The head of the UN refugee agency appealed to the Security Council today to call for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, emphasizing that there is urgent need for its 15 members to overcome their differences, unite and resolve a raft of conflicts which have displaced staggering 114 million people around the world.
“The conflict in Gaza is the latest — and perhaps largest — piece of a most dangerous jigsaw of war that is rapidly closing in around us,” Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told the Council, emphasizing that more than than 2 million Gazans — half of them children — are going through a hell on Earth.
“A humanitarian ceasefire, coupled of course with substantive delivery of humanitarian aid inside Gaza, can at least stop this spiral of death,” he told the Council, “and I hope that you will overcome your divisions and exercise your authority in demanding one. The world is waiting for you to do so.”
This is a grave moment globally and the choices of the Council now will have repercussions for generations to come, he warned. “Will you continue to allow this jigsaw of war to be completed by aggressive acts, by your disunity or by sheer neglect? Or will you take the courageous and necessary steps back from the abyss?”
Surveying crises in many other parts of the world, including Syria and Ukraine, he said that UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations are struggling with funding shortfalls as they cope with 114 million refugees and displace persons. UNHCR itself needs $600 million before the end of this year and “the prospects for next year are dismal”. For its part, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) remains chronically underfunded, he added.
The High Commissioner briefed the Council six days after it failed to adopt either of two competing draft resolutions — one from the United States, the other from the Russian Federation — addressing the war and humanitarian crisis in Gaza that followed the 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas. (See Press Release SC/15464.)
During the debate that followed, delegates called for humanitarian aid to be secured alongside conflict resolution, processes for the dignified return of refugees and alternative ways to address funding gaps.
Ghana’s representative said that, despite UNHCR’s commendable efforts, the situation is not improving due to the escalation of conflicts and the effects of man-made and natural disasters. In the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, more than 20.5 million people are displaced, he said, calling for a greater commitment to multilateral mechanisms to tackle the situation.
Japan’s representative said that, with global displacement numbers soaring, the international community must think beyond immediate relief assistance. Durable solutions should be crafted to ensure long-term stability, combining development strategies with peacebuilding efforts.
The United Arab Emirates’ speaker said that addressing the root causes of displacement would prove more efficient and cost-effective for the international community, while Ecuador’s representative called for strengthened coordinated actions to combat organized transnational crime networks and human trafficking.
The Russian Federation’s representative said that creating favorable conditions for the return of refugees is key in achieving long-term stabilization in Syria. China’s delegate said that those countries which bear the main responsibilities for the refugee problem should step up their assistance to refugees and refugee-hosting countries.
The United States representative said that his country will, during the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva from 13 to 15 December, call on the international community to look beyond traditional humanitarian donors and organizations to a broader coalition of development agencies, as well as private sector and civil society actors. Twentieth-century solutions can no longer be relied upon for twenty-first-century problems, he said.