In Asia and the Pacific, the situation of the stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is an important example. Local response efforts to the initial crisis in 2017 were buttressed by a large-scale humanitarian response, which also had to grapple with the harrowing risks presented by the monsoons. Looking forward to 2019, investments in medium-term arrangements are needed, to reinforce economic opportunities, local infrastructure, and essential services for refugees and host communities in Bangladesh. The early involvement of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank is encouraging.
International solidarity is needed for the people of Rakhine, on both sides of the border, encompassing bilateral and multilateral development aid and supporting inclusive and sustainable solutions. This is because the solutions to this crisis lie in Myanmar, and robust action will be needed from the Government there to address the root causes of Rohingya displacement—entrenched discrimination, arbitrary denial of citizenship, and lack of development—and thus enable refugees to begin to envisage a safe, dignified and sustainable future back home. Together with UNDP, UNHCR stands ready to provide support, in the frame of our tripartite Memorandum of Understanding.
In the Middle East and North Africa the Syria crisis is entering a new phase in which a non-political, protection-focused approach will be critical as prospects of eventual refugee returns begin to emerge. The key question will be whether conditions on the ground evolve sufficiently to allow for safe, dignified and voluntary return, and for this to be sustainable over time. We will continue to work with others inside Syria to help create the conditions that allow the right to return to be exercised. A safe and secure environment must be guaranteed, as well as access to civil documentation; ways to resolve land and property issues; amnesties in line with international law; and, for some, a means of resolving citizenship issues. Unfettered humanitarian access will be vital to help build confidence.
Reinforcing support and solidarity to the countries across the region that still host 5.6 million refugees will be critical to sustaining their generosity, and also to avoiding premature returns arising from impoverishment and desperation. The resilience-based model developed in the Syria situation, and now at the heart of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), remains vital as a means of helping people retain and build the skills and capacities that will help them eventually attain solutions.
From Africa to Europe, the complex protection challenges presented by the mixed flows through Libya and across the Mediterranean will also continue to challenge us to find creative, life-saving solutions as thousands of refugees and migrants continue to travel along the same perilous routes. An emphasis on reducing arrivals in Europe has resulted in an increase in the numbers brought back to Libyan shores, where they are exposed to exploitation and detention in horrific conditions. UNHCR is working with the Government to secure alternatives to detention, and to bring the most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers to safety, despite operating in precarious and often dangerous circumstances. This operation complements the assisted voluntary return operation for migrants conducted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
But here, again, solutions must be accelerated, and expanded: more evacuation options; more and faster resettlement from both Libya and evacuation centres, genuine, targeted investments in countries of asylum and transit; and serious, substantive efforts to tackle the root causes of these movements. Rescue at sea and access to asylum in Europe must also be fully restored, and underpinned by a predictable set of arrangements for disembarkation that avoid the weight falling disproportionately on a small number of countries, and the divisive and politicized reactions that this inevitably generates.
In the Americas, the displacement crisis there will require our sustained engagement in 2019. Regional cooperation, building on the use of the CRRF in the context of movements driven by poverty, exploitation and gang violence, is now proving crucial in addressing the large-scale outflow from Venezuela and across the region. The countries affected are to be commended for keeping their borders open, and providing access to asylum or other protection-based stay arrangements. Together with IOM, we will continue to reinforce our regional inter-agency coordination platform, and our Joint Special Representative will continue to work with governments and partners to build regional alliances and foster support.
Political solutions to conflict have been largely absent in recent years, yet, as 2018 draws to a close, there are some grounds for optimism. In South Sudan, the revitalized peace process and steps towards political reconciliation are promising, and may pave the way towards solutions for millions of internally displaced people and refugees. The dialogue initiated between South Sudanese refugee representatives and signatories of the peace agreement must continue. In the Horn of Africa, dialogue between Eritrea and Ethiopia is encouraging, and may give scope for progress on solutions to displacement in that region.
As an example of how this is working, under the MIRPS comprehensive regional support and protection programme developed by UNHCR and regional governments, the Government of Honduras is committed to “formulating and implementing a prevention and protection strategy for schools” by 2020 within the Ministry of Education. With UNHCR support, teachers have begun working to improve safety and conditions in schools. UNHCR is helping them develop protection measures and security protocols both for staff and the students themselves. They are creating communication networks among themselves and school administrators to report issues and warnings to protect teachers and students.
Progress has been made in reducing the number of stateless people through acquisition or confirmation of nationality, as well as in improving data on statelessness. Since launching the 10-year campaign to end statelessness in 2014, more countries have acceded to the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness than in the four decades following the Convention's adoption in 1961. In 2019, we will mark the half way mark of the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness with a High-Level Event to mark achievements and galvanize further progress.
I hope as well that the 2019 anniversaries—of the OAU Refugee Convention and the Kampala Convention on internal displacement—will help galvanize work towards solutions in Africa.