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Opening remarks to the fourth formal consultation on the global compact on refugees

Speeches and statements

Opening remarks to the fourth formal consultation on the global compact on refugees

8 May 2018


Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would add my thanks to those of the High Commissioner for your participation at this fourth round of consultations on the global compact on refugees, and for your continued rich and constructive engagement.

We have carefully reviewed your contributions over the last weeks, including from both the March and April consultations, and sought to reflect them as much as possible in the second draft of the compact. The second draft reflects a compromise text, in some regards, in the hopes that it moves us closer to consensus, as we continue to refine it together in a spirit of goodwill and collective ownership.

As at the opening of the previous consultations, I will take this opportunity to walk through some of the main changes that have been made from the first draft to the second draft. Many of these points were also provided to you in the summary that we circulated last week, along with the second draft.

In addition to the areas which I will highlight, specific text changes and references requested by delegations have been incorporated throughout the document, to the extent possible. Some of these proposed changes were not necessarily included in the sections indicated, but rather have been accommodated elsewhere for purposes of maintaining coherence throughout the document.

Overall, the structure of the second draft is similar to that of the first draft. A number of footnotes have been deleted, as requested by several delegations. We have also sought to strengthen age, gender and diversity considerations even further throughout the text, including references to those with disabilities. There is also a new section on children in Part III.B.2.

In addition, as requested by several delegations, some limited references to internal displacement and mixed migratory movements have been proposed. We have done this where particular elements of the programme of action may help to galvanize support in these areas. This was also done in recognition that refugee movements often intersect with internal displacement. For example, we see this in relation to voluntary repatriation and in migratory flows, especially when they are irregular movements. We hope these references will be read in a spirit of consensus, as they take into account the practical need for operational complementarity between responses to refugee movements and other contexts on the ground.

With respect to Part I, the introduction, we have sought to clarify the basis on which refugees flee their homes, grounding this in existing international and regional law and instruments, as and where they are applicable [para 1]. A new subsection [ii] has been added, entitled “Guiding principles”, including more references to relevant human rights instruments, the humanitarian principles [General Assembly resolution 46/182 and others], and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. The non-political and fundamentally humanitarian nature of the global compact is emphasized. Language from the annual UNHCR “omnibus” resolution has been included, both to acknowledge the contributions made by countries that are not parties to the relevant refugee instruments, and to call for States to consider acceding to these instruments or removing reservations.

Importantly, the objectives of the global compact [para 7] have been modified to reflect paragraph 18 of the comprehensive refugee response framework [CRRF]. We have indicated how success in achieving these objectives may broadly be measured, drawing on the text from the first draft, former paragraph 5, which was welcomed by many of you at the previous formal consultations.

Turning to the Programme of Action in Part III, and the interrelationship between Parts A and B, Part III.B of the text remains detailed, in the interests of accommodating the many comments and requests for additions that we received. However, we have sought to ensure that it is balanced with Part A – the mechanisms for burden- and responsibility-sharing – in two ways: First, there is more detail and clarification on the scope and purpose of Part B in its chapeau [paras 49-53], noting that its success hinges on robust and well-functioning mechanisms of burden and responsibility sharing. We have also strengthened further the stocktaking and review components of the mechanisms for burden and responsibility sharing in Part A, notably through the renamed Global Refugee Forum [para 20].

In terms of Part A itself [Mechanisms for burden and responsibility sharing], the text states clearly that all efforts will be made to add value and to avoid duplication with existing processes – we have in mind, for example, that next year, when the first Global Refugee Forum is envisaged, it would be planned in lieu of the High Commissioner’s Dialogue. At the same time, these mechanisms must necessarily go beyond “business as usual” to transform the way that the international community responds to large refugee situations, and this is the “squaring of the circle” that we have tried to capture [para 17].

The proposed periodic global refugee summit has been renamed “the Global Refugee Forum”. It is clarified that the forum may be co-hosted and co-convened by States, together with UNHCR. Its periodicity has been changed to four years to accommodate those who think every three years is too short, and others who think five years is too long. We have also, as I have mentioned, strengthened the stocktaking and review component envisaged for the forum, including through the proposed establishment of a mechanism to track pledges made by States and other stakeholders [para 108].

