In a significant turn of events, the Australian government announced this week that it will ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), a vital addition to the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
The Global Compact on Refugees
On 26 June 2018, UNHCR released the Final Draft of the Global Compact on Refugees. This Compact represents a long-awaited re-assessment of the ways in which States can fairly share their responsibilities to refugees. The Compact addresses:
- the importance of cooperation between States in ensuring that refugees are protected and long-term solutions achieved
- the increasingly urgent issue of how refugees should be treated prior to a decision being made on their status, and
- how to facilitate greater investment and involvement of different stakeholders in responding to mass movements of people in the future.
Where has the Compact come from?
In the 2016 New York Declaration, all UN Member States agreed to work towards the adoption in 2018 of a Global Compact on Refugees. The Declaration set out a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). The CRRF intends to improve international practice with regard to refugees, and has four objectives:
- to ease pressures on countries hosting large numbers of refugees
- to enhance refugee self-reliance
- to expand third-country solutions for refugees, and
- to support conditions in countries of origin to facilitate return in safety and dignity.
Through the measures implemented to meet these goals, the CRRF laid the foundations for the Global Compact on Refugees. The Global Compact on Refugees is the result of lessons learnt from the application and development of the CRRF.
Moving towards a more humane system
The draft Compact formed the basis of formal consultations with Member States led by UNHCR, between February and July of 2018.
Australia’s response to and role in the Global Compact on Refugees was a focus of RCOA’s Refugee Alternatives Conference from 13–14 February 2018. The conference also considered how to make real the commitments made in the New York Declaration by developing a Program of Action for Australia. The conference was an opportunity for people affected by Australia’s refugee program to have their say and hear from others.
As well as developing ideas for a national Program of Action, RCOA has taken some of the findings from the Refugee Alternatives Conference to international discussions in Geneva, as it did in 2017. Along with other Australian NGOs and refugee community advocates, RCOA will be in dialogue with UNHCR about the Global Compact and CRRF.
Major changes between drafts
Third draft and final draft
Here are the major changes between the third draft, released on 4 June 2018, and the final draft of the Compact. Most of these changes are small adjustments to the text of the document and are informed by the requests of delegates in formal consultations or written submissions.
- The sections on forums and review have been altered to establish the following processes:
- Global Refugee Forums will take place every four years, beginning in 2019
- High-level officials will meet every two years in between forums, with the first meeting taking place in 2021
- The High Commissioner for Refugees will undertake annual reporting to the General Assembly
- Indicators for the program’s objectives will be developed before the first Forum in 2019. These indicators will be used to measure ‘success’ under the Compact.
- The section on data and evidence has been streamlined for purposes of consistency.
- There is emphasis on the intertwined and independent nature of the Compact’s four objectives. ‘Broadening the basis of support’ has also been inserted as a focal point.
- It has been stressed that certain sections of the Compact (Part III.B) are not intended to be exhaustive, prescriptive or to impose more burdens on host countries.
- The sections Gender, Children and Youth and Tolerance and peaceful coexistence have been renamed.
Second to third draft
These changes were made between the second and third draft”
- Generally, the document has been shortened by two pages
- Reference is made to the principle of sovereign equality of States (paragraph 2) and to the importance of national ownership and leadership.
- It is made clearer that climate, environmental degradation, and natural disasters are not themselves causes of refugee movements, but may interact with the drivers of refugee movements.
- There is another paragraph which recognises the fact that movements are not always homogenous, taking into account various interventions by States. This paragraph has been carefully drafted to reflect operational realities, in a spirit of consensus, also focusing on the practical cooperation between relevant actors including UNHCR and IOM.
- Age, gender, disabilities and diversity considerations continue to be taken into account, with additional emphasis on supporting and empowering youth, including in the section on children as well as older persons. The section previously entitled “social cohesion” has been renamed “tolerance and peaceful coexistence” and has been strengthened.
Read the full summary of the main changes here.
- Read more background information provided by UNHCR on the development of the Draft
- Read the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law’s resources on the Global Compact