Speeches of António Guterres as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

A refugee from Syria hugs her crying daughter moments after reaching the Greek Island of Lesvos from Turkey in an inflatable boat. © UNHCR/A. Zavallis

Security Council on Syrian refugee situation

Nearly one million people have arrived by boat in Europe this year, more than 50% Syrians. UNHCR just published a survey of over twelve hundred of them, and the findings confirmed something we have long suspected: Syria is experiencing a massive brain drain. 86% of those we interviewed have a secondary education. Almost half have gone to university. One can only imagine the disastrous consequences of such an exodus on the future post-conflict reconstruction of Syria.

A young South Sudanese boy sits on a bundle of clothes at Dzaipi Reception Centre in northern Uganda. © UNHCR/F. Noy

High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges: Addressing the root causes of displacement

Our world today is at a crossroads. From a humanitarian perspective, this juncture is defined by two "mega-problems": a seemingly uncontrollable multiplication of violent conflicts in an environment of global insecurity, and the pervasive and growing effects of natural hazards and climate change that are already shaping our present and will shape our future even more.

UN High Commissioner for refugees António Guterres sits among two young boys from Syria in a play area at the Moria Identification Centre, Lesvos. © UNHCR/A. Zavallis

Plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly on Syrian asylum seekers

The number of people who have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year now stands at almost 850,000 and keeps growing very quickly. This movement is getting far more media attention than any other humanitarian crisis in the past few years, but as the Secretary-General said, it is one of many large-scale refugee flows around the world today. Handling the situation effectively requires us to start addressing the root causes of displacement everywhere.

8th Summit meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development

It is good to be here in İstanbul, in generous Turkey, the largest refugee hosting country in the world and a country that is facing a dramatic impact in its economy and society, not to mention the tragic consequences of the Syria and Iraq crisis for Turkey's security. Mr. Chair, for all UNHCR staff, the sorrow of the families of the Turkish victims of terrorism is our own sorrow, we feel it as if they were members of our own family.

António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees makes his opening speech at UNHCR’s 66th session of the Executive Committee on 5th October 2015. © UNHCR/J-M. Ferré

Opening remarks at the 66th session of the Executive Committee

When I started as High Commissioner ten years ago, there were 38 million people in the world displaced by conflict and persecution, but UNHCR was helping over a million persons return home every year. Global refugee numbers were declining, and old wars had recently been laid to rest in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan to make way for reconstruction and hope. Some of my colleagues were even wondering if UNHCR was going to have a future in these circumstances.

UN High Commissioner for refugees, António Guterres. © UNHCR/S.Hopper

“Global conflicts and human displacement: 21st century challenges”, Annual Ditchley Foundation Lecture

Before joining UNHCR, High Commissioner Guterres spent more than 20 years in government and public service. He served as Portuguese prime minister from 1995 to 2002, during which time he was heavily involved in the international effort to resolve the crisis in East Timor. As president of the European Council in early 2000, he led the adoption of the so-called Lisbon Agenda and co-chaired the first European Union-Africa summit. He also founded the Portuguese Refugee Council in 1991 and was part of the Council of State of Portugal from 1991 to 2002.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt addressed the UN Security Council about humanitarian needs arising from the conflict in Syria. © UN Photo/Mark Garten

Security Council on Syrian refugee situation

We are all longing for a shred of hope, for some good news, but since my last briefing to this Council, things have only gotten worse. The regional spillover effects of the Syrian conflict are taking on dramatic proportions. 14 million people are now displaced due to the interlinked crises in Syria and Iraq. Security threats to neighbouring countries are growing.

Mohammed and his family gather on the floor of their dilapidated apartment in downtown Amman. Two of his children are living with disability. The family receive 100 Jordanian dinars (US$140) a month in cash assistance from UNHCR, but after paying for electricity and gas they rely entirely on vouchers from the World Food Programme to cover all their other expenses. © UNHCR/B.Szandelszky

Security Council on Syrian refugee situation

Briefing this Council in 2013, I said the Syrian war not only had unleashed the worst humanitarian crisis of our times but also was posing a terrible threat to regional stability and to global peace and security. This is the reality we face today.

Angele, aged 13, wants to be a teacher. She lives in Saria village in central Côte d’Ivoire. Originally from Burkina Faso, her parents were never registered at birth and were hence at risk of statelessness. They managed to get late birth certificates and now have consular cards from Burkina Faso. © UNHCR/H.Caux

Regional Ministerial-level Conference on Statelessness in West Africa

Let me begin by expressing my thanks to the Government of Côte d'Ivoire for hosting this landmark conference, the first of its kind in Africa. In recent years, Côte d'Ivoire has shown extraordinary commitment to the fight against statelessness, setting an example not only for this region and this continent, but also for the world. I am very grateful to His Excellency President Alassane Ouattara for his leadership – and his strong voice – on this issue.

A boatload of people, some of them likely in need of international protection, are rescued in the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian Navy. The group were risking their lives to reach Europe from North Africa. © UNHCR/A.D’Amato

High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges: Protection at Sea

This is our seventh annual Protection Dialogue. These meetings always discuss challenges that are complex and require innovative thinking. But the phenomenon that has brought us here today is perhaps the most complex yet, and – for me at least – the most painful.

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