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UN refugee chief says 114 million have fled their homes because countries are failing to tackle the causes of conflict

GENEVA: The number of people fleeing their homes due to war, violence and persecution has reached 114 million and is rising because countries have failed to tackle the causes and fighters refuse to respect international law, the UN refugee chief said on Thursday.
In a scathing speech, Filippo Grandi criticized the UN Security Council, which is tasked with maintaining international peace and security, for not using its voice to resolve conflicts from Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan to Congo, Myanmar and many other places. .
He also accused unnamed countries of making “short-sighted foreign policy decisions, often based on double standards, saying they respect the law, but the world has shown little muscle to actually support it and – with it – peace and security.”
Grandi said the disregard for international humanitarian law means that “parties to conflicts – increasingly everywhere, almost all – have stopped respecting the laws of war,” even though some pretend they do.
The result is more civilian casualties, sexual violence is used as a weapon of war, hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure are attacked and destroyed, and aid workers are targeted, he said.
Grandi, who described himself as a disillusioned humanitarian and looked directly at the 15 council members, said that instead of his voice, “the cacophony of the council meant that instead you continued to preside over a wider cacophony of chaos around the world.”
The High Commissioner for Refugees told the Council it was too late for the tens of thousands of people killed in Gaza, Ukraine, Sudan and other conflicts.
“However, it is not too late to focus your attention and energy on the crises and conflicts that remain unresolved, so as not to allow them to fester and explode again,” Grandi said. “It is not too late to step up assistance to the millions who have been forcibly displaced to return home voluntarily, safely and with dignity.”
It is also not too late to save millions of people from the scourges of war, the refugee leader said.
However, the Security Council is increasingly polarized and its five veto-wielding permanent members are at odds, with the US, Britain and France often sharply opposing the positions of Russia and China.
Regarding the war in Gaza, the council did not call for a ceasefire due to the opposition of the United States, Israel’s closest ally. On Ukraine, however, the council has been ineffective, with Russia, a key party in the conflict after Moscow attacked its smaller neighbor in February 2022, vetoing almost any resolution.
Grandi described the events in Gaza since Hamas’ surprise attack on October 7 and the “horrific” recent events in the southern city of Rafah, after an Israeli airstrike caused a deadly fire in a camp for displaced Palestinians, as examples of “brutal conduct” of hostilities aimed at not only destruction, but also terrorizing civilians,” who increasingly have no choice but to flee.
He said Gaza was also a “tragic reminder of what happens when conflicts (and the resulting refugee crisis) go unnoticed for decades”. He also pointed to Syria, where after 13 years of conflict, 5.6 million Syrian refugees remain in neighboring countries, including Lebanon and Jordan, which also host Palestinian refugees.
Grandi said violations of international law, including forcing people to flee, have a devastating effect on people around the world.
In Myanmar, for example, more than 1.5 million people have been displaced by fighting since October, bringing the total to more than 3 million, “with many trying to seek refuge in neighboring countries,” he said.
In Ukraine, international humanitarian law is being violated every day by Russian attacks on power grids, houses and other civilian infrastructure in the country, he said.
Grandi said that in Congo “violence between men with guns is so common that no other place in the world is as dangerous for women and children as the east of this country.”
“But how can the members of the United Nations, how can ‘we the people’ pay so little attention and have so much inaction in a place where sex with a child can be bought for less than a cold drink?” asked the refugee leader.
“What a shameful blot on humanity!” Grandi said.

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