Global Compact on Refugees: How is this different from the migrants’ pact and how will it help?

© UNHCR/Alessio Mamo Italy. Restaurant run by refugees and local entrepreneurs opens in Catania

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

The terms ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ have been used interchangeably to describe the millions of people worldwide that are either fleeing conflict or seeking better living conditions. As the United Nations sets out to secure global compacts to better protect them, it’s critical to understand the differences between the two.

A new international agreement to forge a stronger, fairer response to large refugee movements known as the Global Compact on Refugees is expected to be endorsed by members of the UN General Assembly on Monday, 17 December to provide greater support for those fleeing their homelands, and for the countries that take them in, which are often among the poorest in the world.

It’s designed to provide a robust and systematic model to improve the lives of refugees and their host communities following two years of intensive consultations – which may sound familiar to anyone who has been following the progress of the global migration pact ( formally known as the Global Compact for Safe, orderly and Regular Migration) which was formally adopted in Marrakech last Monday, 10 December 2018.

UN News has put together this guide to explain the key difference between migrant and refugee status, and the differences between the two UN-backed compacts that are designed to improve the lives of everybody on the move.

We just heard the global compact on migration has recently been adopted. Why do we need another deal?

The New York Declaration that was adopted in September 2016 gave birth to two compacts: one on refugees and one on migrants. Although both are groups of people who live outside of their countries of origin, there are crucial distinctions between the terms “refugee” and “migrant.”

Both agreements are voluntary in nature, and not legally binding instruments.

What’s the difference between a migrant and a refugee?

Refugees are persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection.  The refugee definition can be found in the 1951 Convention and regional refugee instruments, as well as the Statute of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

While there is no formal legal definition of an international migrant, most experts agree that an international migrant is someone who changes his or her country of usual residence, irrespective of the reason for migration or legal status. Generally, a distinction is made between short-term or temporary migration, covering movements with a duration between three and 12 months, and long-term or permanent migration, referring to a change of country of residence for a duration of one year or more.

“I’m a migrant but didn’t have to risk my life on a leaky boat or pay traffickers. Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite”, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said.

Does this mean the Refugee Convention is not fit for purpose?

The compact builds upon, not replaces, the existing international legal system for refugees – including the 1951 Refugee Convention and other international legal instruments on refugee, human rights and humanitarian law.

“The Refugee Convention focuses on rights of refugees and obligations of States, but it does not deal with international cooperation writ large. And that’s what the global compact seeks to address”, explained the UN refugee agency’s (UNHCR) Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Türk.

The 1951 Convention does not specify how you share the burden and responsibility, and that’s what the global compact does. “It responds to one of the major gaps we have faced for decades”.

But why do we need a new international agreement?

At the end of 2017, there were nearly 25.4 million refugees around the world, more than half of whom are under the age of 18. Today, just 10 countries host 60 per cent of the world’s refugees. Turkey alone hosts 3.5 million refugees, more than any other country. Furthermore, the vast majority of the world’s refugees (85 per cent) live in developing countries that face their own economic and development challenges.

Ten governmental donors (including the European Union) provide almost eighty per cent of UNHCR’s funding, for example, and more than two-thirds of UNHCR’s resettlement submissions go to just five countries. The gap between the needs of refugees and action to meet them is large and growing.

Who decided to create this compact? The UN, UNHCR?

No, it was decided by Member States. The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted by Member States in September 2016 included two key steps in relation to refugees:

  • First, Member States adopted the comprehensive refugee response framework’, which sets out a wide range of measures to be taken by the international community when responding to a large-scale refugee situation.
  • Secondly, Member States agreed to continue to improve international responses by working towards the adoption of a ‘global compact on refugees’ in 2018. They asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to consult with Member States and a wide range of other stakeholders and propose such a compact. The proposed global compact on refugees was released on 20 July 2018.

How was the global compact on refugees negotiated?

