Speeches and statements
Summary of the Global Refugee Forum 2023 by the co-hosts and co-convenors
Republic of Colombia, France, Japan, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Republic of Uganda, the Swiss Confederation, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
- At a time of increasing and often unresolved forced displacement and deep crisis globally, refugee numbers have doubled since the New York Declaration was adopted in 2016. As new displacement continues to outpace available solutions, the approach set out in Global Compact on Refugees is needed more urgently than ever before. In recognition of this, over 4,200 people from 168 government delegations, including 5 heads of state and government, 86 at the ministerial level and above, and over 300 refugees converged at the second Global Refugee Forum. This included 427 other delegations representing NGOs, the private sector, and other multistakeholder groups. More than 10,000 participated online from 120 countries. Both the co-convenors the Republic of Colombia, France, Japan, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the Republic of Uganda) and the co-host (Switzerland) together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were honoured to serve in these functions and thank all those who contributed to making the Forum a success. The forum provided an opportunity to bolster unity and international solidarity grounded in humanitarian principles for refugees and the communities that host them. The participants committed to substantive and transformational actions to address refugee situations worldwide. Building on the achievements of the first Forum in 2019, the international community collectively reaffirmed and pledged towards the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees to ease pressures on host countries; enhance refugee self-reliance; expand access to third country solutions; and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.
- The Global Compact on Refugees envisions that its objectives be achieved through the mobilization of political will and a broadened based of support. The Forum was an opportunity to galvanise contributions towards equitable, sustained, and more predictable burden and responsibility sharing. These commitments, garnered through a multi-stakeholder and partnership approach, demonstrated enhanced international unity and solidarity. Participants came to the Forum from all quarters of society, representing a vibrant group of governments, refugees and host community representatives, local authorities, cities and other local actors, international organizations within and outside the United Nations system, regional organizations, humanitarian and development actors, international and regional financial institutions, parliaments, civil society organizations, faith-based actors, the private sector, media, academics, and sport and cultural organizations. This was modern multilateralism in action: the coming together of a diverse set of stakeholders to tackle comprehensively and predictably the phenomenon of mass forced displacement.
- As co-hosts and co-convenors of the Forum, from different geographies and situations, we assumed a special responsibility to steer and bring together this mosaic of stakeholder groups, including refugee groups, to advance ambitious, transformational outcomes for refugees and host communities. We helped to mobilise and concentrate international political will in concluding this second Forum with a clear way forward for bringing the Global Compact on Refugees to its full potential. This was evidenced by the announcement of significant multi-stakeholder pledges.
- The Forum provided an opportunity for States and stakeholders to announce concrete pledges and contributions, highlight progress made, share good practices, and take stock of the challenges and opportunities ahead to make a difference in the lives of today’s over 36 million refugees and the communities that so generously host them. Over 1,600 pledges have been mobilized through this GRF, of which approximately 1,300 are financial, material, technical, policy, and other support, contributing to one or more of the 43 multistakeholder pledges co-led by governments and other stakeholders. These pledges build on the political commitments made in the New York Declaration in 2016, the Global Compact on Refugees in 2018, over 1,700 pledges and initiatives announced since the first Forum in 2019, the recommendations from the High-Level Officials Meeting in 2021, the GCR indicator reports, and innovation labs from the High Commissioner’s Dialogue in 2022.
- Member States, together with international organizations and institutions and other actors, played exemplary leadership roles in setting clear objectives and ambitious targets for these pledges over the coming years, and they mobilized other stakeholders to join, including through local, grassroots processes.
- Pledging entities made concrete, impactful and measurable pledges, which will significantly advance comprehensive refugee responses through a broadened base of support across the humanitarian, development, and peace nexus in refugee situations.
- In the spirit of burden and responsibility sharing, and as pledges continue to be tallied, a preliminary assessment indicates that over USD 2.2 billion in financial commitments were pledged over the coming years, in addition to both replenished and new dedicated bilateral and multilateral development funding instruments for refugee hosting countries. Policy commitments were made through the Common Position of DAC-INCAF Members supporting the Global Compact on Refugees on Addressing Forced Displacement with a Comprehensive Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus Approach, and a joint donor pledge to increase the quality of funding.
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
- Three-quarters of refugees live in low to middle-income countries, with over one-fifth in the world’s least developed countries. Eighty per cent of the world’s refugee population is hosted by countries that together represented only 19 per cent of the world’s income. These countries welcome refugees and provide protection and assistance in spite of their own challenges and the additional pressures that hosting large numbers of refugees may place on their economies, the provision of services, and the environment. These remarkable efforts of host countries save lives, provide protection, safeguard fundamental rights, and contribute to stability, peace, and security. Despite the tremendous generosity of host countries and the impactful contributions of donors, the gap between needs and the resources required to meet them has widened. Much more must be done to protect and build a future for the world’s refugees, to find durable solutions, and to support host countries through international cooperation, solidarity, and more equitable burden and responsibility sharing by the whole international community.
