On Erna speaking about refugees, 2001

The perks of doing archival research is that you occasionally come across some gems:

Status of Refugees – a speech by Erna Solberg, (then) Minister of local Government and Regional Development, at the Ministerial meeting of states parties to the convention relating to the status of refugees on 12 December 2001, Geneva:

This 50th anniversary provides an excellent opportunity to assess the quality of the international regime for the protection of refugees. I agree with UNHCR that in the course of these 50 years the 1951 Convention has proved its relevance, effectiveness and flexibility, despite the ever-changing environment. The Convention will, however, only be an efficient tool as long as the states parties are fully committed to its implementation. I am happy to see that so many colleagues from other countries have reaffirmed their commitments in this regard. […]

Refugee protection predates and goes beyond the 1951 Convention. In 1921 Fridtjof Nansen was appointed as the League of Nations’ first High Commissioner for Refugees. One of Nansen’s main objectives was to help refugees to stand on their own feet as soon as their essential needs had been met. The solutions were the same as those we use today: repatriation, resettlement and local integration. Fridtjof Nansen undoubtedly contributed to setting the standard for future action on behalf of refugees and paved the way for the 1951 Convention.

The preamble to the 1951 Convention notes that the granting of asylum may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries and that a satisfactory solution cannot be achieved without international cooperation. It does not, however, specify how such cooperation should be brought about. Therefore, it is essential that states are willing to engage in such cooperation and that UNHCR provides the necessary coordination. […]

I am pleased to see the progress being made in the global consultations on international protection. In addition to highlighting questions of interpretation relating to the Convention, the consultations have focused on protection challenges that are not clearly covered by the Convention. How to deal with mass outflow situations has been one central issue. I have noted UNHCR ‘s assurances that the Convention is sufficiently flexible to be applied effectively even in situations of large-scale influxes. I’ll bear that in mind. Nonetheless, I believe that large-scale influxes call for practical national tools, stich as temporary protection schemes. The challenge is to make them fully compatible with international protection standards.

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