Officials Explain Proposed Global Compacts on Refugees, Migrants
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UN Member States discussed proposals for a 'global compact on responsibility sharing for refugees' and a 'global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration,' which are outlined in the UN Secretary-General's report, 'In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants.' Karen Abuzayd, UN Special Adviser on the High-Level Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, said the global compacts would allow UN Member States to express a common resolve to improve refugees' and migrants' situations, without involving new legal commitments.

UNGA 2nd Committee - Economic and Financial24 June 2016: UN Member States discussed proposals for a ‘global compact on responsibility sharing for refugees’ and a ‘global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration,’ which are outlined in the UN Secretary-General’s report, ‘In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants.’ Karen Abuzayd, UN Special Adviser on the High-Level Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants (HLM), said the global compacts would allow UN Member States to express a common resolve to improve refugees’ and migrants’ situations, without involving new legal commitments.

The briefing took place on 24 June 2016, in New York, US, and also featured Volker Turk, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and Wu Hongbo, UN Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

On the global compact on responsibility sharing for refugees, Abuzayd said the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the UN General Assembly (UNGA), and UNHCR provide the basis for guidance on refugees matters. However, she noted a gap with regard to implementing mechanisms. This is why the proposed compact would: have a narrow scope; build on existing mechanisms; promote the implementation of the 1951 Convention more fully; and catalyze international cooperation on refugees, she said. Abuzayd explained that the Compact would represent States’ commitment to: come together and intervene in the early stage of a refugee influx to support host communities; open resettlement places; open complementary paths of admission; and provide education and employment opportunities for refugees. To ensure no single state is unfairly burdened, she said the private sector, development actors, and international financial institutions would be called upon to respond as well. She stressed that the refugee compact should be adopted at the HLM, which must focus minds on providing a timely response to the current refugee crisis.

On global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration, Abuzayd said: it is envisioned as a means of implementing the commitments made in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to facilitate safe, regular and orderly migration. She added that the compact will build on the wide array of existing instruments related to migration, promote international cooperation through a plan of action, and cover practical measures from the human rights, economic development, social development and governance fields. She underlined that while international standards for migration exist, they are scattered in a variety of instruments, and the compact would bring them together in a common framework.

Abuzayd said the migration compact should be adopted at an international conference in 2018. It must be both detailed and comprehensive, she said, and therefore will require a serious preparatory process including regional consultations, multi-stakeholder consultations with civil society, migrants and the private sector, and dedicated drafting sessions.

Wu suggested that the UNGA’s Third High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, currently scheduled for 2019, should take place before the 2018 international conference, so it can function as a preparatory committee for ensuring coordination and avoid duplication and overlaps. He explained the necessity of having two separate global compacts with two different mandates: refugees need an immediate response, particularly with regards to human rights and protection; while migrants need responses for a series of issues wider in scope.

Turk elaborated on the need for two separate global compacts: the responses to the migrants and refugees movements are often ad-hoc and “reinvent the wheel”; there is no international framework for dealing with a country facing a large sudden influx of migrants and/ or refugees; and the existing practices need to be consolidated to make future work more effective. He stressed that a global compact is a political commitment to take place at the level of Heads of State or Government and not a legally binding agreement.

In the ensuing discussion, Ethiopia and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) welcomed the proposal for the two global compacts. The US noted that the best approach for a global compact should be states-led and built on existing frameworks, instead of creating a new compact. Canada expressed hope that IOM will play a leading role in building any compact. India noted that more thought should be given to the value added of a new global compact in reinforcing existing frameworks. Pakistan stressed that any global compact on refugees should differentiate between protracted refugees situations and acute refugees situations.

The HLM will take place on 19 September 2016, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. The HLM co-facilitators, David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland, and Dina Kawar, Permanent Representative of Jordan, are leading consultations on the meeting’s outcome document. Governments reached agreement on the HLM’s modalities on 17 June. [Report of UN Secretary-General] [IISD RS Story on Secretary-General’s Report] [IISD RS Sources] [IISD RS Story on HLM Outcome Consultations] [IISD RS Story on HLM Modalities]

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