Remarks at the informal exchange with Member States on the Global Compact on Refugees

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us here today for an open discussion on the progress that we have made to date in the development of the Global Compact on Refugees. As you know, in the historic New York Declaration adopted last year, Member States requested that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees propose in his 2018 report to the General Assembly a Global Compact on Refugees. The Global Compact on Refugees will include the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) already elaborated in Annex One of the New York Declaration and a Programme of Action setting out support measures for countries hosting large populations of refugees.

The process leading to the Global Compact on Refugees is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the way that the international community responds to large movements of refugees and protracted refugee situations – with a particular focus on burden and responsibility sharing. Its ultimate aim is to achieve this by ensuring more predictable support to countries and communities faced with mass influxes or hosting refugees for long periods. This support is key to enhancing refugee protection and boosting the search for durable solutions.

In order to ensure that the views of Member States and all relevant stakeholders are considered in the development of the Global Compact on Refugees, UNHCR has developed a detailed “roadmap” of preparatory activities.[1]

My briefing to you today is timely because we have just finished one stage of the process and will shortly move into the next. As we do so, we have been undertaking preparatory activities in two areas:

The first has been the operational roll-out of the CRRF, which will serve as the basis for the development of the Global Compact on Refugees. The CRRF is now being rolled out formally in 13 Member States, and many elements of the CRRF are also being implemented in other refugee situations. There are additionally two regional roll-outs taking place in Central America and the Horn of Africa. Most recently, we have seen the adoption of the Comprehensive Protection and Solutions Framework for Central America and Mexico, and in Africa, Zambia has become the seventh country to begin implementing the CRRF. In all of these countries and regions, UNHCR is working closely with a wide range of partners – notably governments (including local authorities and a range of line ministries), development actors, civil society organizations, and members of the private sector – to implement the CRRF.

Important legislative and policy instruments have been adopted in some countries that will facilitate the implementation of the CRRF.  These instruments provide for expanded access to education and jobs and facilitate social and economic inclusion. A little over a month ago, for example, Ethiopia extended its civil registration systems to refugees. This is a momentous change that will help refugees to access rights, and it will serve as an important bulwark against statelessness. Another example of good practice is Uganda’s implementation of policies to promote refugee integration at the national level.

Through this work, we are learning a wide range of important lessons about how the CRRF can best be operationalized, and these are currently being compiled into a report to be released shortly. It is also important to highlight countries, such as Afghanistan, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Iran, which, while not part of the initial CRRF rollout, have considerable experience to share, in terms of lessons learned.

The second area of work has been a series of five thematic discussions that UNHCR has hosted in Geneva. These discussions have focused on measures that could be considered for inclusion in the Programme of Action that will be part of the Global Compact on Refugees. We have been struck by the constructive and cooperative atmosphere that Member States and other stakeholders have brought to these discussions, and are most appreciative of the concrete and specific nature of many of their contributions. We are particularly grateful to the refugee delegates at the thematic discussions. Their voices are crucial in this conversation, and their excellent contributions are most welcome.

In advance of the thematic discussions that took place in October and November, UNHCR suggested some language and possible measures that could be considered for inclusion in the Programme of Action. These suggestions were broadly validated, indicating to us that the approach that we have in mind is capable of generating the required consensus amongst Member States. We also received some very good feedback on these suggestions and a number of additional ones, all of which we will consider in detail. I would like to thank many of you here today who contributed in this respect.

Throughout the discussions, a number of key themes have emerged, of which I would like to highlight four in particular:

First, the Programme of Action needs to focus on support to hosting countries and communities in a spirit of burden and responsibility sharing and in a manner that supports refugee protection and the search for durable solutions. We want States to be able to see clearly within the Programme of Action the kinds of support that they will be able to rely on if they are faced with a large influx of refugees or a protracted refugee situation. This support will need to come in the form of financial resources, but also in the form of political support and technical expertise. Support will be needed across the spectrum of displacement, from initial reception, to inclusion in national systems and services, to durable solutions. One initiative already underway that we are tremendously grateful for is the IDA18 refugee sub-window launched by the World Bank Group, which makes available USD 2 billion for particularly affected host countries.

Second, the Programme of Action needs to promote strengthening existing partnerships and developing new ones.  Partnerships between States, international organizations, NGOs, and the academic world will continue to be very important, but there is also great potential for partnerships with cities and local authorities, international financial institutions, the private sector, and many others.

Third, we must ensure that Programme of Action promotes approaches to refugee movements that are rights-based and integrate gender, age, and diversity dimensions throughout.

Finally, there have been many calls for greater involvement of refugees in processes that impact them.

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I mentioned, we are now moving into a new stage, taking stock of what we have learned thus far –both in the operational roll-out of the CRRF and the thematic discussions – and laying the groundwork for next year. The annual High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, which will take place in Geneva on 12 and 13 December, will be dedicated to this stocktaking exercise. Informed by the results of the Dialogue and the activities that preceded it, UNHCR will then prepare a “zero draft” of the Global Compact on Refugees, which we aim to release in early February.

We will then move into a period of formal consultations to listen to your feedback on the draft and to incorporate your perspectives. We want the Global Compact on Refugees that the High Commissioner proposes to be one that you can all support, and the key aim of the formal consultations will be ensuring this is a consensus document.

After the consultations, the High Commissioner will formally propose the Global Compact on Refugees in his annual report to the General Assembly.  In accordance with the New York Declaration, the report will be considered by the General Assembly in conjunction with the annual resolution on UNHCR. We envisage that the Global Compact on Refugees could be adopted in an operational paragraph of that resolution.

At the same time, of course, there is another global compact process underway – the process for the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  UNHCR is pleased to be contributing to this work, as well. In addition to the fact that human mobility that is safer, more orderly, and more regular is an inherently desirable outcome, a strong migration compact would also be good for persons of concern to UNHCR. Refugees have – and must have – a distinct status because conflict and persecution in their countries of origin make it impossible for them to go home, and there is a clear legal regime established to address this, but this does not mean that there are no areas of overlap between the two global compacts.

The root causes of refugee flows and the drivers of irregular migration are sometimes intertwined. In mixed migratory movements, refugees and migrants also often face overlapping risks. More safe and regular pathways for admission, and the creation of tolerant and accepting environments, would bring important benefits for both groups.

UNHCR does not believe that all of these overlapping topics need to be dealt with in precisely the same way in each compact. Each compact has its own purpose and process. The Global Compact on Refugees seeks to improve the operation of an existing international regime in a specific context – that is, in the case of large movements of refugees and protracted situations. The ambition for the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, on the other hand, is that it will itself “present a framework for comprehensive international cooperation on migrants and human mobility”.

The areas of overlap should be addressed in each respective compact in a manner that is consistent with that compact’s rationale. For example, while international cooperation to combat trafficking will be addressed in the migration compact, the Global Compact on Refugees could also address, inter alia, the identification of victims of trafficking within large movements of refugees. This being said, the ways in which the areas of overlap are dealt with in each compact should be coordinated, complementary, and mutually reinforcing. There are a number of issues affecting refugees and migrants that require a common international response, and some areas where treatment should not be dependent on status (the most obvious being rescue at sea). UNHCR is committed to working with all relevant stakeholders to achieve this goal.

Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to responding to any comments or questions that you might have.


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