Geneva, 7 December 2011 – “There are more than 43 million refugees, displaced and stateless persons worldwide. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has provided protection and support to these vulnerable groups for more than sixty years, thus fulfilling an invaluable humanitarian task,” said State Secretary Wolfgang Waldner today at the Ministerial Meeting held in Geneva in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 50th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
In his speech the State Secretary praised the accomplishments of UNHCR in the international protection of refugees and emphasised that “Austria will remain a reliable and flexible partner of UNHCR. The quick and effective action of UNHCR in response to humanitarian crises in Africa and the Arab world once more shows the life-saving role of the agency. This year’s contribution by Austria in the amount of 1.6 million euros to UNHCR activities in North Africa and the Horn of Africa is also a sign of our acknowledgement of the professional work done by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.”
As regards the protection of refugees, Austria has derived extraordinary benefit from UNHCR expertise and experience. “Our goal is to further intensify exchange and cooperation in order to be able to continue to guarantee the maximum standard possible in protecting refugees in Austria,” explained the State Secretary.
“Against the background of our first membership of the UN Human Rights Council I should like to emphasise that Austria, as always, will submit the resolution on the human rights of displaced persons to the Council. This contribution is a further expression of our commitment on behalf of all those who have lost their homes and depend on help,” continued Waldner.
During his visit to Geneva State Secretary Waldner also took the opportunity to meet with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay. Their talks focused on possibilities for cooperation with regard to Austria’s initiatives in the Human Rights Council. Networking in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation issues was the subject of an exchange of opinions with the head of the UN Office in Geneva, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who also acts as Secretary General of the Geneva Disarmament Conference. “The Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation offers a platform for dialogue with civil society and academia, and could also be of interest to the Geneva disarmament institutions,” said Waldner after the talks.
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