Progress on the New York Refugees Summit

Around this time, one year ago, Heads of State and Government came together within the UN General Assembly to discuss issues related specifically to migration and refugees. It was the first time ever that the UN General Assembly had expressed a commitment to sharing the responsibility for refugees. While still a declaration, and therefore legally not binding in any sense, it showed that the General Assembly had spoken out its will to act on the matter of refugees and migration. In an earlier blog post I have written about the New York Refugees Summit, need a refresher? See here.

The New York Declaration
Last year’s summit resulted in the adoption of The New York Declaration, a declaration that recognises the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and the need for enhanced cooperation at a global level. More specific, the declaration is committed to:

  • Protect the safety, dignity and human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migratory status, and at all times;
  • Support countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants;
  • Integrate migrants – addressing their needs and capacities as well as those of receiving communities – in humanitarian and development assistance frameworks and planning;
  • Combat xenophobia, racism and discrimination towards all migrants;
  • Develop, through a state-led process, non-binding principles and voluntary guidelines on the treatment of migrants in vulnerable situations; and
  • Strengthen global governance of migration, including by bringing IOM (International Organization for Migration) into the UN family and through the development of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration

Additionally, Annex II of the New York Declaration started a process of intergovernmental consultations and negotiations. These consultations and negotiations should prepare for the planned adoption of a Global Compact on Refugees and a Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, further recognising the need of cooperation at an international level.

What does this mean for climate-induced migration?
With the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the New York Declaration and the planned adoption of a Global Compact on Refugees and a Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, UN Member States not only recognise at an international level the need for cooperation, they also are laying the foundation for an international framework on migration. More discussion at an international level reflects an increased attention accorded to people living in areas vulnerable to the effects of climate change. States that have signed the agreements and declarations have (at least on paper) committed themselves to migration policies based on solidarity and human rights. The 2018 compacts would be the first global agreements to be adopted under the umbrella of the United Nations to deal comprehensively with all aspects of international migration. While legally non-binding, they provide at least a horizon to work towards.


Want to know more on this topic? The University of New South Wales Australia is organising a conference in November on ‘ The Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration’. See link for more information.

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Rene Perey

Rene Perey