President Jacob Zuma has urged United Nations (UN) member states to adequately address the forcible displacement of people from their native countries, saying the worldwide refugee crisis was being fuelled by underdevelopment.
Addressing the high-level meeting of the plenary UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York on Monday, Zuma said the African continent was not a stranger to the challenges that the movement of refugees and migrants had brought.
“South Africa recognises that in order to adequately address the forcible displacement of people, we must address the root causes of this phenomenon. Underdevelopment is a key driver of the displacement of people and, in turn, can lead to armed conflict,” Zuma said.
“A concerted global effort to address the questions of underdevelopment and armed conflict should therefore be a central focus of all member states. There cannot be economic prosperity and sustainable development without peace on the continent.”
The General Assembly (UNGA) convened at the UN summit for refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach ahead of the general debate of the 71st session (UNGA 71).
This was the first time the General Assembly has called for a summit at the heads of state and government level on large movements of refugees and migrants.
The gathering is seen as a historic opportunity to come up with a blueprint for a better international response in strengthening governance of international migration.
The UN Refugee Agency estimates that the number of refugees and migrants reaching European shores this year has passed 300 000.
Many of them are people fleeing civil unrest, hunger and oppressive governments in their countries and seek asylum in Europe with hope for a better life.
South Africa welcomed the adoption of the Outcome Document by member states.
Zuma said he hoped significant strides would be made towards alleviating the plight of refugees and migrants everywhere and for paving the way for equitable burden-sharing among states.
“While we recognise that the large movements of refugees and migrants present unique challenges to affected states, South Africa also cautions member states not to forget that the plight of forcibly displaced persons should be treated with equal concern, whether they form part of large or small movements of people,” Zuma said.
“Our common humanity requires that we respect each person’s human dignity in equal measure. No instance should enjoy more attention and concern than the other.”
– African News Agency (ANA)