Thoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, published in Huffington Post.
On 19 November, the President of the UN General Assembly convened an informal meeting to consider ways for a comprehensive response to the global humanitarian and refugee crisis. The event was attended by some of the UN heavy artillery: Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly, Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Program, Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs. I was pleased to see among the panelists David Miliband, British Foreign Secretary during my first years as ambassador to London, now President and CEO of International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid and development NGO founded in 1933 by Albert Einstein. Next day, the General Assembly held a meeting attended by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin, with specific emphasis on Syrian asylum seekers.
Both events allowed timely debates on a topic with global impact, as today we witness 60 million refugees in the word. Since the beginning of 2015, more than 750,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe and almost 3,500 of them died at sea. The refugees’ crisis is complex, requesting not just responses to the immediate humanitarian needs. It also encompasses financial aspects and relating to integration and border protection. Without proper means to solve each of them, every migration wave will outrank the previous one.
The United Nations, as a mirror of the international community, is expected to assume new commitments to address, in a realistic manner, the root-causes of migration: conflicts, terrorism, human rights violations, poverty, growing inequalities, poor governance, climate change.
The stabilization of conflict zones is a prerequisite to bring to an end the flow of refugees who arrive in Europe, and to create the premises for a safely return of these persons in their countries of origin. Syria’s stabilization is, therefore, a priority. Fighting against terrorism is another one. In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in France, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Mali and Tunisia, which coincide with a huge wave of refugees seeking security in Europe, there is concern about misplaced suspicions about migrants. In countering terrorism and violent extremism, we cannot give up our legal and moral values. As the President of Romania Klaus Iohannis pointed out on 18 November: “Terrorism and terror attacks have very serious consequences if fear is the reaction to them. In no way should we let this fear lead to the stigmatization of religious communities that have nothing to do with the matter. We must not allow the social fabric of our countries to be destroyed. We must not allow xenophobia, ultra-nationalism, and chauvinism become relevant in our societies”.
Romania contributes the refugee resettlement by hosting, already since 2008, the Emergency Transit Center for Refugees in the city of Timisoara which at the time of its establishment was the first such facility in the world. Based on the principles of solidarity and shared responsibility, we are part of the EU efforts to relocate persons in need of international protection from Italy and Greece. We also increased our financial contribution to UNHCR and the World Food Program.
During the debate in the General Assembly we heard that in the year 2000 12% of the world population lived in conflict zones, and today the percentage is of 43%, with prospects to reach 70% in 2030. We should stop this spiral. No country alone can solve such a problem which is inherently international and, as rightly remarked the UN Secretary General, “we need a new approach to manage the challenge of global mobility, built on equitable responsibility sharing”.
As part of the UN response, Mr. Ban Ki-moon announced a series of events in 2016: a conference on the Syria humanitarian crisis in London, on 4 February, co-hosted with the United Kingdom, Norway, Kuwait and Germany; a Resettlement Plus conference in Geneva, in March; the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, in May; and a High-Level Summit on managing large-scale movements of migrants and refugees in New York, next September.
All these are excellent initiatives expected to greatly contribute to addressing the migration and refugees issues. In the same time, on a longer term, priority has to be given to sustainable development of the countries of origin, because the solution is not to increase the number of donors, but to decrease the request for humanitarian assistance. A proper and resolute implementation of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development can make the difference.