GLOBAL COMPACT ON REFUGEES
“ A comprehensive refugee response… should involve a multi-stakeholder approach that includes…refugees
themselves.”– New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, United Nations, September 19, 2016
Over the past 20 years, the global population of forcibly displaced people has grown from 33.9 million in 1997 to 65.6 million in 2016. Yet, international policy to address the refugee crisis has not adapted to the realities of the large movements of refugees and migrants today. Current policies are reactionary, focused on short-term rather than long-term solutions. Despite State policies seeking to limit the movement of displaced persons, refugees continue to move in search of safety outside their country of origin. The short-term solutions have failed: failed host communities and their States, failed donors and failed the very people the policies are designed to serve, refugees themselves. It is time for this vicious cycle to end.
In the absence of a comprehensive global response to the refugee crisis, refugees, both men and women, have taken matters in their own hands. Exercising their agency, refugees around the world have organized to start businesses, social-enterprises, volunteer networks, radio stations and other initiatives to empower and help their communities, and themselves. Yet, despite refugee leadership in grassroots responses to the crisis, refugees, because they fall outside of the political system, are silenced in international discussions. This has to end, refugees must be given a platform to contribute to shaping refugee policy. The long-term sustainability of policies depends on it.
The adoption of the New York Declaration and the development of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) creates an unprecedented opportunity for the international community to improve its collective response to large movements of refugees. However, in order to tangibly improve the lives of the almost 23 million refugees around the world, the Compact must include actionable commitments with concrete review mechanisms that empower refugees. The status quo will not do. Now is the time to take action.
This non-paper compiles the recommendations made by refugees and refugee-led organisations under the umbrella Network for Refugee Voices to be included in the Global Compact on Refugees and its Programme of Action.
A RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH: DIGNIFIED TREATMENT FOR ALL PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
All humans on the move, regardless of status, and gender, have the right to immediate humanitarian assistance and to be treated with dignity. The Global Compacts must build upon international human rights law and labor conventions and protocols, international refugee law, international humanitarian law and the UN 2030 Sustainable Development goals (SDGs), UNGA Resolution 1325 and 1380, the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The compacts should focus on ratification, expansion and implementation of these commitments; not simply restating them.
We recognize that two distinct processes exist to define and adopt the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). However, in order to seek international protection refugees must cross international borders. While it may be politically convenient and expedient to assume that there is a clear distinction between the large movements of refugees and migrants, the reality is that most refugee flows are mixed. Additionally, there are well recognised cross-cutting issues between both compacts, in particular with regards to reception, search and rescue mechanisms, gender mainstreaming, detention, child protection, disability, sexual and gender- based violence, trafficking and smuggling, xenophobia and racism and data collection. Therefore, the GCR and its Programme of Action must address forced displacement and encompass all of UNHCR’s persons of concern.
Increasingly, forced migration is a result of conflict, generalized violence, and natural and manmade disasters, in the context of a continuous and dramatic erosion of the respect for human rights, the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols, which safeguarded civilians and distinguished them from combatants. Additionally, the criminalization of irregular migration is affecting asylum-seekers as well as migrants. As a result, asylum-seekers experience the same erosion of their most basic human rights. All people on the move, regardless of status, must be able to exercise their human rights, seek safe passage and be protected, as civilians. As refugees, we have seen first-hand how policies and programs fail when they neglect to consider the realities of displacement. This should be addressed by empowering refugees to shape these programs and policies.
EMPOWERING REFUGEES: RETHINK AND REFORM OF THE HUMANITARIAN SYSTEM
The humanitarian system needs to be reformed to put affected population first. The process of localization must be systematized. UN agencies and INGOs must shift their focus to support affected populations, in particular host communities and refugees. Refugees, both men and women, must be represented at all levels of policy design, implementation and coordination. The international community must train refugees and employ them to run camps, contract refugee-led community-based organizations to distribute aid and facilitate refugee representation in local, municipal and national advisory and budgetary boards. This will increase the impact of programs; empower refugee agency and increase refugee awareness and use of the services at their disposal.It has the potential to dramatically reduce the costs of programs, by employing locals and reducing overhead costs. Through practices of “substitution”, humanitarian organizations are framing assistance as protection, in order to mask the fact that the international community is failing at protection. This is taking the responsibility away from host communities and disempowering refugees by keeping them in a cycle of dependency. Some States are funding humanitarian aid operations in order to substitute, and subjugate, their responsibilities towards refugees who are seeking safety and resettlement in their countries. We have to rethink the humanitarian system to empower refugees and host communities to take responsibility to shape their communities and their futures.
