On Wednesday (4 November) Foreign Minister Steinmeier hosted a round table to discuss increased international cooperation in the refugee crisis. The guests were the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, Peter Sutherland, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration, William Swing, and the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Elhadj As Sy. At the meeting, Steinmeier announced an additional 75 million euros of support for UNHCR and the World Food Programme.
Appeal to the international community
The meeting was sparked by an open letter sent by the four participants, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to European leaders on 9 September. In the letter, the signatories point out that the UN Refugee Convention contains a clear obligation to provide protection to the persecuted. They also entreat the European States to face up to this responsibility together and ensure a fair distribution of the burden.
Germany to provide a further 75 million euros
Foreign Minister Steinmeier said he had taken this appeal very seriously. His initial response had been to use the German G7 Presidency to organise a donor conference during the UN General Assembly in September. “This produced a total of 1.8 billion dollars. That was a help, but it won’t be quite enough to get right through the winter,” Steinmeier said. He had therefore urged that Germany step up its contribution and was grateful to the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag for making available a further 75 million euros to support UNHCR and the World Food Programme “before the end of the year, so before winter sets in”.
The round table also gave particular thought to how best to respond to the refugee problem in the long term. Foreign Minister Steinmeier said the key points were improved crisis management, coordination within the international community and an effective early warning system. A working group will now look at these questions as part of a structured process. The four guests all expressed great appreciation for Germany’s role in the refugee crisis. The 60 million or so refugees around the world posed not only a political, but also a moral challenge to the international community, they said. Germany’s initiatives provided important impetus, but in the end the responsibility had to be fairly distributed among all states.