The New York Refugee Summit – its outcome
This week New York City was host to the Summit for Refugees and Migrants at the UN headquarters. Leaders from all over the world came to New York to discuss current and future challenges regarding refugees and migrants, amongst them Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, US president Barack Obama and Queen Rania of Jordan. Many inspiring words have been said by these leaders, Justin Trudeau spoke of “choosing hope over fear and choosing diversity over division.”
President Obama delivered his final speech to the United Nations General Assembly, asking other world leaders to increase their efforts to meet the needs of the world’s growing number of refugees.
At the summit a draft declaration was formally adopted by the UN member states
This draft was already agreed upon earlier. The summit’s declaration “expresses the political will of world leaders to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, to save lives and share responsibility for large movements on a global scale.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon hailed the summit as a “breakthrough in our collective efforts to address the challenges of human mobility.” He said the adoption of the New York Declaration will mean that “more children can attend school; more workers can securely seek jobs abroad, instead of being at the mercy of criminal smugglers, and more people will have real choices about whether to move once we end conflict, sustain peace and increase opportunities at home.”
But, what does the declaration mean?
Most of the times when declarations are drafted, they have been ‘watered down’ from their original, more decisive text. Usually these texts have been drafted by the organisation in charge of organising the summit and states will look at it and make adjustments. The declaration adopted at this summit, was already drafted and agreed upon earlier by the 193 UN member states. If you ever have had a discussion with a large group of people, about trivial things such as, deciding where to go for dinner, or what the company’s next outing should be, you will know it is hard to make sure that everyone agrees to it. You will have to give and take and come up with a compromise. This is also the case at the UN, the draft is a compromise of what 193 member states agreed upon. Meaning, a big bunch of very fancy words that do not say a lot, basically stating “this declaration is a list of all things we will consider doing in the future, but we will not commit to a time-frame nor anything at all actually, so you can not hold it against us when we don’t.”
Was the summit a waste of time?
No – following the success of the Paris Climate Change agreement and keeping in mind the current refugee crisis, momentum is there for the topic of migrants and refugees. On a rare occasion, migrants and refugees are discussed at the same summit, as the two are intertwined, but have a different set of protection. Additionally, the summit is an ideal chance to showcase national policy. Ahead of the summit, the White House announced the US will take in 110,000 refugees from around the world, with a significant amount coming from Syria. The US will have taken in 85,000 refugees this fiscal year, in stark contrast to Germany, who settled nearly one million refugees in 2015. Furthermore, the Secretary General of the UN launched a new campaign called “Together – Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” to “respond to rising xenophobia and turn fear into hope”, urging world leaders to join the campaign and to commit to upholding the rights and dignity of everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life.
The summit has ended a few days ago now. Media all around the world reported on it, bringing the topic of refugees and migrants into discussion again. The Summit for Refugees and Migrants was a one-off summit, meaning that it does not follow up on a previous summit, nor will it have a succeeding summit in the (near) future. Results of this summit are to be seen in due course, hopefully, they will provide a roadmap for the current refugee crisis and a framework for future occurrences of human displacement.