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.
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.
The headlines we saw over the past two years were European. Indeed, the word “crisis” was first attached to refugees when the refugees showed up in Europe. But this is not a European issue, or even a Western one. The numbers of refugees reaching Europe fell in 2016 to about one third the 2015 levels from 1 million to 300 thousand thanks to the constraints on transit imposed by Turkey as part of the EU Turkey deal. The Syrian war was plainly a humanitarian crisis for the millions of persons displaced by the violence. The dangers of crossing the Mediterranean from Libya have not declined. But for Europe, the secondary flow of refugees from Syria’s neighbors presented and presents not a demographic or economic crisis (the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe is about one-half of one percent of the continent’s total population). The crisis is one of governance, more specifically governance failure.