2016 Global Response

Migrants, including small children, on the move in Miratovac, Serbia

The large forced displacement of populations is a global crisis that requires a collective effort by the international community, led by world leaders. UN Secretary-General has called on everyone to work together to define a clear path forward guided by international refugee law, human rights and humanitarian law.

Record-breaking numbers of refugees and migrants are moving across international borders, fleeing conflict, persecution, poverty and other life-threatening situations, or responding to labour and skill shortages and demographic changes and seeking better opportunities elsewhere. Their journeys can be fraught with peril; appalling tales of tragedies feature daily in the headlines. Those that make it to a destination are frequently met with hostility and intolerance. Those host communities making an effort to provide relief are often unprepared and overburdened by the sheer numbers arriving. Responsibilities are not well distributed: a small number of countries and host communities host disproportionate numbers of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

Beyond loss of life, the large displacement of populations has broader implications for the social, economic, and political landscape

The international response needs to be more robust and collaborative amongst a variety of stakeholders to address large movements of refugees and migrants. The UN system, NGOs and partners are all working to highlight the issue, to secure commitments for assistance and to strengthen the collective response to the crisis.

Global response

Large-scale mixed movements of refugees and migrants affecting all UN Member States and they require closer cooperation and more robust responsibility-sharing. In response, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) took action to address the issue, deciding to convene a high-level plenary meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants on the 19 September 2016 and requesting UN Secretary-General to prepare a report with recommendations on the issue.

With the highest level of humanitarian needs since the Second World War, the UN Secretary-General has said “This is not just a crisis of numbers, it is also a crisis of solidarity.” The Secretary-General issued his recommendations on 9 May 2016 in a report 'In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.'

A global series of event have taken place to build momentum around this issue including:

  • At the Supporting Syria Conference in London in February 2016, donors pledged a record $10 billion for refugees from Syria and the region. In view of the magnitude of the Syrian crisis and its impact on other nations, near and further afield, UNHCR in March 2016, organized a ministerial-level meeting to focus on more equitable responsibility sharing through Pathways for Admission of Syrian refugees. 
  • The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) on 23- 24 May 2016 in Istanbul. One of the priorities of the Summit is to look at ways of ensuring a “global approach to manage forced displacement, with an emphasis on ensuring hope and dignity for refugees or internally displaced people, and support of host countries and communities.”
  • The UN General Assembly High Level meeting on 19 September brought countries together around one plan. Member States reached agreement by consensus on a powerful outcome document: The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The Declaration expresses the political will of world leaders to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale.
  • On the margins of the General Assembly, on 20 September 2016, United States President hosted the Leaders' Summit on Refugees which appealed to governments to pledge significant new commitments on refugees.
  • In March 2017 the UN Secretary-General appointed Louise Arbour of Canada as his Special Representative for International Migration. The Special Representative will lead the follow-up to the migration-related aspects of the UN Summit  2016

What will happen next?

While Member States, the UN system, civil society and partners continue to provide day to day support to migrants and refugees, there are critical steps that the international system must take as follow up to the New York Declaration:

  • Negotiations have started that will lead to the adoption of a Global Compact for Migration at an international conference in 2018. The agreement to move toward this comprehensive framework is a momentous one. It means that migration, like other areas of international relations, will be guided by a set of common principles and approaches
  • Guidelines will be developed on the treatment of migrants in vulnerable situations. These guidelines will be particularly important for the increasing number of unaccompanied children on the move. 
  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees will propose a Global Compact on Refugees for adoption by the General Assembly in 2018. The aim is to achieve a more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees 


Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders in September 2015 will mobilize efforts to collectively end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, many of the reasons for large displacements of populations. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals regarding migration, refugees and development, countries of origin, transit and destination are required to cooperate around a series of common principles and approaches, which include focusing on the link between development, human rights and migration and refugees.