Statement in response to address by UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection

Delivered by Ambassador Anne-Kirsti Karlsen at the Permanent Council, Vienna, 16 February 2023

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I join others in thanking Ms Gillian Triggs for her thorough report to the Council.

With more than 100 million people now forcibly displaced around the world, we are experiencing overwhelming challenges with providing protection and support for refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs).

In the OSCE, several States have taken on the overwhelming burden of numerous refugee crises, including in the Mediterranean, Syria, and Türkiye. We are concerned by how the recent earthquake in Syria and Türkiye will bring added suffering to already vulnerable refugee populations. These crises were always close to home, but the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine brought further grief to our region.

There is no doubt that UNHCR plays an indispensable role in tackling ongoing crises, and we commend its staff for their efforts to “stay and deliver”, even under exceptionally difficult circumstances. Norway remains a steadfast supporter of UNHCR and its mandate. The protection of the most vulnerable must, in this regard, come first.

Norway is deeply concerned by the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence among refugees and IDPs. UNHCR’s role in prevention and response to such violence – including in developing protection measures – is essential. It is vital that we enhance these efforts. The protection needs of boys and men must also be recognized.

Mr. Chair,

Russia’s war against Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law; a violation of the very principles upon which this organization is built. We have witnessed unprecedented suffering and destruction in Ukraine this past year. This crisis is human made, and not the result of a natural disaster beyond our control.

Russia’s targeted attacks against civilian infrastructure have not only led to massive destruction, but they have also caused new waves of displacement. We demand that Russia puts an end to this disaster.

For the first time since the 1990s, Norway has activated its regulation on temporary collective protection. This has enabled us to help fleeing Ukrainians, in addition to contributing with medical evacuations and assistance.

Mr. Chair,

The OSCE structures carry out important and complimentary work to the UNHCR. We particularly commend ODIHR and the Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and his office for their efforts. Norway recognizes that migrants, refugees, and displaced peoples are often more vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. The OSCE’s work to combat the trafficking of vulnerable populations is vital, in this regard, to the global efforts to protect refugees and displaced populations.

The efforts of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities to put the topic of climate and security on our agenda is also worth mentioning, as we may expect that climate change increasingly will force people to flee their homes. Several field missions, including the now closed missions in Ukraine, have played an important role in supporting states in addressing the needs of refugees and IDPs.

We urge participating States to come together in support of this work in 2023.

Thank you.