7 December 2011
Exhibition "Transit" - Photos by Espen Rasmussen
Remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
Opening of the exhibition Transit – Photos by Espen Rasmussen
Wednesday 7 December at 18h00
Salle des pas perdus
Monsieur le Haut Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés,
Madame la Conseillère d’État,
Monsieur le Représentant permanent de la Suisse,
Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs:
It is a pleasure to welcome all of you to the Palais des Nations for this remarkable photos exhibition from award winning photographer Espen Rasmussen. I would like, first of all, thank the High Commissioner for the pleasure of joining him in hosting this exhibit organized on the occasion of the 60th
anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 50th
anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
The theme of this exhibition as you can see revolves around the plight of stateless people. As is frequently the case, images are able to convey the core importance of a topic almost instantly. Grappling with the challenge of stateless people requires us to join together and this powerful exhibition will help us to do so.
The hurdles confronting stateless people are of profound dimensions and they require collaboration at the global, regional and local level -- if we are to make meaningful and lasting progress. Indeed, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for the stateless to find adequate shelter; to access proper health care, to educate themselves and their families and of course to find meaningful employment. These basic human rights that many of our fellow citizens take for granted are a luxury not afforded stateless people.
As I said, and you recognize, this is no small challenge for us. Worldwide, an estimated 12 million people are not citizens of any state and are therefore often deprived of their rights: social rights, economic rights and civil rights.
While we have made progress in identifying ways to assist the stateless, the journey that we began more than a half century ago continues. Let today's gathering be an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to improving their situation. Let us find new and innovative ways to bring them into communities where they do not feel like powerless outsiders. Let us do all in our power to ensure that their most basic human rights and dignity are protected.
Let us allow the photographs which capture our attention today to remain emblazened in our minds and souls as we strive to identify ways in which the stateless can find communities that will embrace them - communities that will one day become their communities...their homes...their states.
Today the fourth Dialogue on Protection Challenges began. It presents a wonderful opportunity for States to reconcile their international obligations towards persons in need of international protection with their sovereign responsibilities for controlling borders.
Solidarity, courage and responsibility are called upon.
I find this exhibition a most welcome vehicle for reaffirming our collective commitment to those in need of our support.
Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.