Stakeholders Share Views on Refugees, Migrants Ahead of HLM
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As part of the preparatory process for the High-level Meeting (HLM) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to address large movements of refugees and migrants, UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft convened an informal, interactive, multi-stakeholder hearing to discuss migration and refugees in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The HLM will convene on 19 September 2016, in New York, US.

hlm18 July 2016: As part of the preparatory process for the High-level Meeting (HLM) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to address large movements of refugees and migrants, UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft convened an informal, interactive, multi-stakeholder hearing to discuss migration and refugees in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The HLM will convene on 19 September 2016, in New York, US.

Discussions during the event, on 18 July 2016, in New York, US, addressed: human rights and dignity protection of all refugees and migrants in the context of large movements; achieving a Global Compact for responsibility-sharing for refugees; and achieving a Global Compact for safe, regular and orderly migration.

Opening the meeting, Lykketoft remarked that more people are on the move than ever, with the number of international migrants reaching 244 million in 2015, which corresponds to an increase of 41% from 2000. He recalled the 2030 Agenda’s warning that forced displacement may reverse development progress that has been made in recent decades. He expressed the hope, however, that UN Member States will adopt a strong political declaration at the HLM, and take concrete steps towards both a Global Compact on responsibility sharing for refugees and a Global Compact for safe, regular and orderly migration.

David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland and co-facilitator for the HLM, said the HLM will be historic for bringing together issues of refugee protection and migrant rights. He reported that revised drafts of the HLM’s declaration (the HLM’s outcome document) and of the Global Compact for responsibility-sharing for refugees, intended as an annex to the Declaration, were issued on 12 and 15 July 2016, respectively. With regard to the ongoing “intense negotiations,” Donoghue said divergences of views among UN Member States include: the extent to which internally displaced persons (IDPs) should be covered; the extent to which one can refer to events, documents or initiatives which have not been approved formally by UN Member States; and terms such as “responsibility sharing” and “burden sharing.” Donoghue added that multi-stakeholder participation is key to the success of the HLM.

Karen AbuZayd, UN Special Adviser on the Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants (the HLM), highlighted proposals from the UN Secretary-General’s report issued in preparation for the HLM (‘In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants’- A/70/59). The report suggests that UN Member States adopt global commitments to addressing large movements of refugees and migrants, including: intensifying efforts to prosecute criminal smugglers and traffickers; supporting the UN Secretary-General’s global campaign against xenophobia; and holding an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018 to adopt the Global Compact on migration.

Speaking on behalf of more than 60 million people forced from home, Nadia Murad Basee Taha, Advocate for refugees rights and victims of trafficking, Yazda, said she was attacked by Daesh in Iraq and has been a refugee for two years now, spending more than one year in a camp, before she arrived in Germany. She reported that thousands of people die in camps, where there is often no work, no electricity, no health care and no heating. She stressed the need to eradicate terrorist organizations, improve humanitarian conditions, and take into account the millions of orphans, widows, and the thousands of special cases that are subject to human trafficking and human exploitation.

On the revised HLM declaration issued on 12 July 2016, Michele LeVoy, Director, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, welcomed a reference to supporting and helping to implement the UN Secretary-General’s proposal for a UN-led global campaign to counter xenophobia. She also called for: using responsible and non-stigmatizing language; including undocumented migrants and regularization; and increasing outreach and inclusion of civil society from the global south in the consultation process.

During a panel on ‘Reframing the narrative on migration and refugees in the context of the 2030 Agenda,’ Richard Bennett, Amnesty International, reported on an Amnesty International survey with 27,000 participants from 27 countries from all regions, in which four out of five participants said they are willing to accept people fleeing war in their home countries. He noted that political leaders have a moral and legal duty to uphold human rights and human dignity, and should help shape the narrative accordingly. Rana Najib, Education Project Coordinator, AVSI Foundation, said making local communities in the host country understand refugee conditions helps build relationships.

Sybil Nmezi, Executive Director, Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network, speaking by videlolink, called on the international community to increase access to contraception in refugee camps. Sandra Vermuyten, Public Services International (PSI), observed not a lack of funds but of political will regarding hosting communities. Sandra Saric, Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), Canada, reported that: one in five Canadians are immigrants; much of Canada’s economic success relies on immigration; Canada has welcomed more than 28,000 refugees since November 2015; and that the Government helps people with a background in information technology to find jobs before they arrive in the country.

In a panel on ‘Upholding and protecting the human rights and dignity of all refugees and migrants in the context of large movements,’ Berenice Valdez, Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migracion, underscored that no migrant should be detained, and that the line between migrants and refugees can be a very thin one. Anaclet Mbayagu, African Disabled Refugee Organization, called for better collaboration between UN agencies, and between civil society and UN agencies. He reported that many children are abused in refugee camps despite international conventions.

Abdi Iftin, Strategy for Humanity, said refugees should not be blamed for terrorism acts, and suggested that they document their lives as refugees on social media. The US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants said based on a survey it has carried out, in 2004 refugees stayed in camps for an average of 17 years, while in 2016, this period has increased to more than 20 years. The Global Platform for Syrian Students reported that 51% of Syrian refugees are under the age of 18.

Participants also called for: political leadership international and enhanced protection for refugees; a strong focus on a rights-based approach; investing in anti-xenophobia campaigns; ensuring and investing in education, especially for children and women; ensuring decent work, social protection and equitable access to health care services; avoiding separation of children and family; and implementing programmes aiming at rehabilitating and training refugees so to facilitate their access to the job market. Many also called for a better understanding of refugee camps’ situations. Others stressed that implementation of the HLM’s commitments should be ensured, and suggested involving the International Labour Organization (ILO) in the HLM’s follow-up and review process.

The meeting extended into the afternoon to consider the Global Compacts for responsibility-sharing for refugees, and for safe, regular and orderly migration. The interactive multi-stakeholder hearing was requested in the UNGA resolution on modalities for the HLM, as agreed by UN Member States on 17 June 2016. The hearing is expected to result in a UNGA President’s summary. [Event Programme] [Revised Draft HLM Declaration, 12 July 2016] [Revised Draft Global Compact on Refugees, 15 July 2016] [UNGA President’s Opening Statement] [UNGA President’s Letter, Concept Note] [Report of UN Secretary-General] [Meeting Webcast] [HLM Website] [IISD RS Sources] [UNGA President’s Summary of Hearing]


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