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Opening remarks to the Informal Exchange with Member States on the Global Compact on Refugees

Speeches and statements

Opening remarks to the Informal Exchange with Member States on the Global Compact on Refugees

22 June 2018


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is good to be back in New York again and to have a chance to give you an update on where we are in the process of developing the global compact on refugees. Before I begin, let me recall that the global compact is not meant to restate comprehensively all aspects of refugee protection and refugee affairs. Rather, it is specifically focused on providing ways for the international community to address more effectively the perennial challenge that we all face in large-scale and protracted refugee situations around the world – that is, ensuring that responsibilities for refugees are shared in a predictable and equitable manner.

If one looks back over the past couple of months to the formal consultations that we have had in Geneva, we have seen significant progress in the way Member States and other stakeholders have engaged in the process. Through this engagement, we have been able to define better what the core common denominators are multilaterally with regard to responsibility sharing for refugees.

I think we have enjoyed a constructive, positive, transparent, and inclusive process. Perhaps the best way to characterize these discussions would be as a collective learning exercise. We have done this through listening to Member States and other stakeholders and considering carefully the textual adjustments that Member States want to see. We have listened with a view to making adjustments in the text that respond to the deeper ideas, object, and purpose of the global compact on refugees and with a view to finding broad consensus. We have urged delegations to keep in this in mind – the need to look at the text as a whole and in a spirit of achieving consensus.

You will have seen that the third draft of the global compact on refugees has been shortened. We listened carefully to States who voiced concerns that there was an imbalance between Part A [the mechanisms for responsibility sharing] and Part B [the measures of support for States when faced with a particular refugee situation]. There was a strong feeling, especially from major host countries, that an imbalance existed in the areas of support as reflected in the text. We undertook the necessary revisions to ensure the text is as accommodating as possible, while retaining the substance. The aim was to make clear that Part A and B are intricately linked. If a country is faced with a particular refugee situation and needs support to help meet the needs of refugees and host communities [such as the kinds of support outlined in Part B], then they can rely upon the arrangements set out in Part A to receive this support.

Part B is therefore not meant to be a standard-setting exercise, and it is not meant to be prescriptive. It is related to concrete experiences and realities on the ground and what we all face on a daily basis with refugees. The emphasis that this is not a standard-setting exercise is very important. Let us not forget that we have an existing refugee protection regime that is solid and robust. It has been built up over years through international treaties, customary international law, organizational practice, and Member State practice. If each of these already established elements of the global regime were comprehensively reflected in the global compact, it would end up being document of some 40-50 pages, distancing the document from its primary intent to address the responsibility sharing gap.

I am very much aware of some of the discussions you have been having on the global compact for safe, orderly, and regular migration. The circumstances there are quite different because you are starting from a different basis.

Despite the different starting points and objectives of the two compacts, we have worked, at your request, to ensure that the relationship between the two compacts and other contexts is clear. Therefore, in the third draft of the global compact on refugees, in light of the discussions we had in Geneva, paragraph 12 of the will be retained. Also, in the section on follow-up and review, paragraph 101 is crafted in a way that fosters coherence with different processes and actions related to people on the move. As you probably know, two weeks ago, UNHCR and IOM issued a joint paper on the coherence between the compacts. We also benefited from the advice of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, Louise Arbour, in that regard. This was undertaken to ensure coherence between the compacts, with the New York Declaration, and with related processes for follow-up. With these objectives in mind, we identified potential issues and tried to work through them.

Returning to the global compact on refugees, it is important to mention that there are still a couple of areas where further discussion is needed in order to reach consensus. In the global compact on refugees, we have two sets of measures that require further discussion. One is in relation to measuring better the socio-economic impact of large-scale movements of refugees on host-communities and countries. That is one work-stream, which was started last-year as a result of the omnibus resolution. We have had some very good discussions with Member States about this. It is on-going and complex work as you can imagine. It is not just a mathematical exercise, as it requires access to data and certain expertise. We have greatly benefitted from advice from The World Bank, The World Bank Group, and OCED. This work will have to continue beyond the adoption of the global compact.

The second set of measures requiring further discussion is how we measure success in relation to the global compact itself. There are on-going discussions around this – how one develops such indicators and what form they should take. In the proposal we put forward, UNHCR suggested that the Global Refugee Forum serve as the main vehicle for pledging, taking stock, reviewing, and measuring progress on the objectives of the global compact. The objectives are linked to the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework [CRRF] and are set out simply in paragraph 7. This important work on how to find a way to reflect measures in the global compact that are acceptable to everyone will continue.

