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World "increasingly divided" says UNHCR chief

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in Geneva. 09/10/2023   -  
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The United Nations refugee agency's head, Filippo Grandi, warned on Monday of an increasingly divided and fragmented world.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees was addressing the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme in Geneva, an annual meeting made up of 108 member countries. 

"The world is increasingly divided, fragmented and inward looking. Far too many politicians portray cooperation as capitulation," Grandi said. "They foment culture wars to divide into us and them. They tolerate, if not espouse racism, xenophobia, misinformation, disinformation, religious hatred and hate speech."

The UN agency is facing one of the "most difficult moments" in its history, as a record number of refugees and displacements coincides with funding shortfalls. 

There are currently 110 million refugees and displaced people worldwide, most forced to flee their homes due to conflict. 

In the last year, UNHCR has responded to 44 new emergencies in 31 countries, an "awful record of number of crises in one year".

Funding shortfall

The crises come as the agency faces a $650 million funding shortfall in 2023. 

The outlook "for 2024 is even more worrying, and it is most concerning for us and our closest partners, like the World Food Programme, which plays an indispensable role in providing food to refugees," Grandi added.

“The consequences of financial shortfalls are stark, affecting refugees and displaced people and putting pressure on host countries which remain the largest donors to refugees."

Myth debunking

Grandi also stressed that the majority of refugees do not head to "rich countries" but instead are "in countries neighbouring their own". 

“Let's debunk the myth that all refugees and migrants are heading to rich countries. Many or even most will exit at the first safe and viable opportunity if it is available,” he said.

His comments come as many governments are tightening their border controls.

The High Commissioner urged countries to respect the rights of those fleeing conflict or persecution guaranteed under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

"I'm asking quite solemnly that you focus at least on the areas on which we can agree, and especially that people forced to flee their homes due to conflict or persecution have rights as human beings and as refugees and displaced," he said.

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