Rome – The United Nations General Assembly is expected to vote on the Global Compact on Refugees this week. This will be the culmination of a two-year process that saw the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, engaging with states and consulting with all relevant stakeholders, as mandated by the “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants”, adopted unanimously by member states in September 2016.
What will the Global Compact do?
The Global Compact does not seek to replace the 1951 Refugee Convention. While the Convention focuses on the rights of refugees and the obligations of states, it does not address how states should share responsibility for supporting refugees, and does not specify mechanisms for international cooperation. The Global Compact sets out to establish arrangements that will give concrete expression to notions such as international solidarity, so that, for example, states that accommodate the largest numbers of refugees will receive all the financial support that they need from member states that are more economically developed and that also host fewer refugees. The four top-level goals of the Compact are: easing pressures on host states; developing refugee self-reliance; expanding access to third country resettlement; and fostering conditions for the safe return of refugees to their countries of origin.
The Global Compact is not legally binding on states, but adoption by all 193 member states will send a clear signal of political commitment by all of them to implement the arrangements proposed in the Compact. A record 65.8 million people fled their homes in 2017, with many of them now in countries in the Global South that lack the means to support them or to integrate them into local structures and communities. Multilateralism is the only way forward on an issue of this enormity and complexity.
The 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly this year is being held under the theme of “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.” Let us pray this week that refugees around the world will witness true global leadership and shared responsibility, so that the globalisation of indifference so often lamented by Pope Francis may give way to the globalisation of solidarity and compassion.
God of love and mercy, we pray that world leaders may have the compassion, foresight, and courage to adopt the Global Compact on Refugees, and that they will then actively and resolutely find ways to work together to improve the situation of refugees everywhere.