More detail is proposed on the functioning of the Support Platforms [removing “global” from the name to reflect their context-specific nature], following not least our informal exchange in the margins of the April consultations, as well as on regional and sub-regional approaches. It is emphasized that national arrangements are determined by host countries. The reference to solidarity conferences has been streamlined, emphasizing that this is one tool of many that may be available. The reference to country or region-specific compacts has been removed in the interests of simplification and clarity, bearing in mind that these remain good practices that could be replicated elsewhere where useful [e.g. IGAD[1] and MIRPs[2]].

In the section on funding, the potential contributions by the private sector have been particularly strengthened. The “multi-stakeholder approach” has been amended to also include partnerships, with more detail added on humanitarian and development actors, the UN system, national parliamentarians, and the role of UNHCR. It also clarifies that local actors are to be supported consistent with national arrangements. The data and evidence section includes stronger references to data protection and data privacy. Further detail has also been provided on the process envisaged for “measuring the impact” of hosting refugees, as requested of UNHCR in the most recent omnibus resolution.

Turning to Part B [Areas in need of support], the chapeau has been strengthened to clarify that easing pressures on host countries [and not adding to them] is a key objective of the compact as a whole. It also clarifies that all support measures are at the request of a host country and are not intended to be prescriptive or preclude other forms of support that may be relevant.

Many sections under reception and admission have been adjusted to reflect comments from delegations. This includes more detail on preparedness and contingency planning [para 54-56] and reference to the primary responsibility of the State for safety and security [para 59]. Under the “identifying international protection needs” section, we have clarified the scope of group-based protection, noting that this option is available where considered appropriate by the State [para 65]. Further detail has been included on the asylum capacity support group, but overall this section has been shortened.

Under meeting needs and support communities, the chapeau [paras 68-71] has been redrafted to better explain the links between the 2030 Agenda and the global compact, in the light of the views expressed by some delegations. In addition to the new section on children, there is also a subheading on social cohesion, to take into account calls by some for more focus on tolerance and good relations between refugees and host communities, pending the availability of durable solutions. The quality of both health and education has been emphasized. In the accommodation, energy, and natural resources section [para 81], and elsewhere in the text, we have referenced the need for investments in closing the technology gap and scaling up capacity development for developing and least developed refugee hosting countries.

In terms of solutions, the chapeau of Part B.3 [para 90] further clarifies the relationship between the solutions section and Part A [the mechanisms for burden and responsibility sharing], an explicit request made by some of you in April. The section on voluntary repatriation has been adjusted, emphasizing that it draws on good practices, past experiences, and the realities of effecting voluntary repatriation under conditions that will ensure safety, dignity, and sustainability. The good practice of using tripartite agreements in some circumstances is noted. References to cash assistance for returnees and age and gender-responsive support have been included. The scope of the three-year strategy on resettlement – which will also include other pathways for admission – has been clarified; and it is noted that the numerical targets are good practices for which contributions are encouraged. Coherence is sought with the existing multilateral resettlement architecture. Finally, the local solutions section has been adjusted to better include age, gender, and diversity considerations, and includes reference to social cohesion in the local integration context.

The follow-up and review section emphasizes that the achievement of the objectives of the global compact is a task for all UN Member States, together with relevant stakeholders. It is our hope that the first Global Refugee Forum in 2019 will demonstrate the collective engagement and ownership of the compact by all UN Member States, but also others, including agencies in the UN system, international financial institutions, civil society, the private sector, and importantly, refugees and host community members. UNHCR will play a supportive and catalytic role. I would again note the inclusion of a proposed mechanism for tracking pledges, as well as the reference to facilitating participation of refugees in the Global Refugee Forum.

We are coming close to ‘crunch time’ on the global compact. As the final paragraph of the second draft exhorts, I believe – and I hope you agree – that the compact has the potential to transform the lives of refugees and their host countries and communities. Collectively we can reach this goal.

We welcome the upcoming discussion over the next three days and look forward to receiving your further suggestions and refinements of the text. We will, as always, be taking very careful note, as we seek to move the draft further towards consensus.

Thank you.


[1] Intergovernmental Authority on Development 

[2] Marco Integral Regional para la Protección y Soluciones [Comprehensive, Regional and Protective Solutions Framework]