[NEW YORK, 18 DECEMBER 2018] The Network for Refugee Voices (NRV) welcomes the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees. Member States and the international community must now implement the Compact’s call to meaningfully engage refugees in its implementation. Two years after the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, there are still over 25 million refugees around the world, many of whom continue to seek a dignified life. The commitments made in the GCR must now be converted to action. And action must deliver tangible improvements to the lives of refugees and host communities.
One of the main factors that contributed to the success of the Global Compact process was the engagement of refugees themselves in consultations and negotiations. Refugee voices were included in the thematic discussions of the compact in 2017 and UNHCR gave the Network for Refugee Voices an observer seat in the closed, state-led, formal consultations of the Compact in 2018. Notably, the adopted Compact calls for the meaningful engagement of refugees in its implementation.
Yet despite the successful adoption of the Compact, outside the corridors of the United Nations, refugees are still extremely vulnerable and the spirit of international cooperation and solidarity with refugees has yet to be put into action. Over the past two years we have seen: the end of the Aquarius rescue boats; outsourcing of refugee processing to countries with questionable human rights records; host countries and UNHCR calling for refugee return to Syria despite ongoing horrendous persecution; and countries negotiating Rohingya refugees’ return to Myanmar without adequate guarantees and without consultation with the refugees themselves. There is still work to be done.
Refugee self-reliance, one of the goals of the Global Compact on Refugees, starts with us, refugees. Over the past two years we have engaged with States, UNHCR, the private sector, municipal governments and NGOs to ensure refugees are part of the solution. As stated in the Compact, “Responses are most effective when they actively and meaningfully engage those they are intended to protect and assist. Relevant actors will, whenever possible, continue to develop and support consultative processes that enable refugees and host community members to assist in designing appropriate, accessible and inclusive responses.”
The Global Compact on Refugees offers a new way forward to find better, more effective, and inclusive, solutions to the refugee situation. States, and other stakeholders, must actually act upon the commitments they have made by adopting the GCR and improve the lives of refugees and host communities. The Network for Refugee Voices looks forward to working with the international community to ensure that refugees are at the center of implementing the Global Compact on Refugees, beginning with the 2019 Global Refugee Forum.