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Remarks to the informal exchange with Member States on the global compact on refugees

Speeches and statements

Remarks to the informal exchange with Member States on the global compact on refugees

17 July 2018


Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you, Ambassador Saikal, and thanks to all of you for attending this last briefing on the global compact on refugees.

I would like begin by congratulating you on the achievement last week of the finalization of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. Let us tip our hats to the two co-facilitators and their teams for having steered the international community towards this important achievement. Obviously, from the refugee perspective, there are key inter-linkages between the two compacts, and we have had a chance to discuss issues related to the coherence between them.

We would also like to thank all of the delegations and stakeholders for their enormous contributions to the global compact on refugees. It has proven a worthwhile effort. If one looks back at the last 18 months, it is clear that we have come a long way. To recapitulate what we have achieved, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework [CRRF] was applied in 14 countries; and last year, we had five thematic consultations on the global compact on refugees as well as a High Commissioner’s Dialogue. This allowed for everyone to provide us with their ideas and share good practices that enabled us to create the zero draft of the global compact on refugees released in January this year.

If you compare the zero draft and the final draft, you can see what multilateralism can produce. It has been an intricate process – an exercise in listening and collective ownership, but also an exercise intended to transform the lives of people out there and their host countries and communities. In a way, it provides food for thought on how multilateralism can be achieved these days and undertaken to address difficult and sensitive issues. Indeed, the exercise, in and of itself, has been one of immense complexity. Perhaps as an added advantage, in the refugee arena, we are building on a solid legal framework, a solid policy framework, and solid operational experience that we have benefitted from over the last six decades or so.

This truly collective exercise has produced truly collective ownership. You have heard me use the metaphor “organic” when referencing the process. I know sometimes we use metaphors from the engineering world, but I believe the process has truly been an organic one, because the process must be organically grown. In many respects, I think it is like planting and growing a tree. There has been some compromise no doubt, some trimming of the branches, but we trust that an overall acceptable level of happiness with the text has been reached.

I know that some may talk about multilateralism in terms of an acceptable level of unhappiness, but we prefer to look at the glass half full. If one looks at the current text released on the 26th of June, it was very clear from the final round of discussions in July that a majority of delegations feel that it represents a balanced view. There was a lot of emphasis on implementation and much less on text that, in the interest of compromise, was not further refined so as to avoid going around in circles. In the end, and as the text stands, it has broad overwhelming support.

Right now, we are looking at the text from a linguistic editing perspective, taking into account the tenor of the discussions that took place at the end of the process. We will issue the proposed global compact on refugees at the end of this week to Member States in Geneva. This will be the text the High Commissioner proposes in his annual report to the General Assembly in August. We heard from all delegations their strong support for the text. We also sought to clarify some remaining issues in the closing remarks for the consultations. I think much like the global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration, we also benefitted from strong support, accompanied by warm applause at the end of the formal consultations.

I would like to give you a very quick overview of the final draft of the global compact on refugees and what it means concretely, highlighting five things that stand out:

First, we will have new arrangements for more equitable responsibility sharing, especially with the Global Refugee Forum. The idea is that it would take place every four years at the Ministerial level. In between fora, there would be mid-term reviews. These would provide opportunities to make pledges, update them, and report back on them. The first Global Refugee Forum would be held in December 2019. There are also other mechanisms in this global compact that speak more to support platforms for national arrangements, as well as partnerships and multi-stakeholder approaches. You have very strong language in the global compact that requires collaboration amongst multiple stakeholders, ensuring that everyone plays their part.

The second element is the emphasis placed on government ownership. There were some discussions around this – the primacy of government engagement – recognizing the complex interrelationship between humanitarian and development issues.

This brings me to my third point on the humanitarian-development nexus. There are some interesting ideas that the global compact sets out on this issue. It makes it absolutely clear that, in terms of the humanitarian-development nexus, we are talking about additional development cooperation. We have seen even in the roll-out of the CRRF the results produced due to the additional development cooperation secured by countries particularly affected by large refugee situations.

The fourth point is that the compact is not just about support to refugees, but also support to host communities. We have certainly learned our lessons from major host countries in the world, particularly in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Iran, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It has been made clear that in addition to responding to the needs of refugees, you need to look at the needs of surrounding host communities and the host country and what can be done to support them.

The fifth and final point is that there are not just contributions from within the UN system, but also from outside it, particularly linked to the partnership and multi-stakeholder approaches. If one looks at the response to Bangladesh, you have on the one hand the humanitarian (UN) response and on the other the significant response from The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank who want to assist countries particularly affected. We know this, not least, from the IDA 18 refugee sub-window. This is a very strong call we hear from international financial institutions.

While the major host countries, and all of us really, would have wanted stronger text on more predictable responsibility sharing, there is a common understanding that the emphasis must now be on implementation. And that is really where the focus has to be. We are very much aware of this within our own organization and have already started planning in that regard. We are considering how the compact would change our own working methods, and how it would interlink with broader UN methodologies, UN reform, the development system reform, and the prevention side. We need to ensure a seamless transition between the ideas and concrete mechanisms generated by the global compact and processes within the wider UN system. We have started looking at this in earnest and will continue doing so over the next few months. We really want to look at the implementation side because we understand its importance.

At the end, let me just share with you a quote that came out of a conversation with colleagues yesterday. When the United States Constitution was adopted in 1787—a remarkable process of the grassroots drafting of a constitution, by the way – Benjamin Franklin noted that although he was not happy with each and every part of the Constitution, at the end he entreated upon his compatriots to accept it, invoking language that made me reflect on it in the light of the global compact processes and multilateralism. He said, “I hope, therefore, that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavors to the means of having it well administered.” I think this could not be a better ending for this process.

Thank you.