UNGA Approves Outcome Document on Refugees and Migrants
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UN Member States have approved the 'New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants,' the outcome document of the upcoming UN High-level Plenary Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants (HLM).

The outcome document, contained in draft resolution A/70/L.61, will be transmitted to the 71st session of the UN General Assembly for action during the HLM, which convenes on 19 September 2016, in New York, US.

The Declaration includes two appendixes that lay the groundwork for global compacts on refugees and migrants that should be adopted in 2018.

hlm9 September 2016: UN Member States have approved the ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants,’ the outcome document of the upcoming UN High-level Plenary Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants (HLM). The outcome document, contained in draft resolution A/70/L.61, will be transmitted to the 71st session of the UN General Assembly for action during the HLM, which convenes on 19 September 2016, in New York, US. The Declaration includes two appendixes that lay the groundwork for global compacts on refugees and migrants that should be adopted in 2018.

Opening the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting to take action on the document, UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft expressed frustration that in a global economy worth more than US$77 trillion, the international community has not been able to fill a humanitarian funding gap of approximately US$10 billion. He said the HLM will build on the May 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, and called for strong cooperation in finalizing the two global compacts and in preparing for the international conference to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in 2018.

Taking the floor after the adoption, the EU welcomed inclusion in the Declaration of the notion of responsibility sharing and the importance of international cooperation in response to refugee and migration flows. On paragraph 33 of the Declaration, she said the detention of children should be used only as a measure of last resort, in a least restrictive setting, for the shortest possible period of time and in full respect for children’s rights. On States’ obligation to readmit nationals, she said any interpretation must be in line with paragraph 35 of UNGA resolution 68/141, which calls upon States to facilitate the return of their nationals who have been determined not to be in need of international protection.

The Russian Federation said any formulation of the outcome document cannot contravene the principles of humanity, neutrality, objectivity and independence, nor violate States’ sovereignty or territorial integrity. He noted that interference, destabilization and forceful removal of Governments leads to collapse in nationhood, civil war and terrorism, adding that States participating in such interference must be responsible for providing aid to migrants.

Lebanon stressed the importance of equitable burden and responsibility sharing, and said this can be best achieved through the provision of direct humanitarian and development assistance to host countries and UN entities operating at the country level. He remarked that Lebanon is the country with the highest ratio of refugee per capita and square kilometer in the world, and is not in a position to accept the naturalization or permanent resettlement of refugees.

Mexico called for identifying lasting solutions for the protection of unaccompanied children, and noted that punitive detention of minors due to their parents’ migratory situation violates their rights. Expressing his country’s wish to see a stronger commitment on this matter, he outlined the need to explore alternatives to detention to ensure minors have access to education, health care and psychosocial support. He repeated Mexico’s offer to host a preparatory conference ahead of the 2018 international conference on migration.

Japan said the international community should further address the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs), noting that the Declaration only focuses on cross-border movements of people. He expressed “serious concerns” that States have not yet been informed about the extra-budgetary implications of the Declaration, noting that additional costs for the UN Secretariat on its implementation should reduced as most as possible and be absorbed in the biennium 2016-2017. He also called for further discussions on this matter in the UNGA’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

Israel said the outcome document does not establish or recognize any new legal rights or obligations. He said each refugee and migrant situation is different and should be addressed with attention to its specific circumstances, with a view to adopting solutions that respond to the particular political context. Cuba said the Declaration should have taken up directly and more thoroughly the causes of high numbers of refugees and migrants, and should have considered the negative impacts of the “brain drain” related to irregular and disorderly migration. Nepal remarked that the capacity of developing countries in hosting refugees should be considered, and also called for considering national circumstances.

The text was orally revised during the meeting on 9 September 2016, to reinstate the name of Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the Secretary General on International Migration. The resolution was adopted as orally revised. The US and Bangladesh welcomed the reinsertion of the name of the Special Representative, with the US noting that her Government nonetheless had concerns about the number of substantive changes made to the text.

In advance of the meeting, on 8 September 2016, the UNGA President also circulated concept notes for each of the six HLM interactive multi-stakeholder round tables that will take place on 19 September, on: addressing the root causes of large movements of refugees (roundtable 1); addressing drivers of migration, particularly large movements, and highlighting the positive contributions of migrants
 (roundtable 2); International action and cooperation on refugees and migrants and issues related to displacement: the way ahead (roundtable 3); global compact for responsibility-sharing for refugees; respect for international law (roundtable 4); global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration: towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and realizing the human rights of migrants (roundtable 5); and addressing vulnerabilities of refugees and migrants on their journeys from their countries of origin to their countries of arrival (roundtable 6). Each of the concept notes includes an introduction, as well as sections on background, priorities for international action, and questions for consideration.

The negotiations on modalities and the outcome of the HLM were led by co-facilitators David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland, and Dina Kawar, Permanent Representative of Jordan. [UNGA President’s Letter on Draft Resolution] [Draft Resolution A/70/L.61] [Meeting Summary] [IISD RS Story on Declaration] [Concept Notes for Roundtables] [IISD RS Story on HLM Modalities] [HLM Modalities Resolution] [HLM Website] [UN Webcast] [UN Meeting Coverage]


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