The international community must take into account that host States are active stakeholders in the success of refugee resettlement and integration. Host States that have and fail to uphold displaced persons’ most basic human rights rob refugees of their agency and their potential for self-reliance and reinforce their dependency on aid.
PREDICTABLE AND INCLUSIVE RESPONSE: THE GLOBAL REFUGEE RESPONSE GROUP AND REGIONAL ACTION PLAN
It is key that refugee leadership is developed as early as possible in any refugee crisis and that refugees are supported to represent the diverse refugee perspectives at every level of policymaking and implementation, from the camp leadership international representation. It is also essential that the international community develops a body to predictably respond to refugee crises as they arise, with a whole-of-society approach. We propose the formation of a Global Refugee Response Group and a Regional Action Plan. The Response Group would ensure that all stakeholders are involved in the policy developed to address new refugee crisis. The Regional Approach would put the onus on regions to develop a response and assistance plan for crises.
INCREASED GLOBAL AMBITION: SHARING THE RESPONSIBILITY AND BURDEN
Refugees become a “burden” to host communities only when the international community fails to live up to its responsibility and adequately support and cope with the influx of displaced people. Currently, the majority of the refugee response is shouldered only by a few donor States and a limited number of host countries, rather than collectively, by the
international community as a whole. More countries are developing resettlement programmes, and this is positive, but it should not distract from the fact that over half of the world’s countries are not fairly sharing responsibility: 10 countries host 60% of the world’s refugees. People’s lives cannot be bartered for national interests: resettlement or financial contributions cannot be made in exchange for blocking safe passage routes and forcing displaced people to risk their lives or resort to smugglers.
PARTICIPATION: MAKING SPACE FOR REFUGEES TO SHAPE INTERNATIONAL POLICY
Despite the international community’s recognition of participatory policymaking, as detailed in the Grand Bargain and the Sustainable Development Goals’ mantra to “leave no one behind,” existing participatory practices fall short. There is no international refugee body or systematized way for refugees to engage at the United Nations. Refugees are often brought into policy discussions after policy has been defined by Member States. Today, with over 60% of refugees and 80% of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in urban areas and an increase in protracted refugee crises, refugee access and participation in policy discussions is more crucial than ever. Due to their status, refugee views are not represented by their countries of origin, host countries or countries of resettlement. This has left over 20 million refugees with no political voice, which violates fundamental democratic norms and refugees’ civil and political rights. Refugees have agency and are key stakeholders in the development and implementation of refugee policy. More formal processes of the systematic inclusion of refugees must be developed and normalized. Including refugees in planning comprehensive responses to displacement leads to enhanced dignity and autonomy for affected populations, ensures that the responses invested in to address asylum policies are tailored to refugees needs and rights and strengthens the bottom-up buy-in and accountability of refugees and their host communities. This will make policies more effective in responding to the refugees needs wherever they are.
INCREASING IMPACT: A REFUGEE-LED GCR REVIEW MECHANISM
The New York Declaration (2016) recognized the need for a well-managed and predictable refugee response, setting an ambitious goal for the international community. For the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) to be effective, the international community must go beyond statements and commit to long-term action. We call on UNHCR to facilitate the creation of an independent, refugee-led shadow committee to annually review the Global Compact on Refugees and State implementation of the 1951 Refugee Convention, considering that new refugee situations have arisen since the Convention was adopted, pursuant to the 1968 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. This committee will present its findings to the UNHCR executive leadership and the Executive Committee meeting.
THE TWO COMPACTS
In order to ensure the practical success of the two Compacts, both documents must:
- Recall Member State’s obligation to uphold the humanity and human rights of all refugees and migrants;
- Ensure all safe passageways that result from the two Compacts are opened to all displaced persons, both men and women;
- Request the IDMC or ODI report on the common indicators among forcibly displaced people, in so far as root-causes are concerned.
