On public lectures: Guterres @ Georgetown

News to me: according to John J. DeGioia’s introduction to António Guterres’ lecture at Georgetown on 28 October 2015, Dr. Susan F Martin will be the editor-in-chief of the 2016 ed. of UNHCR’s State of the World’s Refugees.

A few quotes from the lecture —

(@17:30) On inequality:

Guterres: … And, one of the problems is there has been an acceptance about the need for global governance of financial markets. There has been an acceptance for the need for global governance for the markets related to trade, services and goods but there has been a rejection in relation to any attempt to create a global governance system for migration.

Migration has always been considered an inter-governmental issue and never a multilateral issue. There is a forum, but the forum is strictly inter-governemntal. And there has been a radical opposition by a majority of political leaders to any kind of international regulation of the migration phenomenon. And this is I think a very serious question that needs to be seriously addressed.

Q: (@0:31:15) On protracted refugee situations —

Guterres: …and it is important to make sure that those situations that are, as you mentioned, protracted are kept on the international agenda and they receive the attention and support they need. Unfortunately this is not happening. Unfortunately, we are having a very dramatic lack of resources when addressing, for instance, the old crises in Africa. We can only do it because we are able to use our annual earmarked funding for those crises because, just to give an example, the Central African Republic situation is funded for UNHCR at 20% of the level of the needs. This gives you an idea of what is the neglect of the international community in relation to those other situations that are not in the limelight.

If you allow me to be a little bit cynical, today it is very interesting: refugees are in the center of the global public debate. But last year it was not the case. What has changed is not that the refugee problem became all of a sudden much more dramatic; what has changed is that refugees for the first time came in big numbers to the rich world, to Europe. And so, if you recall, for two or three months, all news around the world in global media, in the national media would open with the European refugee crisis. The European refugee crisis is of course a serious crisis, we are talking about 700,000 people that came into Europe, but the EU has 550 million people; In Lebanon it’s three Lebanese for each refugee. But they came to the rich world, and because of that there is a lot of attention and because of that the Syria refugee situation that is largely responsible for this is now getting much more attention again and much more funding. We received about $137 million for the Syria situation in three weeks. But, zero for Central African Republic. And zero for the other situations: Somalia situation and other protracted situations or Afghanistan. It is absolutely essential to make people understand that — not because of general solidarity, but strictly on a consideration of enlightened self-interest — all crises are becoming interlinked: from Nigeria to Mali, from Mali to Libya, from Libya to Somalia, but also to the Sinai or to Yemen and then to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan; all these things are interlinked; the Central African Republic becoming part of it. And, not only they are interlinked, but they represent a threat to global peace and security. And to think that we can address one crisis and forget about the others is completely stupid. So, I think there are very good reasons to make the international community understand that it is absolutely essential not to let protracted situations, in such a dramatic development, that despair becomes widespread and then people will be ready to do anything to overcome that problem.

Q: (@1:09) On fear (in the press, etc) of the migrant crisis being used by Islamic fundamentalist organizations to place fighters in foreign countries —

Guterres: We take those things seriously. We have an anti-terrorism cell in our protection department and we work with states and exchanging information on things. But, let me be very clear: If you are a terrorist, I don’t recommend you to try the refugee way to go to whatever country. First, if you try resettlement, you are going to be scrutinized, I mean, in the most terrible way. If you ask for asylum in any place, you will be immediately fingerprinted, whatever, you’ll be interviewed, you’ll be…I mean, you’ll be followed, everybody will know where you are… When we sometimes discuss resettlement in the US today and one of the arguments by some voices is to say ‘oh, if we have Syrians resettled there is a risk of terrorists coming’. Are you aware that, if that reasoning is correct, 7000 terrorists are entering Germany every day in the last three months — and I don’t yet see any bomb exploding. No. Why? Because terrorists are not going that way. I presume they have the capacity and the instruments and the money to have either a passport or a good forged passports and they will fly, as fighters are flying, if you read what is happening the foreign fighters coming into Syria, they fly to Istanbul, then [hand motions]. They probably fly business class, some of them, because of the money they make; they don’t put themselves in the hands of smugglers risking to die in the Mediterranean to then go to a Greek island, from the Greek island to the Continent, from there to Macedonia, from Macedonia to Serbia, from Serbia to Croatia, from Croatia to Slovenia, from Slovenia to Austria, from Austria to Germany; I mean, being registered all the way on.. they are not stupid, I can guarantee they know very well what they are doing. And indeed, my belief is that even if we are attentive, even if we are in favor of all the measures of intelligence and scrutiny to be in place, I believe that the risk of terrorist organizations using the refugee protection mechanisms is relatively minor compared with other risks that are very clear in societies.

(In the absence of an official transcript, I transcribed the above quotes.)


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