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News comment: UNHCR welcomes Pope Francis’ support for internally displaced

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By Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency

“On the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, UNHCR appreciates the message of Pope Francis highlighting the plight of people who have been displaced within their own country.

Today there are 45.7 million internally displaced people in the world. Many of those displaced are in countries facing protracted conflict and insecurity. They have been driven from their homes by violence, persecution, and gross violations of human rights and other traumatic events.

The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded their vulnerability, precariousness and suffering.

We echo the Pope’s compassionate plea to listen to those displaced and to build international cooperation to ensure no one is left behind.

As the global pandemic has shown us, we can work together to tackle global challenges through inclusion and solidarity.

We call on States to pay special attention to the needs of displaced people and to ensure their protection and inclusion in public health systems and recovery plans as the pandemic subsides.

We reiterate the Pope’s appeal to empower displaced people and support their positive contributions to communities.

Many internally displaced people have used their skills and resources to help respond to the pandemic. From Ukraine to Colombia and beyond, they are contributing to solutions, working on the frontline with medical services and producing personal protective equipment, soap and hygiene products.

As long as the root causes of conflict and displacement continue, however, protection will remain the most fundamental challenge.

We are therefore pleased to announce UNHCR’s commitment to form a Multi-Religious Council of Leaders, together with Religions for Peace, to support peacebuilding, inclusion and reconciliation efforts.

Faith-based actors and faith leaders can play a vital role in finding solutions to the protection needs of people who have been displaced. They are also effective advocates for a moral and humanitarian response.

UNHCR looks forward to advancing our work with faith groups in the community. As the staggering human and economic cost of internal displacement has shown, we need to adopt a more collaborative approach by engaging with all sectors of society.”