GENEVA, 7th September, 2016 (WAM) — At the UN Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants on 19th September 2016, the General Assembly is expected to adopt a set of commitments to enhance the protection of migrants and refugees, the UN refugees agency said on Wednesday.
Once adopted, these commitments – which were agreed to on 2 August – will be known as the New York Declaration. The Declaration also contains two annexes intended to pave the way the adoption of Global Compacts in 2018: one on refugees (Comprehensive Refugee Response (CRR) Framework), and the other on migrants (Towards a Global compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a press statement.
Once adopted, the New York Declaration will be a significant milestone. In it, States declare profound solidarity for people who are forced to flee their homes; reaffirm their obligations to full respect of the human rights of refugees and migrants; and States pledge robust support to those countries affected by large movements of refugees and migrants.
The Declaration includes commitments common to refugees and migrants, including: combating exploitation, racism and xenophobia, savings lives en route, ensuring border procedures follow due process and are in line with international law. It also includes paying attention to the needs of women, children and those with health care needs, recognising and facilitating the positive contributions of migrants and refugees, ensuring they are part of development priorities, and ensuring adequate, flexible and predictable funding.
In addition, the Declaration sets out specific commitments in relation to refugees and to migrants.
On the refugee side, some of the specific commitments include increasing support to the countries and communities hosting the largest number of refugees. There are related commitments to boosting early childhood and primary and secondary education for refugees, and creating jobs and income generation schemes for refugees and host communities. There is also an emphasis on expanding opportunities for resettlement or other forms of admission to third countries.
The Declaration also provides for a Comprehensive Refugee Response (CRR) Framework to be applied in response to large scale refugee influxes or protracted situations. This will be broader than a typical refugee response, bringing in a range of stakeholders from the outset including local and national authorities, humanitarian and development actors, the private sector and civil society. The Framework also emphasises the importance of refugees becoming self-reliant and addressing the needs of local host communities.
The New York Declaration is a reaffirmation of the importance and application of the international protection regime the 1951 Refugee Convention, human rights and humanitarian law – at a time when there are record levels of forced displacement.
Governments specifically acknowledge that the protection of refugees and assistance to host states is a shared international responsibility, and not to be borne by host countries alone. This is a critical development.
The New York Declaration also signals a shift beyond a mainly humanitarian response to refugee movements – usually in itself, severely underfunded – to a broader, systematic and more sustainable response to help refugees and the communities hosting them. This will mean working on several fronts at once: addressing humanitarian needs, bringing in development actors sooner to help refugees and their hosts, and starting the longer term planning for solutions beyond the emergency phase.