- Forced displacement is therefore not only a humanitarian and human rights concern, but also a development challenge and opportunity. Host communities need more effective, reliable, and enhanced comprehensive support. This includes sufficient, predictable, and multi-year funding for refugees, host countries and United Nations organizations mandated with caring for them. These countries urgently require more assistance, not only from other States, but also from businesses, foundations, international and regional financial institutions, cities, and charities and NGOs who each have a unique role to play. We note with appreciation the strong role that international financial institutions, in particular the World Bank, continues to play in alleviating pressure on hosting countries. We stress the importance of the humanitarian-development-peace nexus approach in supporting refugees and host communities in the medium- and longer-term, with a view to build resilient, inclusive, and equitable societies and mitigate the risk of future humanitarian crises. We need to support host countries and communities to effectively manage synergies of the breadth of stakeholders’ engagements across the Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus to maximize their effectiveness and impact.
- Refugee-hosting countries often bear heavier costs and responsibilities due to climate change impacts on refugees and local populations. New support for climate action and adaptation was announced through a multistakeholder pledge to advance inclusion of refugees in national adaption plans and international climate fora such as the COP , where the Climate-Refugee Nexus Initiative launched by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan during COP 27, climate action financing, innovative financing, and disaster risk reduction efforts.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
- With the right policies and supports in place, refugees can fully exercise their agency to rebuild their lives. They can provide for themselves and their families and make positive contributions in their host communities. These policiess need to be supported with investments of financing, infrastructure, job creation, and resources. Many national governments adopted law and policy environments for enhanced access to work, freedom of movement, and inclusion in national education systems. However, more efforts and support are needed to translate these policies into practice to ensure refugees can effectively access national systems. Enhancing self-reliance may generate costs, but it ultimately is an investment that yields dividends, creating socio-economic opportunities both for refugees and their host communities. In recognition of this, new financial, technical, and material support was announced for host country policies, services, and systems that advance protection and inclusion.
- The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commits to leave no one behind, including refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. In the case of Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, close to half of school-age refugee children are out of school. While progress has been made in raising the percentage of refugee youth participating in higher education from 1 to 6 percent in just three years, this is only a starting point. Multistakeholder pledges were made to ensure all refugee children have access to safe, quality, and relevant education opportunities and are included in school and learning national education systems; refugee access is increased through connected education; and 15 per cent of refugee youth can access tertiary education by 2030.
- Multi-stakeholder pledges were made to provide healthcare for refugees through strengthened national systems, and to foster access to mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). A multistakeholder pledge on agriculture and food systems security aims to support 20 million refugees and host communities in countries experiencing food crises. A connectivity pledge was announced to facilitate connectivity and digital transformations with and for refugees. Further pledges were made towards the inclusion of refugees in national statistical systems and surveys to facilitate comprehensive development planning and support.
- The percentage of refugees with access to informal employment has more than doubled in the past two years. Building on this progress, pledges were also made in support of job opportunities and access to financial products and services to facilitate further economic inclusion and social protection, through a multistakeholder pledge to support one million refugees and their hosts. Pledges were also made to transform refugee camps into integrated settlements, thereby creating economic opportunities for both refugees and their host communities.
Objective 3: Expand access to third country solutions
- Expanding opportunities for orderly and predictable resettlement and complementary pathways can be a lifeline and an opportunity for refugees and an important expression of solidarity with countries hosting large numbers of refugees.
- Resettlement can have a transformational effect on the lives of vulnerable people. For those who can neither go home nor integrate locally in the place where they first arrived, it means safety and ultimately, option of permanent residence in a third country. It is also a practical way to show solidarity and share responsibility for refugee protection among countries. Although the current resettlement numbers are still modest, they have increased, and further commitments were announced in support of a pledge aiming to resettle 1 million refugees by 2030; a joint pledge to ensuring every refugee can exercise their right to family unity and attain family reunification; and a pledge to increase the number, scale, and diversity of community sponsorship programmes.
- Complementary pathways are also a key to facilitating access to opportunities and solutions for refugees. Labour mobility and scholarships can complement existing resettlement programmes and enable refugees to strengthen their resilience and contribute to their new host communities. Since the New York Declaration was adopted in 2016, more than 1.2 million refugees have benefitted from complementary pathways. Further access to safe complementary pathways was advanced through a multistakeholder pledge on skills-based complementary pathways to provide 200,000 refugees with labour mobility and education pathways. Support was also announced for a 21st century Nansen passport to ensure that refugees have easy and ready access to renewable travel documents.
Objective 4: Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity
- Enabling voluntary and sustainable repatriation is first and foremost the responsibility of the country of origin towards its own people. Most refugees want to return to their homes to live in peace and security. This requires creating the conditions that would allow them to do so, including brokering peace, addressing the root causes of conflict, and working to foster the conditions so that refugees can return. In order to scale up the availability of voluntary repatriation, technical, financial and other support needs to be provided by interested States and relevant stakeholders to countries of origin to address the root causes of displacement and to build institutional readiness and capacity to receive and reintegrate returnees.
