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The Global Refugee Forum 2023


The Global Refugee Forum 2023

The world's largest gathering in support of refugees and their hosts is taking take place in December, but why is the Global Refugee Forum happening now and what does it hope to achieve?
21 November 2023
Niger. Nigerian refugees and locals work together in ‘opportunity village’

Nigerian women and locals work together to produce peanut oil in a UNHCR-supported "opportunity village" in south-central Niger.

From 13-15 December, Geneva will host the world’s largest international gathering on refugees, when politicians and diplomats, refugees and refugee-led organizations, UN agencies, development banks, businesses, charities and foundations, mayors, faith-based groups, students and many others will unite to address the challenges faced by refugees, and by those who host them.

But why is the Global Refugee Forum happening now, and what does it hope to achieve?

How it all started – and how we got here 

The first Global Refugee Forum (GRF) was convened four years ago, soon after the UN General Assembly affirmed the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees, when States committed to working together to transform the way the world responds to refugee situations. That work is focused on four key goals:

  • easing pressure on host countries 
  • enhancing opportunities for self-reliance
  • expanding access to third-country solutions
  • supporting the conditions in countries of origin for the safe and dignified return of those who have fled.

The GRF is where these commitments are turned into concrete action. By bringing together decision-makers and stakeholders from around the world – including refugees – the Forum reflects the belief that lasting solutions must involve everyone in society, as everyone has a role to play, and be guided by those directly affected. 

The first Forum, in December 2019, attracted over 3,000 attendees and resulted in some 1,700 pledges of financial, material, technical and other forms of support. The 2023 Forum will be co-convened by five States – Colombia, France, Japan, Jordan and Uganda – and co-hosted by the Government of Switzerland and UNHCR. 

Why is it important? 

The number of refugees around the world forced to flee their homes and cross international borders to escape conflict, violence and persecution reached 36.4 million – a new record in a long line of unwanted records set over the past decade and beyond. Fuelled by new and protracted crises everywhere from Ukraine to Sudan, from Afghanistan to Venezuela, forced displacement is a global challenge. It demands a global response. 

The GRF gives shape to this response, fostering new partnerships and initiatives by bringing together all the key actors: refugees, States, cities and local authorities, the private sector, charitable foundations, international financial institutions, UN agencies, academics, humanitarian and development actors, and most centrally, refugees. Uniting around common values, goals and projects magnifies the efforts of all those involved to create a meaningful difference to the lives of refugees. The Forum will show that change is possible – that there is a path from despair to hope, and from hope to action. 

Refugee girls attending an Adolescents’ Club in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar.

Rohingya refugee girls attending an Adolescents’ Club in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. 

What is the Forum hoping to achieve? 

At the heart of the GRF are pledges and contributions – commitments by those stakeholders mentioned above that advance the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees to achieve tangible benefits for refugees and host communities. 

For the 2023 Forum, UNHCR is encouraging multi-stakeholder pledges – joint, large-scale pledges that have an ambitious common goal. They aim to be transformational, putting in place long-term policy and practical arrangements that advance burden and responsibility-sharing, drawing from a clearly defined resource base, donorship, or financial instrument linked to their implementation. 

They will focus on areas crucial to the lives of refugees, including:  

  • Financing 

  • Climate action 

  • Social and economic inclusion 

  • Resettlement and complementary pathways 

  • Labour mobility 

  • Peacebuilding 

  • Localisation 

  • Connectivity 

  • Education 

… and several others, including specific refugee situations. 

Mexico. Medicine student on a DAFI scholarship studies at home in Mexico City

Stephanny, from Venezuela, with her 4-year old son, Daniel. She is studying medicine in Mexico City, on a DAFI scholarship. 

In addition to specific pledges, the GRF will take stock of progress made since the first Forum; aim to boost development financing in refugee situations by engaging development actors and multi-lateral development banks; and generate new ideas and approaches through a detailed programme of events and discussions on current and emerging issues related to these key themes. You can see the full programme here.

How can you get involved and support the objectives of the Forum? 

One of the aims of the GRF is to show that everyone can support refugees and, if we act together, effect lasting change. Whether you’re a company or foundation making a pledge, a donor making a financial contribution or a citizen organizing an event in your local community, every action makes a difference. 

Find out more about pledges here; submit or match a pledge via the online form on this webpage; keep checking in for more news and stories about the 2023 Forum; subscribe to our YouTube channel; or even follow some or all of the GRF online when the livestream goes live on December 13. 

You can also sign UNHCR’s global petition calling on world leaders to protect people seeking asylum and their rights – the first hallmark of sharing responsibility for the world’s refugees, and a message we will deliver to the Forum itself in Geneva.