It is well understood that the definition of “refugee” in the 1951 Convention does not cover all forced migrants, or even all forced migrants in need of international protection. Through General Assembly resolutions, regional instruments and international practice, the definition of refugee—and UNHCR’s mandate to provide international protection—has evolved.
The Global Compact on Refugees has evolved from its point of origin as Annex 1 in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.
UNHCR has released the "Zero Draft" of the Global Compact on Refugees. I would like to start a thread for commenting on the draft. What's in the draft of significance; what's left out? What amendments would you propose? What is the likelihood of state adoption? Let's get a conversation going.
High Commissioner Grandi ended the Dialogue with a powerful and informative set of remarks. 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.”
I am “blogging” (never thought I would use that word) from the High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges in Geneva, which is devoted this year to the Global Compact on Refugees. High Commissioner Grandi gave a lengthy opening statement [see the UNHCR story on the speech]. The HC stated that the next step in the process, following the two day Dialogue, would be the writing of a “zero draft” of the Compact, which would be shared with states prior to the consultation stage set to begin in mid-February.
UNHCR's consultations on the Global Compact on Refugees are well underway. I am sharing below a copy of a statement I submitted for the October 17 Thematic Discussion, which included a panel discussion on "how can we support States to receive large numbers of refugees in a safe and dignified manner." I would invite and welcome (1) comments on the proposals for a Global Action Platform for Displaced Persons and enhanced mobility for refugees, and (2) other submissions, ideas, etc for the Consultations and Compact. UNHCR appears genuinely interested in innovative strategies and ideas, and it behooves the academic and policy communities to respond with realistic proposals that materially advance reform of the international refugee regime while remaining within the scope of the GCR.
Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UNHCR, has recently given two speeches that merit attention. Türk's March 3 keynote address to the Fourth Humanitarian Congress in Vienna includes important language criticizing "externalization" policies that undercut international responsibility-sharing.
UNHCR has released a "non-paper" on its plan for drafting the Global Compact on Refugees. Last year's New York Declaration charged UNHCR with presenting a draft Compact for consideration by the General Assembly in 2018. An Annex to the Declaration described the elements of a "Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF)," which is to be the central feature of the Compact.