- Call on the SRSG on International Migration to conduct a study on the cross-cutting issues that affect both refugees and migrants, in particular with regard to reception, search and rescue mechanisms, gender mainstreaming, detention, trafficking and smuggling, xenophobia and racism, as well as data collection, using a whole-of-system approach including the members of the Global Migration Group (GMG).
Humanitarian organizations must:
- Conduct scoping exercises and engage refugees at all levels of development and implementation of programs to understand local responses and develop the capacity to support them;
- Reform budgetary consultations to include refugees and affected populations. Refugees and host communities must be included at every stage of the budget review, from the initial consultation, to midterm review and allocation;
- Ensure cash grants first to support the initiatives of refugees and host communities, before they are used as credits and/or purchasing power;
- Review and reform the whole structure of the refugee humanitarian response. UNHCR should play a role as the budget holder, convener and coordinator. Refugees and host communities serve as the primary actors in implanting these programs. INGOs will work as capacity builders for the refugee and host community implementers and shift their focus to refugee protection.
THE GLOBAL COMPACT ON REFUGEES
Recognizing that refugees have obligations and duties towards their host communities including inter alia respect for their host customs and laws, refugees recommend protecting refugee and migrants’ fundamental civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, to be upheld to ensure effective self-reliance. To achieve this, in the preamble of the GCR, States must commit to:
- Uphold the principle of non-refoulement and ensure that all refugee return is voluntary;
- Facilitate access to adequate housing;
- End detention practices and put in place legislation to ban the immigration detention of children;
- End illegal arrests, criminalization and expulsion of refugees;
- End push-backs at sea by funding rescue projects and increasing mechanisms to address human-trafficking;
- Protect the most vulnerable, by providing access to medical and humanitarian assistance (including psychosocial support and reproductive healthcare);
- Facilitate legal access to the labour market for refugees and migrants, so that they can pay taxes and contribute to the national welfare system;
- Consider bonafide refugees as nationals or permanent residents rather than foreigners, and ensure they are able to exercise the legal and political rights that come with that status, including the right travel, to work and to vote;
- Register all births of refugees and migrants in order to ensure they have rights and avoid the creation of new stateless people;
- Amend family reunification laws to expand the definition of the nuclear family to reflect cultural norms and the composition of war-torn families;
- Address the refugee protection gap for all stateless people, especially Palestinian refugees by increasing coordination between UNRWA and UNHCR;
- Allow refugees to create their own businesses and social enterprises, including in the camps;
- Acknowledge diversity within the refugee community and incorporate an intersectional approach when designing and implementing refugee focused projects.
Programme of Action
To ensure the commitments of the GCR are realized, in the GCR’s Programme of Action States must:
- Call for the development of a “Global Refugee Response Group,” convened by the Secretary General, to rapidly and predictably respond to new large movements of refugees and migrants. This platform should be governed by a multi-stakeholder group with a representative proportion of refugee members.
- Call for the development of a Regional Action Plan to increase the regional onus and long-term sustainability of policies. This will require:
ii. A Regional agreement to ensure that refugees are mobile at the regional level, by reintroducing refugee travel documents, like the Nansen passport.
iii. The development of funding schemes to support regional responses. To increase incentives for regional ownership and the long-term success of these programmes, international assistance should be provided to regions based on a matching grant model.
- Commit to ensuring a more robust and transparent data collection method on the realities of the refugee crisis, in order to understand the scale of needs as well as the responsibility taken by all actors, and go beyond the figures diligently collected by UNHCR. The data should be collected by a neutral and impartial body that is not dependent on Member State funding. This will ensure that this data is not politicized. For example, UNHCR’s data does not mention Saudi Arabia, Iran or South Africa and does not adequately address south-south migration;
- Call on Member States to set nationally determined commitments to increase responsibility and burden sharing targets. These targets should be announced at a high-level event during the opening of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, to demonstrate UN Member State’s commitment to address the global refugee crisis with a new, ambitious, spirit; demonstrate their solidarity with refugee communities around the world; and show that refugees will not be left behind.
