On my radar: following international negotiations from afar


Earlier this month UNHCR released an updated draft for the Global Compact on Refugees, and formal negotiations continued in the humanitarian capital.

I was pleased to read the updated draft: UNHCR have made clear that reducing the number of refugees living in protracted situations without durable solutions (Paragraph 5.4) is the overall goal of the process. They have proposed a system in which states can pledge voluntary contributions towards this goal (Paragraph 6). And they have sketched out a model in which ambition can be continuously raised, and the implementation of contributions can be tracked in the years to come (Paragraphs 14 & 16). I believe a system like this, similar to the final structure of the Paris Agreement, which I studied for my MA thesis and recently suggested could be a useful model for the Compact, is an excellent first step towards improving the current refugee protection regime. Hopefully it will also contribute to improving the narrative on global responsibility sharing for refugees.

When UNHCR released the new draft, I was immediately curious as to the reaction from humanitarian actors and experts. Being currently based away from the centre of the discussions, no longer privy to informal discussions in the corridors of the Palais des Nations, I went online and to Twitter, to see what I could find. UNHCR has made the draft public, as well as the written contributions submitted by states, agencies and NGOs to the consultations. But for civil society organisations, refugees, researchers, and any other interested/concerned parties following the process from afar, what else is out there? Who is providing insight into the positioning of states, into the strategy of UN agencies, or the concerns of NGOs?

Here are a few things of interest that I found in my recent internet trawling:

This is a small sample of information I could find, mostly opinions from academics, NGO statements and some investigative journalism. It’s still hard to get a sense of where the discussions are going, sitting from a distance.

Does it matter if individuals based outside of Geneva and New York can follow these processes? I suspect that many would say that not really, perhaps the Compact won’t amount to much anyway. However, the optimist in me would say that this is our opportunity to improve the refugee system – ensuring that everyone can follow and contribute constructively is vital. I’ll keep trawling, and I’m all ears for any of your favourite sources.


Why I believe it’s time to stop calling for greater responsibility sharing in the Global Compact on Refugees, and start proposing actual blueprints

UNHCR has released its ‘zero-draft’ for the Global Compact on Refugees, ahead of the formal consultations happening over the next six months. While it provides a list of good practices to improve refugee protection, its proposals for improving responsibility sharing are hardly the groundbreaking system change that was the initial intention for the Compact. The draft lacks a ‘responsibility-sharing mechanism’, and as a result, the outcome of the process is unlikely to drastically increase access to durable solutions for refugees and displaced people. As several major international NGOs commented in their recent joint statement ‘the zero draft does not present a practical blueprint that would deliver on this commitment through a concrete mechanism for international solidarity’.

As the Global Compact process enters the consultation phase, the window of opportunity for proposing ‘blueprints’ for greater responsibility sharing is closing. Over the past year, many refugee protection advocates have pointed to the decades of failed attempts to secure global responsibility sharing for refugees, and have remained stuck between the idea that a voluntary agreement will do little to change the current system and that states will never agree to a binding agreement. Yet this paralysis should not stop us from devising a middle ground option, and for proposing a blueprint, however imperfect, up for debate.

In order to sketch and define a middle ground option…Continue reading this article on the Refugee Law Initiative Blog on Refugee Law and Forced Migration