Sierra Leone Statement at the UN Security Council Briefing by UNHCR


Mr. President, 

I thank you for convening this important briefing.

I thank UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi for his sobering update on the global situation for refugees and displaced people

Armed conflicts, socio-economic insecurity, and climate change disasters continue to impact on the lives of humans in difficult and tragic ways.  UNHCR data indicates that the number of forcibly displaced persons in 2022 was more than a 108 million worldwide and this increased to 114 million by the end of 2023. Additionally, the UNHCR Global Appeal Report 2024 projected an increase to about 130 million for 2024, including refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons, and stateless persons. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) also reports that 75.9 million persons were internally displaced as at the end of 2023, up from 71.1 million in 2022. It is important to bear in mind that these figures reflect the status of actual people, including women and children, who face a harsh and unforgiving reality outside of a peaceful and safe environment. 

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of armed conflicts across the globe, with reportedly over 63 million persons forced to flee their homes and communities from armed conflicts in Gaza, Sudan, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, and other regions in 2023; significant populations have also been displaced by climate emergencies, natural disasters, as well as by energy and food crises, with these factors often overlapping in many cases. Africa continues to be particularly severely affected by forced displacements, accounting for about 46 per cent of the world’s internally displaced persons in 2023, of which 32.5 million persons were displaced by conflict and violence. 

    In Sudan, which currently faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, there were over 9 million internally displaced persons. The confluence of the adverse effects of climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters on one hand, and insecurity on the other, has resulted in 7 million people internally displaced in the West Africa and Sahel region, as well as significant increases in other regions of the African continent such as Ethiopia, Somalia, DRC, etc. 

    Mr. President, 

    Sierra Leone firmly reiterates our full and unwavering commitment to the protection of refugees and displaced persons as a fundamental principle of international humanitarian law and human rights law, as outlined in the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as well as to all related GA and Council resolutions. Drawing on our shared determination to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, Sierra Leone wishes to make the following points:

    Firstly, the information shared reflects an alarming trend of increased violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. As we navigate protracted peace processes, including cross border spillovers in some situations, Sierra Leone strongly emphasizes the protection of civilians and calls on all parties to conflicts to refrain from conducting hostilities in a manner that leads to their forcible displacement and a deterioration of their living conditions.  

    Armed conflicts have particularly exacerbated the vulnerability of young people across the world. The destruction of civilian and critical infrastructure has disrupted their access to essential services such as health and education, further increasing their socio-economic deprivation and contributing to internal and cross-border displacement. This has resulted in an increase in movement of young refugees and migrants, especially from the West Africa and Sahel region, across the Mediterranean seeking better socio-economic opportunities. These young people continue to remain vulnerable to human traffickers, as well as systematic violations of human rights and violence against women and girls. 

    It is important therefore that Council promotes efforts that address the full peace-development-humanitarian nexus. We emphasize the importance of maintaining a common and united position in supporting broad-based multilateral approaches, including the Secretary-General’s Action Agenda on Internal Displacement and its 31 commitments, the Global Compact on Refugees, Global Compact on Migration, and the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa and outcome reports of the AU Specialized Technical Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. 

    Secondly, strengthening host communities and country capacity to address the needs of IDPs and refugees.  Sierra Leone acknowledges the vital role of host communities and Governments in alleviating the suffering of refugees and internally displaced persons. We acknowledge the efforts of numerous host countries such as Bangladesh, which is home to 979,306 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar spread out across two congested camps; Chad, which hosts abut 1.4 million Sudanese refugees and returnees to date; and Turkey, which currently hosts about 3.36 million refugees, the majority of which – 3.33 million – are “Syrians under temporary protection.” We call for enhanced support to and through these countries by United Nations agencies and relevant humanitarian organizations, not only for increasing access to humanitarian aid, but also to build self-reliance of refugees.  

    We further call for increased protection of internally displaced persons and refugees who face risks from the conflict spreading or from continued socio-economic marginalization or environmental deterioration. All too often, even after having moved away from the initial sites of distress, refugees and internally displaced persons find themselves facing the same dire fates in their new and temporary locations. In Sudan, Gaza, and Myanmar, to name a few, recent clashes amongst conflict parties have resulted in deaths, injuries and destruction of property of IDPs and refugees seeking safety in their second, third, or even fourth locations. Data from UNWRA indicates that at least 430 IDPs sheltering in UNRWA premises have been killed and 1,442 injured since 7 October 2023. Even as the Council and the wider international community work towards lasting peace and stability around the world, we reiterate the need for embedding explicit mandates for protection of internally displaced persons and refugees in peacekeeping and humanitarian entities on the ground. 

    Thirdly, Sierra Leones underscores the importance of promoting conditions that enable refugees and IDPs to voluntarily return to their home countries and communities, respectively, under safe and stable conditions. We emphasize the importance of programs that provide documentation, psychological, livelihood and other support services that rehabilitate IDPs and refugees and prepare them for re-integration. Additionally, the operational support provided to individuals and families for safe return and community reintegration, should be underpinned by peacebuilding and developmental efforts for rebuilding and improving critical infrastructure, administrative and governance systems for sustaining peace and national cohesion. Sierra Leone affirms our commitment to the voluntary, safe and dignified return of IDPS and refugees in adherence with the principle of non-refoulement. 

      Mr. President, 

      We remain concerned that national, regional and international humanitarian programmes for refugees and displaced persons remain substantially underfunded. As at 23rd April 2024, UNHCR projects a US$8.5 billion funding shortfall with only $2.2 billion of the 10.7 billion budget actually available for use. 

      We conclude by emphasizing the importance of implementing an appropriate global burden and responsibility-sharing financing mechanism for an integrated peacebuilding and sustainable development framework that addresses the root causes of forcible displacement and promotes the principles of international humanitarian law.

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