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Opening remarks to the fifth formal consultation on the global compact on refugees

Speeches and statements

Opening remarks to the fifth formal consultation on the global compact on refugees

12 June 2018


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Building on the remarks of my co-chair, I would like to express our deep appreciation for your participation at this fifth round of formal consultations on the global compact on refugees.

Draft 3 of the global compact was released to you on Monday, 4 June, along with an explanatory memorandum on the main changes since Draft 2. This revised draft is based on a careful review of your contributions during the last consultations and written submissions received. We hope that this version moves us much closer to consensus.

This is the second-to-last round of formal consultations. We are now almost at the end of this significant and historic process. The past months have been characterized by constructive and positive engagement, goodwill, transparency, and collective learning. Thanks are due to all of you for your leadership in this regard. I hope that the two days ahead of us, as well as the final consultations we will have in July, will allow us to make final adjustments to the text ahead of its submission by the High Commissioner to the General Assembly.

As has become customary, I will now walk you through the main changes in Draft 3. In addition, specific text adjustments requested by delegations have been incorporated wherever possible. We have not been able to accommodate each and every proposed change, or to always insert text exactly where it was requested in the document. We hope that delegations will consider the text as a whole, in its entirety, in the spirit of consensus in which it is intended.

Overall, the compact has been shortened by some three pages, particularly through the streamlining of the bullet points previously contained in Part III.B.2 (“areas in need of support”). It has been a careful balancing exercise to simplify and reduce the text – a wish expressed by many delegations – while also retaining some of the important detail that was requested by others. We trust that we have achieved this balance, but are listening closely to your statements in this regard.

More generally, I would reiterate that the global compact is not intended to be a standard-setting exercise. Rather, it builds on the existing refugee protection regime that has been established over decades, including international and regional instruments, resolutions of the General Assembly, conclusions adopted by UNHCR’s Executive Committee, State practice, and judicial interpretation. It does not seek to replace any of this, nor does it reiterate it all. Rather, the compact seeks to ensure the better functioning of the existing regime in the particularly challenging circumstances of large refugee situations, through enhanced burden- and responsibility-sharing.

It is in this spirit that Part B of the programme of action needs to be read in conjunction with Part A, the mechanisms for burden- and responsibility-sharing. Part B does not set standards, but rather sets out the kinds of support that need to be provided by the international community to achieve a comprehensive response, including through the mechanisms set out in Part A. These supports elaborated in Part B are based on past experiences and operational realities, including application of the CRRF. This central logic has also guided us in streamlining the text.

In terms of the relationship between the global compact and other contexts, including mixed movements of refugees and migrants, as well as forced displacement caused by sudden-onset natural disasters, we have added a new paragraph 12, taking into account various interventions by States. This paragraph has been carefully crafted, recognizing both that the CRRF relates specifically to large refugee situations, and that large movements are not always homogenous. The focus is on the need for operational complementarity between responses to refugee movements and other contexts on the ground, including through cooperation among actors such as UNHCR and IOM. Let me also clarify that it is not meant to expand legal obligations of States, nor does it in any way broaden UNHCR’s mandate.

Related to this, and to avoid any doubt, it is clarified in the text that climate, environmental degradation, and natural disasters are not themselves causes of refugee movements, but may interact with the drivers of refugee movements (paragraph 8).

With respect to indicators, in order to propose a way forward, we have suggested that the Global Refugee Forums serve as the main vehicles for pledging, taking stock, reviewing, and (importantly) measuring progress against the objectives of the global compact and ensuring the achievement of collective outcomes. The objectives of the global compact, which are set out in the revised and simplified paragraph 7, provide our starting point in this regard. Once the global compact is finalized, we propose to work further with you to develop the logistical and technical aspects of the Global Refugee Forums – including the pledging component as well as ways to measure progress. We have retained the proposed timing of the forums from draft 2 (i.e. the first forum in 2019, the second in 2021, and then every four years thereafter) for your consideration, and we hope that they are now acceptable. 

Turning to some specific text changes, in terms of the mechanisms for burden and responsibility sharing (Part A), more emphasis is placed on the support to be provided by Support Platforms to national arrangements and the comprehensive plans developed by host States, as relevant, in a spirit of partnership and in line with host country ownership and leadership. The section on funding (paragraph 32) takes into account requests to emphasize the humanitarian principles in relation to humanitarian funding; the importance of partnerships and country ownership and leadership in the context of development action; as well as the need to avoid prescriptive language with respect to the private sector. Paragraph 48 on the “measuring impact” exercise contains clarifications following the informal exchange with Member States in May and the relevant non-paper that was shared with all of you.

In Part B.1 (reception and admission), in addition to general streamlining, in the section on “Identifying international protection needs” (paragraphs 61-63), we have replaced the listing of causes of refugee flight with language from the annual “omnibus” resolution on UNHCR. The text on the Asylum Capacity Support Group has also been adjusted, and further information is provided in a non-paper which was made available on our website.

In Part B.2 (meeting needs and supporting communities), the chapeau emphasizes partnerships, country ownership and leadership, and the humanitarian principles – particularly with regard to complementarity between humanitarian and development actors (paragraphs 64-68). Age, gender, disabilities, and diversity considerations continue to be taken into account, and there is additional emphasis on supporting and empowering youth, including in the section on children (section 2.5) (renamed “Children and youth”), as well as older persons.

In terms of solutions (Part B.3), the section on voluntary repatriation and support for countries of origin has been shortened (paragraphs 87-89); and the text now refers to “complementary” rather than “other” pathways of admission to align with the CRRF (paragraphs 94-96). It is made clear that the three-year resettlement strategy will be concluded by the second Global Refugee Forum in 2021 (paragraph 91), which means that we will be commencing this strategy once the global compact is finalized. A new section has been included on “other local solutions” (section 3.5), as distinct from local integration (section 3.4).

We look forward to receiving any outstanding comments on the text that you may have over the next two days, with a view to its finalization. I reiterate my deep gratitude for your ongoing positive and constructive engagement as we work towards this shared goal. We realize that each country has its own particular interests and concerns, and we hope we have been able to address and accommodate them. However, as we move towards consensus we would ask that all delegations consider the need for balance in the context of the document as a whole. We are hopeful that we are nearing a final text. I am very excited – and I hope you are too – about the potential of the compact to transform the way the international community responds to large refugee situations, broadening the base of support and generating collective outcomes for the benefit of refugees and their host communities.

I think we all have a huge responsibility to deliver to people who are affected by forced displacement, so that we can indeed live up to the ambition and aspiration contained within it to transform their lives.

Thank you.