.
We commend the Governments of Romania, the Philippines and Slovakia for their ongoing commitment to the Emergency Transit Facilities. The effectiveness of these facilities in enhancing UNHCR’s capacity to respond to humanitarian emergencies and to those in need of immediate protection cannot be underestimated.
In the coming year Australia will increase its Humanitarian Program by 40 per cent to 20 000 places, and we will continue to work with UNHCR to identify and support refugees in need of resettlement.