Global Compact Refugees Istanbul

What Does the UN’s Global Compact on Refugees Mean for the MENA Region?

In September of 2016, in response to the large movements of refugees and migrants around the world, the UN General Assembly held its first ever summit dedicated to this topic.

The outcome was the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which not only reaffirms the importance of existing legal instruments to protect refugees and migrants, but also foresees two new global Compacts; one on refugees, and one of safe, orderly and regular migration. Both compacts are scheduled to be adopted by the General Assembly in the summer of 2018.

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute, together with the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility of New School and the Migration Research Centre at Koc University, recently organized a workshop on the Global Compact on Refugees in Istanbul.

Around 30 experts and representatives from different academic institutions, international organisations, including the UNHCR and World Bank, and Syrian and international NGOs, attended the 2-day long workshop.

“This workshop clearly demonstrated the gap in the international system for the protection of refugees and the need for more predictable and equitable burden- and responsibility-sharing, especially among states and international organisations and development actors, including international financial institutions,” says Ilhami Olsson, Chief Consultant, RWI Turkey.

Another noteworthy finding of the workshop was the recognition of the interlinkages between humanitarian and peace efforts with the sustainable development agenda. This was important considering that the resettlement of refugees has failed to a large extent, and Syrian refugees are likely to stay in the first asylum countries, which would likely result in the increasing negative public opinion and risk of exploitation.

“Therefore, many participants in the workshop agreed that refugees should not become an added impediment to or risk jeopardising the development efforts of the host country and it is imperative to foster inclusive economic growth for both host communities and refugees,” he says.

Olsson says the desire for creating a platform to coordinate and facilitate the efforts of national authorities, international organisations, national and international NGOs, universities, development agencies, and refugees to work together to respond to needs, as well as provide policy direction at the local and national level, was the most exciting outcome of the workshop.

Issues discussed included:

  • How to increase the protection and rights for displaced populations
  • How to promtoe global responsibility-sharing and provide assitance for host states
  • How to increase the accountabilty of all actors that participate in the international refugee regime and how to ensure that displaced people can participate at all levels of policy making
  • Examining the roles of governments, international organizationns and NGOs in making the Global Compact functional