Germany. Iranian refugee completes internship at Porsche

It has been developed through an extensive multilateral process of consultation with Member States and other key stakeholders.

On 13 November 2018, the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural (Third) Committee of the UN General Assembly approved the resolution which affirms the refugee compact with overwhelming majority and has sent the text to the General Assembly plenary for adoption, scheduled for the morning of 17 December 2018.

How will the global compact on refugees work?

The global compact on refugees establishes the architecture for a stronger, more predictable and more equitable international response to large refugee situations.

Although not legally binding, it guides the international community in supporting refugees and countries and communities hosting large numbers through the mobilization of political will, a broadening of the base of support, and the activation of arrangements for more equitable and predictable burden- and responsibility-sharing.

“Refugees are an international concern, and a shared responsibility,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said. “In the compact, we will for the first time have a practical workable model, a set of tools that translates this principle into action.”

“Decades of keeping refugees apart, consigned to camps or on the margins of society are giving way to a fundamentally different approach – including refugees in national systems, societies and economies of their host countries for the time that it is necessary, and enabling them to contribute to their new communities and to secure their own futures, pending a solution to their plight,” Grandi explained, noting the that the global compact started with the generosity of these communities.

The global compact has four objectives:

  1. Ease pressures on countries that host large numbers of refugees;
  2. Build self-reliance of refugees;
  3. Expand access to third-country or refugees through resettlement and other pathways of admission;
  4. Support conditions that enable refugees to return to their countries of origin

Will my country be obliged to welcome refugees?

Central African mothers and children queue for food at the Timangolo refugee centre in Cameroon.

Not more than it already is. The 1951 Refugee Convention focuses on rights of refugees and obligations of states. The global compact on refugees reaffirms those standards and principles.

The compact is not intended to create additional burdens or impositions on countries hosting large numbers of refugees, nor to modify UNHCR’s protection and solutions mandate. It seeks to build upon the international refugee regime that has been established over decades.

My country already hosts many refugees? Are we going to get help?

In specific large-scale refugee contexts, the global compact provides that a host State or country of origin, could request the activation by UNHCR of a Support Platform to assist its national response arrangements.

“What we want to achieve is a very quick galvanizing of support: political, financial, and resettlement support, so that countries – when they are faced with such a situation – feel that they are not on their own, that they are not isolated, or that no one cares”, Türk said. “That the international community cares about the people, but also the country that is affected. And it stands in solidarity, and acts in solidarity with them. That is really the purpose”.

What tangible difference will the compact make in the lives of refugees or the communities that host them?

Peru. Venezuelans grateful to find support in Lima

UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection explained that if the compact is implemented we would see “better education for refugee boys and girls, as well as better access to health services for all refugees, and more livelihood opportunities”.  Host communities would engage differently with refugees, moving away from the encampment policies.

Host countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Iran, those in Central America, or Lebanon — with its infrastructure and health services enormously challenged by hosting a million refugees – would get the support they need not just from a humanitarian perspective but from a development cooperation perspective. “And that’s what is new”, Türk added.

Also, UNHCR aims to get more resettlement places and find more ways refugees can move to third countries – such as through family reunification, student scholarships, or humanitarian visas.

But if the compact is not legally binding, can it really make a difference?

It’s not binding, but the UN General Assembly will adopt the global compact. “Once that’s done, it demonstrates a very strong political commitment of all 193 Member States to implement it, even if it’s not legally binding”, Türk said, noting that “in today’s world, that’s how multilateralism is often done”.

Who’s going to fund all this?

The global compact embeds the response in a much broader partnerships approach. It looks at what the private sector, faith communities and international financial institution can bring to the table.

