Governments Discuss Secretary-General Report on Migrants, Refugees
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The Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General for the upcoming High-level Meeting (HLM) on large movements of migrants and refugees, Karen AbuZayd, presented the report of the Secretary-General on the topic to UN Member States.

The HLM will take place on 19 September 2016, at the start of the 71st session.

UNGA 2nd Committee - Economic and Financial3 May 2016: The Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General for the upcoming High-level Meeting (HLM) on large movements of migrants and refugees, Karen AbuZayd, presented the report of the Secretary-General on the topic to UN Member States. The HLM will take place on 19 September 2016, at the start of the 71st session.

The briefing was convened by UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Mogens Lykketoft, on 3 May 2016, in New York, US.

The report of the Secretary-General for the HLM was prepared under AbuZayd’s leadership, and circulated on 21 April in an advance, unedited version. It has since been issued as document A/70/590. The UNGA called for the report to be prepared in A/70/L.34 of December 2015. The mandate calls for “a comprehensive report … setting out recommendations on ways to address large movements of refugees and migrants.”

Opening the briefing, Lykketoft said Member States must not lose sight of one basic thing: “all people must be treated with respect, humanity and due consideration of their human rights.” Where systems fail to guarantee this, they must be strengthened, he said.

AbuZayd introduced the report to Member States, noting that representatives of 80 governments had met with the report team, and 30 submitted written inputs, while the Global Migration Group, civil society organizations, private sectors, academics and refugees also were consulted. She said the report seeks to emphasize the positive contributions of displaced people, and analyze and address challenges shared by both refugees and migrants, while also reflecting the legal distinctions between them. On the report’s recommendations, she said they are organized into three pillars for addressing large movements: a commitment to upholding the safety and dignity of refugees and migrants, including by countering xenophobia; for refugees, a commitment to sharing responsibility more fairly, including by adopting a global compact on responsibility sharing; and for migrants, strengthening the governance of international migration, including by adopting a global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration, at a conference on international migration in 2018.

Member States offered preliminary reactions to the report, welcoming many aspects. The EU, Brazil and Netherlands were among those welcoming the emphasis on human rights. The EU and US welcomed the emphasis on global responsibility-sharing. Brazil welcomed its focus on xenophobia and discrimination, stressing that no person is ever “illegal,” and the overwhelming effects of migration on host communities are positive. Philippines, the EU and others also stressed these messages. EU and China both welcomed strong distinctions between refugees and migrants. Brazil and other countries recalled that the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees had expanded the definition of refugees to include those fleeing natural disasters, not only violent conflict.

Argentina expressed concern about references to “irregular migration” and underscored the inalienable right of all people to migrate. While the Netherlands called to tackle root causes and find solutions to conflict, Russia said the main root cause is foreign interference into domestic affairs of sovereign states.

The EU welcomed the inclusion of internal displacement (IDPs), which makes up the vast majority of forced displacement, and highlighted the EC policy framework adopted on 26 April to prevent protracted forced displacement and foster self-reliance. China said the meeting should not have much focus on IDPs.

Argentina called for more discussion on the proposed global compacts, saying any agreement must abide by the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and other obligations under international law. The US highlighted the Grand Bargain, an expected outcome of the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit, as key to humanitarian responses.

Also highlighted in statements were: the leading role of IOM and the need to strengthen its relationship with the UN; the situations of migrants in countries in crisis (MICIC), the need for more States to join the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families; the Nansen Initiative; the need for policies to address both humanitarian and long-term development objectives; and the critical role of NGOs on the frontline. Bangladesh and others announced the formation of Friends of Migration, to support a strong outcome from the HLM. Benin, Mexico and Sweden are also members, and all are invited.

The HLM’s outcome is the subject of consultations by Member States being led by the Permanent Representatives of Ireland and Jordan. [IISD RS Sources] [IISD RS Story on Advance Report] [Information on Grand Bargain] [IISD RS Story on HLM Modalities Consultations] [UNGA Resolution A/70/L.34]


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