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.
Millions of people are being forced from their homes by conflict, violence, disaster, or poverty. From those fleeing the war in Syria or climate change-induced droughts, to those stranded in inadequate conditions in Europe, these vulnerable individuals vary widely in terms of nationalities, languages, dialects, educational levels, income, social status, and access to technology. What they share is the overwhelming need for information in a language they understand in order to make decisions about their next steps, remain safe, and access available assistance.
It is, I think, a happy state of affairs that the New York Declaration did not include a GCR. It has given UNHCR and interested parties the opportunity to take a broader view of what ails the international refugee regime and what is needed to fix it. This will now be worked out in the “Programme of Action” to be included in the GCR. The Programme of Action is nominally a detailed plan for ensuring success of the CRRF. But already in the Zero Draft of the GCR it is more than that, and it is here that future development of the GCR will, and needs to, take place.
The idea of "international migration law" is not new, but it is receiving increased attention from a number of legal scholars. In some degree, they are responding to the domination of refugee law in discussions of international law relating to the movement of people. AJIL Unbound (the online edition of the American Journal of International Law) has recently published a "Symposium on Framing Global Migration Law," in which Jaya Ramji-Nogales has a piece well-worth reading: "Moving Beyond the Refugee Law Paradigm."