High Commissioner’s foreword
2022 will be shaped by the world’s response to three threats: conflict, COVID-19 and climate change. The first has bedevilled us throughout history, the second is a new scourge threatening long-term damage, the third will, without urgent action, have lasting effects. All three hit the most vulnerable hardest, including refugees and other people of concern to UNHCR. All three could be vastly alleviated by robust and rapid action from the international community.
Despite the need for such action, we have seen wars continue, sometimes stoked by those who should be stopping them. The response to COVID-19 has not been guided by global needs or equity, giving the virus space to thrive and mutate. And climate change is already a human crisis: many of the casualties of current and future climate events are people who have done least to fill the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. Some 90% of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate and 70% of internally displaced people are from countries most vulnerable to the climate emergency.
The longer we leave these problems, the bigger the consequences. And without urgent action, UNHCR anticipates the number of people under its mandate will continue to swell, forcing us to respond to new emergencies, as we did in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and dozens of other places in 2021.
The opportunities for corrective action are, however, there for the international community to seize, and UNHCR will not stop calling for an end to conflict, an equitable recovery from COVID-19 with inclusive access to vaccines and socioeconomic support, and decisive steps to halt climate change and mitigate its impacts.
We will also be relentless in our pursuit of voluntary, safe and dignified solutions for the displaced. This means building on our solutions-oriented work right from the start of crises. This can be done when peacemaking may still be a work in progress and where we can step up not only support to host countries, but also in countries of origin, helping to remove the obstacles that the displaced tell us prevent return. At the same time, we will push for much more support to host communities to enable inclusion and even integration, where applicable, building on the extraordinary efforts of the cooperation with the World Bank and other international financial institutions.
We will also continue to press for more third-country solutions to share the international responsibility for refugees. There is fresh momentum behind resettlement, for example, with the United States offering to resettle up to 125,000 refugees, while States such as Canada, Sweden and Norway continue to be steadfast in their support. As COVID-19 travel restrictions recede, there must also be more opportunities for refugees to take advantage of complementary pathways, especially for students, athletes, skilled workers and through family reunification.
Ultimately, however, the greatest opportunity for solutions comes with sustained peace and when countries of origin and asylum show the political will to work together, as Côte d’Ivoire has done with Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania and Togo.
Achieving solutions is no less pressing in situations of statelessness. The pain of statelessness should not have to be managed and endured for years like some incurable medical condition. It can and must be ended, and UNHCR – ever resolute in our pursuit of the eradication of statelessness – will increase our investment in tackling it in 2022.
While efforts to end statelessness are making progress, with Iceland and Togo both acceding to the conventions in 2021 and significant work being undertaken by other States like Chile, Kenya, Namibia and Uzbekistan, much more is needed in 2022 so we can meet the ambitious goals of the #IBelong Campaign.
Until solutions can be secured, UNHCR will of course continue its life-saving work to protect and assist people of concern, to alleviate their suffering while their situation of displacement or statelessness persists. We will support States to protect, shelter and support millions who have been driven from their homes by violence or fear of persecution. We will strive to ensure that they have acceptable living conditions, access to health care, and opportunities for education and work, and will help their host countries in ensuring this is also the case for host communities. We will do all we can to make sure that their voices are heard by governments and the global public, that they can participate in decisions about their own lives, and that they can enjoy their legal and human rights.
We will also continue our efforts to improve the way we work. Five years ago, we launched a transformation to improve the way the organization functions and serves the people covered by its mandate, including through regionalization and decentralization. 2022 will see a renewal of our Strategic Directions. We will deepen the reforms of our work processes, using our decentralized structures to bring decision-making and accountability closer to the people we serve, making it easier to partner with us, while strengthening risk management and oversight mechanisms to maintain and upgrade controls. This includes not only financial and managerial controls, but ethical standards too. The fight against sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and sexual harassment must extend to the very furthest reaches of our presence on the ground, and that of our partners, and will remain a critical priority for me in 2022 and beyond.
We will also upgrade our strategic planning and results framework with the new COMPASS system, which will enable us to better plan, budget and monitor the impact of our work, and open the way for multi-year planning, aligning us with other UN agencies and host governments. Our deepening collaboration with development partners such as the World Bank will not only help in funding and analysing situations of displacement, it will also help demonstrate that people of concern to UNHCR are not a problem to be dealt with, or to be forgotten, but they are real people with diverse lives, valuable skills and great ambition. Given the chance, they enrich our societies.
I’m reminded of a letter I received a few weeks ago from a refugee who sent me a copy of his book.
He wrote that UN organizations are those “whose logos appeared on the blankets that covered my thin body, on the cans I used to fetch water, on the shoes and the plastic roof that covered my head. Without you, the story would be different. But the greatest gift you gave me is the ability to pursue an independent life, free of those logos.” That is our ambition for refugees too, and I hope you will help us make that a reality. On a related note, I encourage you to read the Afterword to this Global Appeal, a powerful personal memoir from a refugee journalist.
Our entire strategic approach is based on our responsibility to fulfil our mandate. UNHCR aims to save and improve the lives of the people of concern, lessen the burden on States that do so much to host them, and solve their situations as soon as possible. All this work is made possible by you – by host communities and countries, by donors – to whom the world owes a great debt of gratitude. With this Global Appeal, I invite you to support UNHCR’s work in 2022.