The World Bank has established a specific financial instrument for low-income countries affected by forced displacement – $2 billion for a couple of years – to help address the socio-economic impact of refugee flows into a part of a country.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost of staying fashionable

How supporting climate action on a local level can transform the world

We had the hottest June ever this year – this is what happened around the world

The financial world upside-down: debt failure closer

Juncker Investment Plan for Europe welcomed by European Youth Forum

Gender parity can boost economic growth. Here’s how

MWC 2016 LIVE: Orange targets VoLTE and Voice over Wi-Fi; strikes Google partnership

EU budget: Commission proposes most ambitious Research and Innovation programme yet

4 innovation hotspots in the Arab world

Take action on air pollution to save lives, and the planet, urges UN chief

Why Sweden’s cashless society is no longer a utopia

This is how music festivals are tackling plastic waste

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Venezuela-Colombia baby breakthrough, Italy piles on rescue boat pressure, States must combat hate, Kashmir rights latest and a musical plea to combat CAR hunger

Syrian Constitutional Committee a ‘sign of hope’: UN envoy tells Security Council

Microplastics have been found in Rocky Mountain rainwater

‘No justification’ for attacks against civilians, UN envoy says on mounting cross-border violence in Gaza

European Commission welcomes the positive assessment about how it has managed the EU budget

More than 90 per cent of Africa migrants would make perilous Europe journey again, despite the risks

How India is harnessing technology to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Girls groomed for suicide missions fight back against the extremists of Lake Chad

These 5 foods are under threat from climate change

Rule of law in Hungary: Parliament should ask Council to act, say committee MEPs

Welcome to the age of the platform nation

Africa-Europe Alliance: Denmark provides €10 million for sustainable development under the EU External Investment Plan

‘Repeated attacks’ could close down key hospital in eastern Libya, says WHO

Brexit: political groups discuss options for an orderly withdrawal

UN condemns Syrian ‘war on children’ as up to 30 reportedly killed in clashes

This new solar technology can be printed or woven into fabric

Hostilities in Syria’s southwest, mean cuts in vital aid across Jordanian border: Senior UN official

My twin from Guangzhou

FROM THE FIELD: 10,000 Indonesia quake survivors to receive UN tents

How to help companies become global defenders of LGBTI rights

World ‘not yet on track’ to ensure children a better future: UN rights chief

Alarming level of reprisals against activists, human rights defenders, and victims – new UN report

EU budget: the Common Agricultural Policy beyond 2020

How revealing the cost of coal makes us all better off

Global aid needed for healthcare

Only one in five countries has a healthcare strategy to deal with climate change

The European Commission to stop Buffering

Large parts of the world are growing more fragile. Here are 5 steps to reverse course

Mine ban agreement ‘has saved countless lives’, but ‘accelerated efforts’ needed to end scourge for good: Guterres

Here are 4 of the most politically charged World Cup games ever played

Fed and ECB prepare a new party for the financial sharks

This is why Dutch teenagers are among the happiest in the world

Paid paternity leave should be the norm in the US

Overcoming the paralysis of trust management across a fractured IT landscape

The Peoples are missing from EU’s monetary union

“A global threat lies ahead worsened after the EU’s green light to the Bayer-Monsanto merger”, a Sting Exclusive by the President of Slow Food

Create conditions for ‘harmony between humankind and nature’, UN chief says on sidelines of G20 in Japan

How banking with blockchain can stamp out corruption and increase financial inclusion

5 things you need to know about water

“As German Chancellor I want to be able to cope with the merger of the real and digital economy”, Angela Merkel from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

Four things Turkey did for business in the G20

Millennials (and Gen X) – Here are the steps you should take to secure your financial future

Impacting society with digital ingenuity – World Summit Award proclaiming the top 8 worldwide

“Leaked” TTIP document breaks post 8th negotiations round silence and opens door to critics

Zhua Zhou: Choosing The Future

“Be aware where you put your I Agree signature on and something else”; now Facebook by default opts you in an unseen private data bazar

Japanese law professor elected new judge at the International Court of Justice

This team of Saudi women designed an award-winning app to make the Hajj safer

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s