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UN Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, calls for enhanced refugee protection at NIHRC’s annual lecture

13 Sept 2023

The UN Refugee Agency’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, has called for bold steps to protect those forced to flee their homes whilst speaking at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s Annual Human Rights Lecture.

The event, in partnership with the Bar of Northern Ireland, took place in the Royal Courts of Justice and was opened by Lady Chief Justice the Right Honourable Dame Siobhan Keegan.

Gillian Triggs delivered the keynote address titled ‘Global Refugee Protection: some new thinking’.

Speaking at the event, Ms Triggs said:

“There are now more than 110 million people forcibly displaced throughout the world due to conflict, persecution, discrimination and violence, a figure that has doubled in the past decade. The scale and complexity of global displacement today requires refreshed and creative thinking to address root causes while also ensuring immediate and urgent protection.

“Refugees fleeing conflict often find themselves lacking access to basic services, protection and solutions throughout their journey. A holistic, "whole of journey" approach can provide this protection so long as it doesn’t compromise the fundamental right to access territory to claim asylum. This approach can help find solutions for refugees, including through safe pathways such as resettlement, family reunion, labour mobility, education and community sponsorship. It can also encourage development banks and the private sector to support governments and local authorities, host communities and people on the move.” Ms. Triggs continued.

Alyson Kilpatrick, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, said:

We are delighted to have Gillian Triggs deliver the keynote address at this year’s annual lecture on this important topic. The number of people forcibly displaced from their homes as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations is rising. They often face perilous journeys and are denied access to fundamental rights in trying to find safe pathways to protection. We are grateful to Ms Triggs for joining us and sharing her insight on how to address challenges to protecting refugees and ensuring no one is left behind.”

Chair of the Bar Council of Northern Ireland, Moira Smyth KC, added:

The Bar of NI is proud to continue our support for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Annual Lecture. Respect for the rule of law and human rights are central to the protection of refugees and displaced persons. I am grateful to Ms Gillian Triggs for sharing her expertise and knowledge of global refugee protection, as a defining legal issue of our time.”


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About the Annual Human Rights Lecture

The event took place on 13 September at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Each year, in partnership with the Bar of Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission run an annual lecture on human rights issues in the UK with a keynote address from an esteemed speaker which have included Lady Brenda Hale DBE, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore, Joshua Rozenberg QC (hon), and Philippe Sands QC in recent years.

About Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Ms Triggs was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres as Assistant Secretary-General to serve as the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Ms. Triggs previously served a 5-year term as President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, and is an expert in international law, with extensive history of dedicated service to human rights and the refugee cause in Australia, the Asia-Pacific Region and globally. She has several decades of professional experience as an academic, practising lawyer, advocate and public policy expert. A barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria, she is currently Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne, President of the Asian Development Bank Administrative Tribunal, and holder of a number of other eminent appointments.

She was in international commercial law practice and also Professor of Law at the University of Melbourne. She then served as Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, and as Dean and Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney.

Ms. Triggs holds a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in law from the University of Melbourne, and a master’s degree in law from Southern Methodist University, Texas.

For more information see

About Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

The NI Human Rights Commission is a statutory public body established in 1999 to promote and protect the human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland. In accordance with the Paris Principles the Commission reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of measures undertaken by the UK Government to promote and protect human rights, specifically within Northern Ireland.

For more information see

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