'Risks of inaction are considerable', says Ban, urging new compact on refugees and migrants

9 May 2016

'Risks of inaction are considerable', says Ban, urging new compact on refugees and migrants

Macedonia_2016_UNICEF.jpg Despite bold efforts, responses to the large movements of refugees and migrants – which will continue or possibly increase due to such issues as conflict, poverty and disasters – have been largely inadequate, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a new report, calling for the adoption of a global compact on responsibility-sharing that collectively ensures the human rights, safety and dignity of all refugees and migrants.

“Away from the daily headlines and stark images, strains are quietly accumulating on refugees and migrants, as well as on countries and communities that receive them, sometimes for many years,” Mr. Ban stressed in his report to the UN General Assembly, entitled In Safety and Dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants.

“If one lesson can be drawn from the past few years, it is that individual countries cannot solve these issues on their own. International cooperation and action to address large movements of refugees and migrants must be strengthened,” he added.

Any approach should uphold the safety and dignity in large movements of both refugees and migrants, Mr. Ban said, urging Member States to, among other things, address the root causes of such movements, protect people en route and at borders, and prevent discrimination and promote inclusion.

In his report, the Secretary-General also called on Member States to adopt a global compact on responsibility-sharing for refugees, stressing the need to recognize that large movements of refugees as a result of emerging and unresolved conflicts are “profoundly” affecting individuals and Member States, sometimes for protracted periods of time, as well as the need to commit to sharing responsibility for hosting refugees more fairly.

In addition, Mr. Ban called on Member States to undertake a State-led process to elaborate an international cooperation framework on migrants and human mobility, in the form

of a global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration, and to hold an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018 to adopt the global compact.

Upcoming high-level meeting on refugees and migrants

The Secretary-General also emphasized in his report that the UN General Assembly high-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants, to be held on 19 September, will be a “unique opportunity” for world leaders to strengthen and implement existing frameworks, as well as agree on new approaches to address the issue.

“Member States must find ways to govern their national borders effectively while protecting the

human rights of all refugees and migrants,” Mr. Ban said.

“The risks of inaction are considerable. If this opportunity to reinforce respect for international law, put into place new approaches and strengthen common responses is not seized, there will likely be greater loss of life and heightened tensions among Member States and within communities,” he added.

As such, the high-level meeting will be the culmination of several international initiatives in response to global refugee and migrant crises, Mr. Ban said, expressing hope that the meeting will not only galvanize the pledges made at earlier events, but also build on those commitments to address the underlying causes and to strengthen the collective responses to large movements of refugees and migrants.

“The components needed for a comprehensive solution are at hand,” the UN chief said in the report. “The required conventions, frameworks and tools are in place, although some need wider acceptance and all need to be fully implemented.”

Crisis of solidarity

In an opinion piece published by the Huffington Post today, the Secretary-General emphasized that his report is meant to help the international community seize the opportunity that will be provided by the high-level meeting in September.

Noting that more than 60 million people – half of them children – have fled violence or persecution and are now refugees and internally displaced persons, the Secretary-General stressed that an additional 225 million are migrants who have left their countries in search of better opportunities or simply for survival.

“But this is not a crisis of numbers; it is a crisis of solidarity,” Mr. Ban stressed.

“We can afford to help, and we know what we need to do to handle large movements of refugees and migrants. Yet too often, we let fear and ignorance get in the way. Human needs end up overshadowed, and xenophobia speaks louder than reason,” he added.