High Commissioner Grandi ended the Dialogue with a powerful and informative set of remarks. I won’t summarize the entire speech [a video of the session will be posted shortly at webtv.un.org] but I do want to try to convey the overall tenor of the HC’s presentation.
Mr. Grandi repeatedly emphasized the contribution of hosting states in responding to refugee situations. Thus he began by describing the continuing South Sudanese displacement crisis (about to enter its fifth year), mentioning the six neighboring states that have taken in two million refugees and implicitly contrasting their efforts with the contributions of donor states (only 1/3 of the appeal for funds had been met, and of the 90,000 refugees UNHCR has said need resettlement it is likely that less than 2% will actually be resettled this year). The High Commissioner stated that thinking about responsibility-sharing must begin with recognition that hosting states “pay the highest price” (particularly municipalities). Hosting states, he said, “have been waiting a very long time for things to change.”
Exactly how responsibility-sharing can be advanced in the current climate is not clear. Mr. Grandi noted proposals for a state-driven “platform” that could mobilize action at the political level (perhaps along the lines of the Leader’s Summit of September 2016); he also recognized the significant number of calls during the Dialogue for increased resettlement.
As to the drafting of the Global Compact on Refugees, the High Commissioner stated the process is “not a free-for-all.” Rather, the Compact would have to be based on the “with very specific areas of focus” identified by the New York Declaration. The core of the Compact will be the CRRF: “the main track is the operational track in the field that tests the [CRRF] model.” He singled out a number of areas of focus that he said should be topics in the consultations planned for next year and eventually become a part of the Programme of Action. These included: (1) gender, age and diversity programming and the establishment of a monitoring framework to evaluate progress; (2) how to make refugee participation in the design and evaluation of programs “better, more predictable, significant, [and] impactful”; (3) education initiatives, (4) progress on economic inclusion and livelihoods, with strategies to incentivize private sector investment; and (5) enhancing and harnessing uses of technology.
The High Commissioner stated that UNHCR’s plan is to have a “zero draft” of the Compact by the end of January or early February, and then to initiate an “iterative” process of consultation followed by re-drafting until a consensus document emerges. As expressed by Mr. Grandi, the CRRF is “the what,” the Programme of Action is “the how,” and further focus must be placed on “the who.”
The Compact will ultimately be submitted as part of UNHCR’s annual resolution to the General Assembly by August 2018.
Mr. Grandi’s remarks were thoughtful and candid, indicating a willingness—indeed, the need—to think creatively about addressing the challenges facing the international system of refugee protection. It is up to all of us to contribute to this effort, particularly to think hard about how to improve the major weakness in the current system: the lack of a robust and equitable system of responsibility-sharing.