15 May 2018
Governments Exchange Views on Refugee Compact’s Second Draft
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
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The UN Permanent Mission of Afghanistan and the UNHCR Office organized an informal exchange on the fourth round of formal consultations on the Global Compact on Refugees, following consultations that took place from 8-10 May 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Volker Türk, UNHCR Office, noted that there are “more and more” areas of convergence on the compact’s text.

On references to the SDGs, some delegations observed a weakened emphasis in the second draft.

11 May 2018: UN Member States provided their views on the draft text of the global compact on refugees, with delegates calling for, among other changes, strengthening linkages with the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, streamlining the text, and including sexual reproductive health as part of the document. Volker Türk, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said there are “more and more” areas of convergence on the compact’s text.

The informal exchange took place in New York, US, on 11 May 2018, following the fourth round of formal consultations on the compact in Geneva, Switzerland, held from 8-10 May. The meeting was co-organized by the UN Permanent Mission of Afghanistan and the UNHCR Office.

Mahmood Saikal, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, said the refugee crisis has been created by UN Member States that have adopted the wrong policies, and distinguished these “refugee makers” from “refugee care” countries. He called to strengthen the compact’s language on addressing the root causes of refugees.

Türk provided an update on the fourth round of formal consultations, which considered the second draft of the compact. He noted “broad agreement” among delegations regarding the need to have a voluntary, non-binding compact, with mechanisms in place to ensure implementation. In this regard, he highlighted the proposed Global Refugee Forum, which would first convene in 2019, and would include refugees and refugee representatives. He said the Forum would offer a platform to take stock of implementation, and allow participants to make new pledges.

On follow-up and review of the compact, Türk indicated “general support” for this section of the draft, but said there was a “huge discussion” and divergence of views on indicators. He reported that some would prefer a set of indicators negotiated intergovernmentally, while others would prefer to have an expert-led process. He said some UN Member States have called to expand the “support base” for the global compact, referring to financial mechanisms that could supplement development assistance. Türk said delegations have asked the UN to develop non-papers for their consideration, including on the Global Refugee Forum and on indicators.

On references to the SDGs, some delegations observed a weakened emphasis in the second draft of the compact. Türk explained that several developing countries were concerned that “too much focus” on the SDGs could affect the amount of funding allocated for refugees. He suggested that the text clarify that funding for refugees would be additional.

The US asked for a “more equitable burden sharing,” and stressed the need for a compact that does not increase bureaucracy, is streamlined and offers new tools to answer the needs of refugees. Some NGOs remarked that people are leaving Afghanistan because there is no safety in the country, due to a war created by “other countries,” and wondered “how a country that contributed to the war” could refer to burden sharing. They added that the US currently has an historically low acceptance of refugees.

The EU called for ensuring that the compact will be mainstreamed by all UN agencies at all levels, and urged doing this in consistency with the UN reforms. Canada and the Women’s Refugee Commission said they would welcome a reference to sexual and reproductive health, which is not currently in the text. Türk said this is an area of divergence between delegations. Iran stressed the need to include time-bound targets.

The global compact on refugees was called for by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in September 2016. So far, several interrelated processes have contributed to the compact’s development: a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) was applied in more than a dozen countries and a process of collecting good practices and lessons learned was undertaken; multistakeholder thematic discussions on key aspects of the compact took place in the second half of 2017; the 2017 session of the High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, in December, was used to take stock of progress made and lessons learned on the practical application of the CRRF and the thematic discussions; and formal intergovernmental consultations are taking place between February and July 2018 to discuss the iterative draft texts of the compact.

The fifth round of formal consultations will convene from 12-13 June, in Geneva, to consider the next revised version. Afghanistan indicated that a New York briefing is scheduled for 22 June.

The agreed global compact will be proposed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in his 2018 annual report to the UNGA. [UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ letter announcing informal briefing and compact second draft] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on second draft] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on first draft] [Formal consultations website] [UN website for compact process]

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