- Commitments were made through multistakeholder pledges on secure access to housing, land, and property; peacebuilding and conflict prevention to address root causes through inclusive and expanded peacebuilding and conflict prevention analysis, programmes, and advocacy support for countries of origin; and addressing digital hate speech and misinformation.
Cross-cutting multi-stakeholder pledges
- Recognizing the interlinking and interdependent nature of the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees and the need to pay attention to each objective, cross-cutting multi-stakeholder pledges were also announced.
- Regional and situational pledges were made to improve the protection, inclusion, and solutions landscapes in support of the Rohingya and Afghanistan situations. Pledges were announced towards support platform for the Central African Republic situation. The Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS) support platform developed regional pledges toward strengthening asylum systems, integration, and local governance in Central America and Mexico; and a new regional pledge was made to develop a plan of action in support of the Cartagena +40 process. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) made pledges advancing solutions and climate action were also announced in the in Eastern Africa region.
- Key partnerships were strengthened through stakeholder-specific pledges. The Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus multistakeholder pledge invited a wide range of contributors to leverage their strengths to address humanitarian crises through a “whole-of-society” approach, while realising human security. Support was announced for strengthening this approach in the context of emergencies to ensure solutions are considered from the start. The United Nations Common Pledge 2.0 announced commitments to pursue more sustainable humanitarian approaches; include refugees in national plans, datasets, budgets and service delivery systems; and give refugees access to decent work. A sports for inclusion pledge committed to enhance refugee self-reliance and increase social and economic inclusion for refugees. Multistakeholder pledges on localisation aimed to increase funding and including local actors in decision making processes, and to advance localisation in research. Meaningful refugee participation was strengthened through further commitments of support and action to include refugees in policy making, ensure accountability, and resource refugee-led efforts. Cities and regional governments, through “A Call to Local Action”, pledged new support for climate action, inclusion, durable solutions, labour mobility, and education.
- Many companies and foundations demonstrated strong support. Existing and new pledgers stepped up, including by providing essential funding in the amount of over USD 250 million, whether to UNHCR, to partner organisations, or in support of government pledges. Private sector contributions ranged from investment in refugee hosting areas to direct support to refugee entrepreneurs, jobs, skilling opportunities, scholarships, support to inclusion in national systems, nearly 1,000,000 hours of pro bono legal and consulting services together with other legal actors in their respective communities over four years, as well as providing access to essential products that refugees require, such as financial products and connectivity.
- Commitments were made to ensure protection of refugees, which is key to both self-reliance and solutions, including through strengthened asylum capacity and the pledge to increase refugees’ access to legal services and information by building a connected global legal community centred on the legal rights, skills, knowledge, and needs of refugees. Child rights were advanced through commitments in support of child-protective systems and services. Multistakeholder pledges were also announced to advance gender equality; address the specific inclusion and protection challenges faced by refugee women and girls, including gender-based violence; to operationalize the women, peace and security (WPS) approach; and to close the digital gender gap.
Looking to the future
- As global forced displacement continues to multiply, and conflicts become increasingly challenging and complex, the Forum called for redoubled efforts towards sustainable, long-term solutions. Addressing these challenges is key to improving international stability and security and is crucial to achieving the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ensuring human security for all. Building on the promising and transformative pledges made, it will be key over the coming years to focus on addressing root causes through peace and conflict prevention and making voluntary returns more dignified and protection-sensitive. We will need to further our cooperation across the humanitarian development peace nexus and promote inclusion in national systems, enhanced self-reliance opportunities, and third-country solutions.
- Together, we recognize that humanitarian efforts, while not a substitute for political solutions, play a pivotal role in providing support during crises. Every refugee represents a failure of peace and security, and every nation that upholds international protection norms by providing safe and dignified asylum is playing a role in upholding the rules-based multilateral international order. The act of hosting large numbers of refugees deserves recognition and international solidarity. This solidarity has manifested itself not only through the steadfast leadership of the humanitarian community, but also through the greater engagement of development actors and international financial institutions at this GRF, and the emerging role of peacebuilding stakeholders. Investing in refugees is investing in our collective security. Abandoning refugees to need and despair would have an impact on all of us.
- This second Global Refugee Forum has been a groundbreaking moment of action, unity, and impact. Our challenge and our responsibility is to maintain the pace and translate commitments into substantive outcomes. Therefore, we call upon all those who have participated in the Forum to stay the course. Over the past three days, we have shown what this looks like: global and regional leadership, pledge implementation, matching policy pledges with concrete support, diverse stakeholders, and refugees as agents of change converging to reject complacency, and to build solidarity, stability, and solutions.
Geneva, 15 December 2023