World leaders have convened in Geneva, Switzerland, to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the fiftieth anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Refugee Commissioner António Guterres and Finland’s former President and Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari were all present as the Swedish Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, Tobias Billström, addressed the high-level meeting:
“…The world was quite a different place sixty years ago when the founding fathers of the Refugee Convention gathered here in Geneva to enhance assistance and seek solutions for the millions of refugees that were displaced across Europe after the Second World War. Today’s world is more fast-moving, interconnected and dynamic. We have technical, logistical and digital tools that they could not dream about sixty years ago.
“At the same time, conflict, violence and persecution persist, forcing millions of people around the world to leave their homes to find protection in other countries. Refugees and stateless persons still remain some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Therefore the Refugee Convention – with its core principle of non-refoulement – has continued value and relevance in today’s world as the cornerstone of the international protection regime…
“…This Anniversary event is not only an occasion to look back and remember the efforts that have been made so far to protect and assist refugees and stateless persons. It is also an opportunity to reflect over the changing global trends and make new commitments and pledges in order to strengthen solutions and enhance burden sharing for the persons of concern of the Conventions….”
In an address, the Refugee Commissioner, António Guterres, denounced politicians and leaders using the anxiety over the economic downturn as an excuse to blame foreigners and scapegoat minorities, “refugees are not a security threat, but rather the first victims of insecurity.” UNHCR estimates that there are currently over 43 million refugees and internally displaced people around the globe as well as around 12 million stateless people.