High-Level segment on solidarity and burden-sharing with countries hosting Syrian refugees 

30 September 2013



United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Antonio Guterres,

Honourable Ministers,


Members of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme

Distinguished Delegates, 

South Africa would like to extend appreciation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), under the leadership of Mr Guterres, for consistently expending all efforts to assist the vulnerable refugee populations of the world in this case specifically the Syrian refugees being received and hosted in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The delegation would like to assure this gathering of our full support for the clearly defined objectives and expected practical commitments as outlined for this High Level Segment. Furthermore, South Africa is in agreement that a multi-faceted approach and response is needed to assist neighbouring countries in that region. 

While this session is dedicated to the tragic matter of Syrian refugees who number more than 2 million, we would in future need to refer for your consideration other protracted situations in other regions of the world in particular Africa and the occupied territory of Palestine, for special focus.

Chairperson, South Africa remains deeply concerned about the continuing violence and rapidly deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria and has persistently called on all the parties to the conflict, both domestic and foreign, to respect and protect the rights of the Syrian population, in particular the rights of vulnerable groups, such as women and children. It is worrying to hear that more than one million refugee children are affected. 

The South African Government has called on all parties in the conflict to engage in a process of all-inclusive national dialogue, free of violence, intimidation or outside interference. We call for a united, cohesive international effort, striving towards a negotiated settlement.

Historically Syria has been a beacon for multi-cultural harmony and co-existence and we are struck that such a country is now being fragmented into sectarian conflict and strife.  As a country that has experienced for many centuries racial and ethnic conflict and now working towards building a nation at harmony with itself, this destruction of Syrian cohesiveness when viewed from a South African perspective is a  monumental tragedy for all.

The Government remains committed to supporting humanitarian assistance especially to neighbouring countries who host more than 2 million refugees who fled the destruction unfolding in Syria. In addition to South Africa’s annual voluntary contribution to the UNHCR, South Africa has financially contributed to the following organisations providing humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations as well as to Turkey’s National Red Crescent Society.

Chairperson, further in March 2013 the Brics summit “called on all parties in Syria to allow and facilitate immediate, safe, full and unimpeded access to all humanitarian organisations, to all in need of assistance.” It would be appropriate for this meeting to echo that call.

South Africa welcomes the recent adoption by the Security Council on the use of chemical weapons. We now look forward to the convening of the Geneva II process towards a lasting solution to the Syrian crises.

In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to thank the UNHCR EXCOM for this high level engagement bringing attention to the plight of the Syrian people.


I thank you