A three-day global gathering aimed at transforming the way the world responds to refugee situations starts today in Geneva.
The first-ever Global Refugee Forum brings together refugees, heads of state and government, UN leaders, international institutions, development organisations, business leaders and civil society representatives, among others, at the Palais des Nations, the home of the United Nations Office in Geneva.
The three days of discussions, special events, and high-level dialogues in Geneva will focus on six key areas: arrangements for burden and responsibility sharing; education; jobs and livelihoods; energy and infrastructure; solutions; and protection capacity.
There will be many opportunities for sharing a number of initiatives and good practices demonstrating how the Global Compact on Refugees can make a difference.
The Forum will also examine how humanitarian and development responses can complement one another. Additionally, in a sign of the increasingly important role of the private sector, more than 100 companies and foundations are attending and are set to make pledges around jobs, finance and other assistance.
UNHCR is co-hosting the forum together with Switzerland. It is being co-convened by Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Germany, Pakistan, and Turkey. The aim of the forum is to generate new approaches and long-term commitments from a variety of actors to help refugees and the communities in which they live.
Worldwide, over 70 million people are displaced by war, conflict, and persecution.
More than 25 million of them are refugees. In Asia, there are 4.2 million refugees, 2.7 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 2.2 million stateless people. This totals 9.5 million people who are in critical need of the solidarity, enhanced responsibility-sharing and practical commitments towards solutions being stimulated by the Forum.
Afghans remain the largest and longest displaced refugee population in the region. Four decades since their initial displacement, there are over 2.7 million registered Afghan refugees, the vast majority of whom have been hosted by Iran and Pakistan.
It is imperative to mobilise stronger international action to lessen the burden on host communities and to find solutions for this long-standing refugee situation.
To this end, on the eve of the Forum, the governments of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan came together with UNHCR to launch the Support Platform for the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees. The platform will serve to enhance coordination and partnerships for the Afghan crisis and to ensure that humanitarian and development efforts go hand in hand.
Asia is also home to the stateless Rohingya population from Myanmar, approximately 745,000 of whom fled to Bangladesh in 2017. The Rohingya refugee population in Cox’s Bazar currently numbers some 900,000 people.
Solutions to this crisis remain elusive; robust engagement and support is required to help ensure that these men, women and children do not end up spending generations in exile.
“We are emerging from a decade of displacement during which refugee numbers have surged,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“This week, at the first ever Global Refugee Forum, we must focus our efforts in the coming decade on building upon what we have learned and committing action to support refugees and the countries and communities hosting them.
“This Forum is an opportunity to attest our collective commitment to the Global Compact on Refugees and rally behind the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals of leaving no one behind.”
The Global Compact on Refugees paves the way for everyone to take responsibility and play a role, including all levels of government, the private sector, development agencies and financial institutions, civil society, faith groups, and refugees themselves.
The contributions made at the Forum are expected to include financial, technical, and material assistance; legal and policy changes to enable greater inclusion of refugees in society; resettlement places, and the safe return for refugees as part of solutions.
“We need more help like this,” said Joelle Hangi from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is one of the Forum’s refugee co-sponsors.
“Already there are many examples of cooperation – but with refugee numbers rising, we need more people to give us their support, more governments, companies, and communities to share the responsibility of helping refugees,” Hangi said. “That is how we’ll regain our freedom and independence, and repay those who came to our aid.”