Over the last couple of years, much needed reform has been a principal concern of UNHCR. Progress has been made, and we would like to commend the High Commissioner and his staff on their efforts so far. We attach particular importance to the decentralisation and regionalisation process aimed at maximising the available resources for the beneficiaries in the field. In this regard, we reiterate the importance of developing clear and concise accountability, reporting and decision-making lines between the different levels in the organisation.
Furthermore, the reform process in UNHCR provides an excellent opportunity to promote gender equity. The UN has approved guidelines to ensure gender equity at all levels of the organisation by 2010. An ambitious, but indeed fundamental goal, and a goal for which there should be full accountability. We therefore call on UNHCR to use the decentralisation and regionalisation process, along with other means, to ensure gender equity throughout the organisation.
I would now like to turn to the broader aspects of humanitarian reform. As indicated by several recent evaluations, the roll-out of the cluster approach has contributed to improved humanitarian response. This is a most welcome development as it suggests that we are on the right track with this important pillar of humanitarian reform. In this regard we commend UNHCR for its efforts as both cluster lead and cluster participant. However, much hard work remains, and UNHCR must continue to play a key role in this endeavour.
We are pleased to note that the real-time internal UNHCR evaluations of the cluster approach found that IDP operations have not had a negative impact on UNHCR’s work on behalf of refugees. One of the challenges identified was the need to improve human resource capacity and deployment routines. We encourage UNHCR to address this as a matter of priority, and more generally to step up efforts in connection with the further roll-out of the cluster approach at field level.
While we have witnessed a steady decrease in the number of refugees in recent years, this positive trend was reversed last year. With the increase in refugees flowing out of Iraq, the number of refugees has again come close to 10 million. This demonstrates the volatility of the global refugee situation.
Voluntary repatriation is still the prefered long-term solution in most refugee situations. In general, programmes implemented to facilitate return and reintegration should be strengthened. In this regard we look forward to UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service’s (PDES) anticipated paper on the HCR’s role in support of return and reintegration of refugees and IDPs in post-conflict and transition. It is high time that the international community re-intensifies its efforts to address early recovery and transition. UNHCR is well placed to take part in this debate.
The value of our efforts is measured in the field, where refugees and internally displaced persons often live under very difficult circumstances. The situation in and around Darfur continues to pose a serious protection challenge to UNHCR. We are deeply concerned about the millions of displaced persons in Iraq and its neighbouring countries. The Emergency Relief Coordinator’s report from the DRC and the gender-based violence in this and other crises must be vigorously addressed.
Finally, Mr Chairperson, I would like to reiterate that Norway supports a strong and efficient UNHCR. We are convinced that the organisation is now, after some tough decisions and demanding internal processes, firmly on the right track.