States reach historic deal for refugees and commit to more effective, fairer response
UN General Assembly agrees on an innovative global framework to better serve the forcibly displaced and their host communities.
Burundi refugee Hatungimana Specioza, 29 started working at REDESO tree nursery at Nduta Refugee Camp in western Tanzania in July 2017. "I have 3 children I need the extra money our life is very hard". (©UNHCR/G. Goodwin)
NEW YORK – In a historic decision, the member states of the UN General Assembly today agreed on a new international framework – known as the Global Compact on Refugees – that will transform the way the world responds to mass displacement and refugee crises, benefiting both refugees and the communities that host them.
“No country should be left alone to respond to a huge influx of refugees,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “Refugee crises call for a global sharing of responsibility, and the compact is a powerful expression of how we work together in today’s fragmented world.”
The Global Compact on Refugees was agreed as part of this year’s annual resolution on UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. It builds on the existing international legal system for refugees, notably the 1951 Refugee Convention, and on human rights and humanitarian law. It is a non-binding operational tool to bolster cooperation.
“It provides long overdue recognition that countries hosting large numbers of refugees provide a huge service to our shared humanity and sets out ways through which the rest of the world can help share the load.”
After two years of extensive consultations led by UNHCR with member states, international organizations, refugees, civil society, the private business sector and experts, this new global deal will provide more robust support for the countries where most refugees live. It will also strengthen the shared responsibility to aid those who are forced to flee by conflict or persecution.
“The compact translates the idea of responsibility sharing into concrete, practical measures, to ensure refugees aren’t held hostage to the vagaries of politics,” said Grandi. “It provides long overdue recognition that countries hosting large numbers of refugees provide a huge service to our shared humanity and sets out ways through which the rest of the world can help share the load.”
This deal comes at a time of urgent need to address record-high displacement figures – over 68.5 million people have been forced to flee worldwide, including more than 25.4 million people who have crossed borders to become refugees.
Nine out of 10 refugees live in developing countries, where basic services like health or education are already strained. The compact aims to address this issue by providing more investment – from both governments and the private sector – to further strengthen infrastructure and the provision of services for the benefit of both refugees and host communities. It also calls for policies and measures that will enable refugees to access education and to lead productive lives during the time they are in exile. The compact aims to address the environmental impact of hosting refugee populations and includes promotion of the use of alternative energy.
The agreement also envisions more resettlement opportunities – such as through family reunification, student scholarships, or humanitarian visas– so that refugees can travel safely. It also notes that the voluntary return of refugees in conditions of safety and dignity remains the preferred solution in the majority of refugee situations.
The new agreement will monitor progress through the creation of follow-up systems, including a Global Refugee Forum every four years at which governments will report and pledge on a range of measures – funding, policy, legal changes, resettlement quotas, etc.
The refugee compact’s adoption by the UNGA comes days after an intergovernmental conference adopted a separate Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, which will be presented to the UN General Assembly later this week.