Another area of discussion is the periodicity of the Global Refugee Forum proposed in the global compact. We had a surprising number of suggestions in the last round of discussions that ranged from yearly, to biannually, to three, four, and five years. Clearly there was no consensus on how frequently one would organize the Global Refugee Forum. The Forum is meant to be at the Ministerial level with respect to Member States, but also involves all other stakeholders – civil-society, faith-based organizations, the private sector, and development actors – to engage in refugee matters. It is, of course, important to ensure these stakeholders pledge and help take stock of progress. This could mean financial, but also other kinds of support, such as technical expertise, standby capacity, and updates to policy and practice. As we have seen with the applications of the CRRF in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Uganda, there are many good examples of the kinds of support that can be pledged or showcased.

Another area, which attracted some attention, is the humanitarian-development nexus. A lot of countries in the global south want to make sure that this is about additionality and not competing funds. We have made it absolutely clear that cooperation with development actors does not replace the humanitarian action required in refugee situations around the world. It is not about one area replacing the other, but rather about making sure we have humanitarian response to address immediate needs as well as development support to address the longer-term ones, such as in the areas of education, livelihoods, and health. I think that is appropriately reflected in the text, bearing in mind the differences in context and requirements for support in specific refugee situations. In light of the UN development reform just adopted, we are already looking at how to link these two areas more closely. In Geneva, for example, we recently organized a discussion between Resident Coordinators and UNHCR Representatives to consider how to work better together once the global compact is adopted.

I also want to mention the strong support for the age, gender, diversity, and disability considerations that are now reflected in the text. We added a section on children and youth that was also supported. A reflection on older persons was further welcomed.

In terms of solutions, we clarified that the three-year resettlement strategy set out in the draft global compact will be started immediately with the finalization of the global compact. We are preparing for our Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement next week and are starting discussions about what could be done in the next three years to resettle higher numbers and increase the pool of support. Additionally, we are looking at innovative programmes, such as private sponsorship schemes that are being developed. We have seen quite a few examples of countries looking into this more actively to see how such schemes could complement resettlement programmes.

We have shortened some paragraphs in the global compact on voluntary repatriation, again because we already have very clear guidelines from the Executive Committee and the General Assembly when it comes to voluntary repatriation. We made sure that support measures are better identified. You will see a reflection of internal displacement in the text, which is still under discussion. Internal displacement is not the focus of the global compact, but we heard from many States about the relationship between refugee outflows and internally displaced persons, and so need to ensure that this is appropriately reflected in the text on returns. Oftentimes, when refugees return to their countries of origin, they find themselves in situations of internal displacement, and this needs to be taken into account in voluntary repatriation programmes.

I would like to end with some comments on several procedural issues. At the last round of formal consultations, 194 statements were made, and we finished earlier than the allotted two days. This is certainly an indication for us that we are much closer to a consensus text than before. The types of discussions we had in the last formal consultations suggested this. We are also going in circles on some of the text changes proposed, which suggests that we are at the end of the process in terms of textual adjustments, with the exception of some of the areas just mentioned. The next iteration of the text is set to be released next Tuesday, 26 June, and we hope that it will be very close to a consensus text.

We will then have the last round of formal consultations on 3 and 4 July in Geneva. We hope very much, during this last round, that we will be able to confirm consensus. Our strong plea to Governments is to work with us to ensure those areas still under discussion are resolved before we release the next draft. After that, we can address only those areas that require further discussions with all 193 Member States.

The appeal is this: Let us not forget what we are trying to achieve, and let us not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. It is clear from these multilateral processes that we will not see each and every issue reflected from national perspectives. We need to lift the discussions to almost a bird’s-eye view to ensure that the common denominator is central. There is no doubt in our mind, working with refugees on a daily basis, that if anything close to the current text gets adopted, it would be a remarkable change in the way the international community as a whole engages with refugees, host communities, and host countries. We must not lose sight of what is at stake here and the transformative nature this document can have for those directly affected.

We also had a lot of input in the process from refugees themselves. I am really quite amazed at how much refugee groups and host communities have done their own consultations. Once they start discussing how much the text speaks to them and how it can be brought to life in the way they interact, it is extraordinary. As many of us in the multilateral field know, we often question the connections between policy and reality. So it was important that we could have consultative process with those most directly affected by it. We hope very much that in the Global Refugee Forum, as in the global compact consultations, we will continue to have meaningful discussions with refugees, to keep us on our toes when it comes to implementation.

I will be back in New York in mid-July to brief you following the final round of formal consultations, by which time you will also have concluded negotiations on the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, and I look forward to seeing you then.

Thank you.