World gathering on refugees opens in Geneva after ‘decade of displacement’

Global Refugee Forum, 16–18 December in Geneva

A three-day global gathering aimed at transforming the way the world responds to refugee situations starts today in Geneva, Switzerland.

The first-ever Global Refugee Forum brings together refugees, heads of state and government, UN leaders, international institutions, development organizations, business leaders and civil society representatives, among others. UNHCR is co-hosting the Forum together with Switzerland, and it is being co-convened by Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Germany, Pakistan, and Turkey.

The aim of the Forum is to generate new approaches and long-term commitments from a variety of actors to help refugees and the communities in which they live.

Worldwide, over 70 million people are displaced by war, conflict, and persecution. More than 25 million of them are refugees, having fled across international borders and unable to return to their homes.

In Asia, some 9.5 million people – including refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) stateless people – are in critical need of the solidarity, enhanced responsibility-sharing and practical commitments towards solutions being stimulated by the Forum.

Afghans remain the largest and longest displaced refugee population in the region. Today, four decades since their initial displacement, there are over 2.7 million registered Afghan refugees, the vast majority of whom have been hosted by the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan. Iran currently has some one million registered refugees from Afghanistan. In addition, over two million Afghans are estimated to live in Iran either without documentation or on national passports.

It is imperative to mobilize stronger international action to lessen the burden on host communities and to find durable solutions for Afghans. To this end, the governments of the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan came together with UNHCR today to launch the Support Platform for the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR). The platform will bring together member states, humanitarian, development and private sector partners, among others in an unprecedented way to revitalise support for the objectives of the SSAR. During the event, partners will pledge concrete, tangible support, including funding, that will make a difference for Afghans displaced by conflict.

The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Legal and International Affairs, H.E. Dr Dehghani, will lead the delegation from Iran. The Iranian delegation will also speak at a side-event on the inclusion of refugees in national education systems, highlighting good practices from Iran.

“We are emerging from a decade of displacement during which refugee numbers have surged,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“This week, at the first ever Global Refugee Forum, we must focus our efforts in the coming decade on building upon what we have learned and committing action to support refugees and the countries and communities hosting them. This Forum is an opportunity to attest our collective commitment to the Global Compact on Refugees and rally behind the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals of leaving no one behind.”

The contributions made at the Forum are expected to include financial, technical, and material assistance; legal and policy changes to enable greater inclusion of refugees in society; resettlement places, and the safe return for refugees as part of solutions.

The three days of discussions, special events, and high-level dialogues in Geneva will focus on six key areas: arrangements for burden and responsibility sharing; education; jobs and livelihoods; energy and infrastructure; solutions; and protection capacity. There will be many opportunities for sharing a number of initiatives and good practices demonstrating how the Global Compact on Refugees can make a difference.

The Forum will also examine how humanitarian and development responses can complement one another. Additionally, in a sign of the increasingly important role of the private sector, more than 100 companies and foundations are attending and are set to make pledges around jobs, finance and other assistance.

The programme and further details about the Global Refugee Forum and related events are available here:

Photos and video footage from the Forum are available on Refugees Media: