Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Australian Intervention
63rd Session of the UNHCR Executive Committee
1-5 October 2012
General Debate

Mr Chairman, as forced displacement intensifies around the globe, the need for an effective and robust protection regime is greater than ever.

Only through enhanced engagement and cooperation among States, UNHCR, civil society and other international organisations can we address displacement issues effectively.

Australia sees UNHCR as a key partner in the delivery of our humanitarian assistance and immigration programs. UNHCR ranked highly in the Australian Multilateral Assessment released in March. This ranking recognised UNHCR’s effectiveness and positive impact as a humanitarian organisation.

This year we signed a four-year, multi-million dollar Partnership Framework with UNHCR. The Framework reflects our strong support for UNHCR, and our commitment to the provision of predictable and flexible multi-year funding.

We commend UNHCR for its emergency responses to humanitarian crises throughout the year and for its coordination of international action. As a large operational agency, we are pleased that UNHCR is amongst the leaders of humanitarian reform. In this respect we encourage the UNHCR to continue to support the work of the Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, Valerie Amos, in the Inter Agency Standing Committee and support a strong and effective OCHA in the field. We congratulate UNHCR on the action taken to date to strengthen coordination mechanisms and systems. We also encourage you, in light of the challenges the High Commissioner outlined earlier, to continue to put forward high quality candidates for the Humanitarian Coordinator pool.

We continue to support UNHCR in its ultimate goal of facilitating access to durable solutions, whether voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement. We recognise the fundamental importance of efforts to enhance the self-reliance and livelihoods opportunities for refugees and other displaced persons at all stages of their journey.
We commend UNHCR for its focus on the benefits of resettlement and endorse resettlement as a strategic protection tool to reaffirm and strengthen global protection systems.

In the year to June 2013, Australia is increasing its Humanitarian Program by over 40 per cent to 20 000 places. This positions us as the leading resettlement country in the world on a per capita basis. We will continue to align our refugee intake with UNHCR priority situations.

This increase to our humanitarian intake is part of a broader framework to address asylum and protection issues in our region and to prevent tragic loss of life at sea.

The Asia-Pacific is a region of mixed migration flows, with varied protection standards and access to durable solutions. The region is also the site of several protracted refugee situations.

We believe that an approach premised upon regional cooperation is the only enduring solution to these infinitely complex challenges. We are committed to working with regional partners to enhance protection space, to secure effective refugee status determination processes for asylum seekers and to combat people smuggling. The Australian government has made available an initial $10 million to strengthen regional cooperation through capacity building initiatives.

We welcomed the official launch of the Regional Support Office with our Bali Process Co-Chair, Indonesia, on 10 September in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Office is an important measure to strengthen practical cooperation on refugee protection and international migration, including human trafficking and smuggling.

We would like to acknowledge our partners in civil society with whom we engage closely in protection issues. We recognise the value of their expertise and contributions to capacity building in the region.

Mr Chairman, Australia commends all States that show hospitality to displaced people, particularly those in the developing world who host eighty per cent of the global refugee population. As new emergencies compound existing crises in the Horn of Africa, Kenya hosts well over 600,000 displaced and we acknowledge the significance of this contribution to global protection.

We commend all States who open their borders during times of crisis in neighbouring countries. In this regard we acknowledge the response of Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon to displacement caused by conflict in Syria this year. In 2012, Australia has provided $6 million to UNHCR for the Syria Regional Response Plan.

We call on the global protection community to maintain its focus on securing durable solutions to protracted refugee situations. We strongly urge the Royal Government of Bhutan to accept the voluntary repatriation of Bhutanese refugees of special humanitarian concern from Nepal. We also urge the Government of Nepal to work to secure durable solutions for the Bhutanese refugees that remain.

We acknowledge significant recent reform in Myanmar and urge UNHCR to work directly with Myanmar. We encourage Myanmar’s leaders not to waiver in the country’s transformation, including in resolving interethnic tensions and protecting the rights of all people. In particular, we appeal to all parties to the situation in Rakhine State to work towards a negotiated, peaceful outcome that respects all sides.

We call on all Governments to support UNHCR politically and financially in acknowledgement of our shared responsibility in responding to displacement around the world.

The Australian Government will increase its core contribution to UNHCR over the next four years and will continue to make significant additional allocations to UNHCR operations and appeals as they arise. We value UNHCR as an effective protection partner and recognise its demonstrated ability to respond to rapid onset and protracted crises around the world.

Thank you.