UN Member States have adopted the 'New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants,' committing to: protecting the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status, ensuring that all refugee and migrant children begin receiving education within a few months of arrival; preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence; supporting those countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants; and starting negotiations leading to an international conference in 2018, which will culminate with the adoption of two global compacts on refugees and migrants.
19 September 2016: UN Member States have adopted the ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants,’ committing to: protecting the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status, ensuring that all refugee and migrant children begin receiving education within a few months of arrival; preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence; supporting those countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants; and starting negotiations leading to an international conference in 2018, which will culminate with the adoption of two global compacts on refugees and migrants.
The Declaration was adopted during the opening session of the UN General Assembly High-level Meeting on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, also called the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants. Governments had negotiated on the Declaration in consultations leading up to the Summit, beginning in May 2016 and concluding on 9 September. The negotiations were co-facilitated by David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland, and Dina Kawar, Permanent Representative of Jordan.
Opening the Summit, Peter Thomson, President of the 71st UNGA session, said the New York Declaration is “an important step forward,” and urged all Member States to “swiftly” implement their commitments. He announced that the principal objective of UNGA 71 will be a universal push to implement all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while also beginning the process leading to the two global compacts on migrants and refugees, including by starting intergovernmental negotiations on the international conference on migration to be held in 2018.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the Summit represents “a breakthrough of our collective efforts to address the challenges of human mobility.” He announced the launch of a new campaign titled ‘Together — Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.’ Ban also underscored that migrants and refugees are not a “burden,” and called on the international community to focus on their potential and unlock it, while placing their human rights “above all.”
Noting that some countries disproportionately bear the economic brunt of the humanitarian crisis, Mogens Lykketoft, UNGA 70 President, called for filling the gap on humanitarian funding. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, identified efforts that the Bank is undertaking to address the migrants and refugee crisis: increased funding for refugees; increased data collection on migrants; helping host countries to improve the business climate in order to create jobs; and looking for longer-term solutions such as increased agricultural output in areas where refugees had settled.
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the New York Declaration fills a gap in the international system, and stressed the need for predictable cooperative arrangements before crises arise. William Lacy Swing, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), explained that migration is driven by factors including demography, disasters, the digital revolution, technology, North-South disparities and environmental degradation, and these drivers made migration inevitable. He added that migration is also necessary for economies and societies to flourish.
Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, recalled that during the two world wars, fear and anger were “stoked by half-truths and outright lie.” To current leaders who support such rhetoric, he said, “We will continue to name you publicly. You may soon walk away from this Hall, but not from the broader judgment of ‘we the people’ and the world’s people.”
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director UN Women, stressed the need to implement the migration-related SDGs and targets. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said 142 countries have committed to stop migrant smuggling. Mats Granryd, GSMA Director-General, explained how the mobile industry’s scale and reach could help address the current displacement crisis.
Eni Lestari Andayani Adi, International Migrants Alliance, said migrants are perceived only as cheap labor, commodities and security threats. “Listen to us – don’t talk about us without us,” she urged governments.
Mohammed Badran, Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands, said the Summit should reach agreement on action to: end violence; guarantee safe routes for all refugees; empower refugees to lead self-help projects; and provide access to higher education for all young refugees. Nadia Murad Basee Taha, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, stressed that, until security is established in conflict areas, the international community must keep borders open to innocent women and children.
Also during the opening session, Ban and Swing signed a UN-IOM Agreement to officially mark IOM’s joining of the UN system. Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, speaking on behalf of Peter Sutherland, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on International Migration, said the Office of the Special Representative will soon submit plans for strengthening UN’s ability to coordinate adequate and equitable support to refugees and migrants.
The Summit continued throughout the day with two parallel plenary sessions, six roundtables, and a closing ceremony. [UN Press Release] [UN Meeting Coverage] [Summit Website] [Statement of UN Secretary-General] [Statement of the Special Representative on International Migration] [IISD RS Story on New York Declaration][Outcome Document – The New York Declaration] [IISD RS Sources] [IISD RS Story on Continuation of HLM]