- Make actionable commitments to expand refugee access to complementary pathways for admission. To do this States must:
i. Endorse and support private and community sponsorship, humanitarian corridors and humanitarian visas;
ii. Expand educational opportunities for displaced persons protection while acknowledging the protection concerns that arise when studies end;
iii. Accept and endorse labor mobility. Safe and orderly migration should not exclude refugees from benefiting from labor mobility.
- Call on States to commit that development funds should support refugee self-reliance, both in terms of early recovery but also in the form of investment of refugee-led and host community-led initiatives to increase integration and combat xenophobia. These initiatives should include businesses, social-enterprises and community-based organizations.
- Call on Member States and UNHCR to facilitate and support the establishment of a global network of refugee-led organisations in order to promote refugee self-reliance through mutual support.
- Call on Members States and UNHCR to agree to ensure that refugees are represented, with a 50% quota of women and men, in every international body created to address the global migration crisis, specifically any steering committees, stakeholder groups, working groups etc. that are put into place as a result of the adoption of the GCR and the GCR’s Programme of Action and the wider implementation of the (CRRF);
- Call on UNHCR to facilitate the creation of an independent refugee-led shadow committee to annually review the Global Compact on Refugees and State implementation of the 1951 Refugee Convention, considering that new refugee situations have arisen since the Convention was adopted, pursuant to the 1968 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. This committee will present its findings to UNHCR executive leadership and the Executive Committee meeting. This committee must be diverse, representative, and comprised of at least 50% women.
UNHCR AND OTHER UN AGENCIES
To ensure refugees are empowered as agents of change and refugees are involved in every stage of policymaking, the international community must take the following actions:
- A Refugee Delegation, with a 50% quota of men and women, must be given a seat at the 2018 formal consultations of the GCR, and refugees must be included in the implementation and review phase of the GCR;
- Six parallel formal consultations with refugees must be held ahead of each of the six formal consultations of the GCR. Each consultation will produce findings to guide the Refugee Delegation’s interventions in the formal consultation phase;
- UNHCR must annually poll refugee communities on the shortcomings and successes of their programmes and policies. This initiative can be modeled off of the UNHCR November 2010 Dialogue with Refugee Women;
- UNHCR must hold an EX COM for refugee leaders annually;
- UNHCR must provide a speaking role for refugees at UNHCR’s Executive Committee and Standing Committee meetings. UNHCR must ensure that the refugee speaker rotates and presents the views of a wide, diverse and representative refugee body;
- States, UNHCR, and other UN Agencies must recognize the barriers to entry into international processes for refugees and take all steps necessary to enable refugees’ participation in global forums, such as provision of translation services, travel assistance, revised criteria for accreditation for displaced communities.
- Amaf Yousef, Rethink Rebuild, Development Coordinator
- Ameenah Sawwan, Reuters/ Wir Machen Das
- Bakri Hilani, Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands (SYVNL)
- Georges Talamas, Basmeh & Zeitooneh - Relief and Development, Chief Operating Officer (COO)
- Iyad Kallas: Radio Souriali, Programming & Editorial Director
- Adam Elsod, Founder of the Young Republic
- Osama Salem, Caritas Berlin
- Ruham Hawash, Citizens of Syria, Administrative Director
- Salim Salamah, Palestinian League for Human Rights – Syria (PLHR), Director
- Samah Alhakwati, Syrian Female Journalists Network, Managing Editor
- Sana Mustafa, Sana Mustafa Consulting LLC, Founder and Manager
- Shaza Al Rihawi, LifBi Institute
- Haqqi Bahram, The Young Republic
- Mohammed Badran, Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands
- Centre for Peace & Justice – Uganda
- Canterbury Refugee Resettlement & Resource Centre
- Empower Youth Trust – New Zealand
- Colectivo de migrantes y Exiliados Colombianos por la Paz MECOPA- Argentina
- Asociación S.O.S. Víctimas del Conflicto en Panamá SOVIC- Panamá
- Colectivo por la Paz desde México COLPAZ- México
- Mesa de Victimas Colombianas en Argentina
- Red de Mujeres Libres sin Fronteras – Ecuador
- Ecos de Colombia – Costa Rica
- Red de Victimas Colombianas por la Paz en Latinoamérica y el Caribe REVICPA- LAC
- Organización de Colombianos Refugiados en Chile
- Organización de Refugiados y Campesinos Colombianos Antonio Nariño en Venezuela