In a historic decision, the member states of the UN General Assembly yesterday agreed almost unanimously on a new international framework -- Global Compact on Refugees -- in order to transform the way the world responds to mass displacements and refugee crises.
The United States and Hungary were the only two countries that voted against the framework, while 181 countries voted in favour. The Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya abstained.
“Refugee crises call for a global sharing of responsibility, and the compact is a powerful expression of how we work together in today's fragmented world,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“No country should be left alone to respond to a huge influx of refugees,” he said, according to a UNHCR statement.
The compact will be significant for Bangladesh, an already over-populated country that hosts over a million of Rohingyas and has been facing socio-economic and environmental challenges as such.
The framework, agreed as part of this year's annual resolution of the UNHCR, has been built on the existing international legal system for refugees, notably the 1951 Refugee Convention, and on the human rights and the humanitarian laws.
It is a non-binding operational tool to bolster the cooperation agreed after two years of extensive consultations led by UNHCR.
The new global deal will provide more robust support for the countries where most refugees live. It will also strengthen the shared responsibility to aid those who are forced to flee by conflict or persecution.
“In this world of ours, which often turns its back to people in need, that has shamefully politicized the pain of exile, that has demonized refugees and migrants, this compact, in synergy with the compact on migration, can really represent a new commitment to international cooperation,” Grandi said.
Currently, there are more than 25 million refugees worldwide, with nine out of every 10 living in the developing countries, where basic services like health and education are already strained. The compact aims to address this issue by providing more investment.
It also calls for policies and measures that will enable refugees to access education and lead productive lives during their exile.
The agreement also envisions more resettlement opportunities -- such as through family reunification, student scholarships, or humanitarian visas -- so that refugees can travel safely. It notes that the voluntary return of refugees in conditions of safety and dignity remains the preferred solution in the majority of refugee situations.
The new agreement will monitor progress through the creation of follow-up systems, including a Global Refugee Forum every four years at which governments will report and pledge on a range of measures -- funding, policy, legal changes, resettlement quotas, etc.
“Today marks the beginning, not the end of our work to respond comprehensively to the challenges that refugees and their hosts face,” said the UNGA President Maria Fernanda Espinosa.