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Member State Briefing on the Global Compact on Refugees

Speeches and statements

Member State Briefing on the Global Compact on Refugees

13 April 2018


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is great to be back in New York to engage with you, from your respective vantage points, on the important process of arriving at a global compact on refugees. I am particularly grateful to you personally, Ambassador, for chairing this meeting, and to the President of the General Assembly, who has facilitated it. This regular briefing is important to keeping the membership in New York informed about the process in Geneva.

Since the last briefing that I gave in February, we have seen a lot of progress. We now have a first draft of the global compact on refugees, and have had two very substantial consultations on this draft in March and April. The atmospherics around the formal consultations have been very constructive. There have been some 400-500 participants on average, with the vast majority of Member States represented, and we have seen strong, constructive engagement from them as well as other organizations and non-governmental actors. This has cultivated a positive atmosphere, and it gives us confidence that by July, we will be able to arrive at a consensus document, which will be presented by the High Commissioner to the General Assembly in his annual report the following month.

The first draft of the global compact on refugees is different from the zero draft, more in terms of substance than structure. It was very important for us to listen to Member States to see where they wanted the draft to be strengthened and to build collective ownership of the first draft organically. The reactions to the first draft were positive on the substance and the balance of the document – both in addressing the legitimate concerns of host countries in in broadening the support base for them.

What I would like to do in this briefing, before opening the discussion to the floor, is to walk you through key elements of the global compact on refugees that have been strengthened in first draft, in light of the comments, questions, and feedback received during the March and April formal consultations. These will, of course, evolve further as we prepare the second draft.

The main element that has been strengthened is a focus on global responsibility-sharing mechanisms. This was noted as a matter of concern for the international community, and a strong call was made for States and other stakeholders to contribute their respective resources and expertise to ensure that responsibility does not fall on only a few host countries, as has happened historically, or on only a few resettlement and donor countries. This compact is intended to broaden the base of support – a goal which came out clearly in the consultations and which is explicitly recognized in the draft as one of the main purposes of the compact. The compact is a universal document that requires universal participation, of course depending on the capacities of Member States and stakeholders. Mechanisms that would enable such engagement put forward in the first draft of the compact include:

  • First, a global refugee meeting: Held regularly at the ministerial level, a global refugee meeting would help ensure there is sustained political attention paid to refugee and displacement issues of the day. What we often see, once crises fade, is that the international attention span also diminishes. It is important to ensure that the refugee issue remains a priority area of concern for States around the world and that momentum on the issue is maintained at a high level. Otherwise, we may see the repeat of situations experienced in the past, where we are faced with inadequate preparations and unpredictable resources at a time when urgent responses are most required. The ministerial meetings will encourage States and other stakeholders to make pledges towards the different elements of global compact on refugees. The meetings would also provide an opportunity to review and take stock of progress and to strengthen global accountability. During the consultations, there was a group of donor countries that came out quite strongly, asking to be held accountable, and at the same time expressing the importance of expanding partnerships beyond traditional partners. This would be facilitated by these meetings.
  • Second, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework [CRRF]: Lessons learned from the application of the CRRF in different refugee situations have demonstrated that we need a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach at the national and local levels. During the formal consultations, there was clear recognition of national arrangements that have worked out well and which serve as strong examples of good practice. Such arrangements can help build the humanitarian-development nexus for host countries with support from the international community.
  • Third, regional arrangements: There is no ‘one size fits all’ for regional arrangements, as regional processes and organizations that respond to population movements are quite varied. During the consultations, it was recognized that some regional arrangements have worked well, as we have seen in the African context. There were also strong calls for recognition of successful sub-regional arrangements, such as the IGAD with follow-up to the Nairobi Declaration adopted last year.
  • Fourth, a “Global Platform”: The idea of a global platform that is context and situation-specific was developed in the first draft of the global compact on refugees. Such platforms would be guided by the needs and solutions in specific refugee situations. In the spirit of the CRRF, these platforms would holistically analyze what countries need when they are faced with a complex refugee situation, and would ensure more predictable and foreseeable support to them, as necessary. They would not be fixed bodies outside the governance structures that we already have with the Executive Committee or the General Assembly. They would rather provide comprehensive support to those countries that are particularly affected by a specific refugee situation by enabling the involvement of regional organizations and interested Member States. One tool that these platforms could use would be convening solidarity conferences for countries faced with a large-scale influx for whom strong support is needed from the international community. This would ensure that host countries affected by a large-scale influx or protracted refugee situation could count on those States that want to make a significant contribution to finding a solution.

By way of example, in the Afghan context, the solutions strategy was drafted, based on a holistic view of the refugee situation and an assessment of what could be done to mobilize support for host countries. A similar experience can be found in the Syria context, first, through the drafting of the Refugee Response and Resilience Plan within the UN and NGO system – as well as with host countries – and then the holding different conferences, such as the three Kuwait Conferences, and the Brussels and London conferences. These conferences helped to ensure focused attention of the international community on host countries particularly affected by a refugee situation, and to broaden the support base and mechanisms for the response. We hope the solidarity conferences envisioned in the global compact on refugees will cover not only financial pledges, but also development cooperation, third country solutions, and any other avenue of support for host countries. I hope this gives you an idea of the mechanisms for responsibility-sharing that are much stronger now in the first draft and will be reinforced in the second draft.

Another element that has been strengthened in the global compact on refugees is the multi-stakeholder approach, termed in the New York Declaration the “whole of society” approach. This approach has been broadened to include the partnership approach that any refugee and displacement situation would require. For example, some countries emphasized that both refugees and host communities need to be included in partnerships. The Inter-Parliamentary Union asked for national parliaments to be included. Within the UN, actors engaged in ongoing development and relevant peace and security reforms would need to be included. As a result, stronger linkages to intergovernmental and UN partners will be included in the next draft.

There will also be strengthened paragraphs on the importance of data and evidence, and on the measuring of impact of hosting refugees. The World Bank has offered its expertise, which we will accept, on ways and means to measure better the impact of refugees on host countries.

There is now more explicit recognition that the global compact on refugees is grounded on an existing and evolving international protection regime, comprised of solid legal instruments and decades of practice and operational experience.

The goals of the global compact on refugees are now set out in much more detail, linking them to the CRRF more clearly, as requested by several States.

The aspect of prevention and root causes was welcomed with requests to strengthen it, bearing in mind the global compact on refugees is a humanitarian, non-political document. This document is meant to respond to particular refugee situations and not create tensions among States.

The global compact on refugees also makes clear, in writing, that it is a non-binding document that requires the participation of everyone. The mechanisms that it sets out are intended to help elicit the contributions required to find solutions to some situations, in particular, by broadening the support base.

Part B of the Global Compact was discussed in the last round of formal consultations and will be adjusted to ensure host countries do not see this as a standard setting exercise, nor as an attempt to imply conditionality or impose greater burden on host countries. Instead, it emphasizes priority areas for pledges and support needed from the international community. These areas reflect the realities and needs typically arising refugee situations around the world, and elaborate upon the measures required to address them, while recognizing that not every situation will require exactly the same thing. What we want to encourage is a strong partnership approach, which recognizes and supports the primacy of national ownership of the response. There was also some discussion on support to local authorities, in coordination with national authorities, as the local dimension is often at the forefront of refugee responses.

In the draft itself, as a result of these consultations, you will see greater recognition of the human rights basis of the proposed areas of support to address the needs of refugees and the communities that host them. This is evident in the increased focus on meeting specific needs, such as for children at risk; identifying international protection needs covered by different international, regional, and national legal regimes; and addressing basic needs (e.g. livelihoods, education, and health) of those who face risk upon return. In this respect, a lot of support was expressed for the inclusion of food security, statelessness, and empowerment for women and girls in the global compact. There was also a strong call from host countries that this is not just about providing support to these areas, but also about broader infrastructural investment. This will hopefully enable development partners to come in, which would ensure a win-win situation, as not only refugees, but also host countries could benefit from development cooperation.

On the solutions side, there was a lot of appreciation for the strengthened focus in the first draft. In terms of clarifying voluntary repatriation, some countries felt there was too much emphasis on conditionality for return. We made it absolutely clear that this is not about imposing conditions, but about ensuring that voluntary repatriation is sustainable. The question of voluntary repatriation comes down to people being able to exercise their right to return, based on a free and informed choice, and based on safety, security, and dignity. If voluntary repatriation is to work, it needs to be sustainable. The measures needed for voluntary repatriation are included in the first draft to trigger the support required from the international community to ensure that return is sustainable.

On resettlement, there was strong support expressed for including a three-year strategy on resettlement in the global compact on refugees. The idea is that we would work with the international community on how best to enhance and broaden resettlement as solution, as well as expand complementary pathways, beyond those provided by traditional partners. In particular, paragraph 82 of the global compact on refugees is provided as an example of a good practices that some countries may wish to replicate.

The global compact on refuges will now recognize more explicitly local integration as a sovereign decision by a State. We have seen a number of countries opt for local integration, and when they do so, there are a number of areas identified where support is needed. As we have seen in the Latin American and African context, support from the international community for local integration efforts is not always forthcoming.

The follow-up arrangements set out in the first draft of the global compact on refugees are very much linked to mechanisms for responsibility-sharing and would enable stocktaking every couple of years by UNHCR, together with Member States and partners.

I believe this gives you a brief update as to where we are in the process of developing the global compact on refugees. I look forward to hearing your comments, suggestions and feedback.

Thank you.