Ministers from 69 states will be present but Australian Government ministers noticeably absent when the world gathers in Geneva this week for the largest-ever forum on the global response to refugees.
The Global Refugee Forum, to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday (17-18 December) at the United Nations in Geneva, will bring together around 2000 leaders of government, business, NGOs and refugee networks, to discuss concrete ways of implementing the Global Compact on Refugees over the next four years.
Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) chief executive officer Paul Power said the Australian Government’s failure to send even a junior Minister to the Global Refugee Forum illustrated the government’s lack of interest in working with other governments to find practical solutions for the world’s 70 million forcibly displaced people.
“Last year, Australia joined 180 other UN member states in voting to adopt the Global Compact on Refugees. It is now showing minimal interest in supporting its implementation,” Mr Power said.
“In the Global Compact, governments agreed to meet every four years to review progress on the Compact’s implementation and to make practical commitments for the next four years. This week’s Global Refugee Forum is the first of these meetings, with the next one due in late 2023.
“Despite being formally invited months ago, the Australian Government procrastinated about its response, deciding just two weeks ago that no Minister would attend and that its delegation would be led by a deputy secretary from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a first assistant secretary from the Department of Home Affairs.
“In a forum where governments and businesses are being encouraged to make new commitments to actions which will help refugees to find solutions for their pressing needs, Australia is offering nothing – no new financial commitments, no policy changes and no additional resettlement places.
“Instead, Australia is imposing on other nations, expecting them to step in and take responsibility for refugees it sent to Nauru and PNG but offering no reason for those nations to want to assist Australia. ”
By contrast, refugee-led networks and civil society groups from Australia are making a significant contribution to the Global Refugee Forum. Of the 70 or so refugee leaders involved in the forum, 10 are from Australia and all are playing significant roles in the new Global Refugee-led Network, the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees, UNHCR’s Global Youth Advisory Council, refugee-led education initiatives and efforts to promote the protection of refugee women and girls and LGBTI refugees.
Mr Power is attending the forum with a refugee representative nominated and supported by RCOA, Muzafar Ali, co-founder of Cisarua Learning, the first education centre in Indonesia to be established and run by refugees.
“In recent years, there has been extraordinary growth in refugee-led programs and advocacy,” Mr Power said. “Cisarua Learning is an excellent example of refugees refusing to accept the status quo and getting together to respond to pressing education needs in their own community.
“The Global Refugee-led Network, which was formed only in January this year, is working hard behind the scenes to get governments to pledge to enhance the meaningful participation of refugees and back up this pledge with practical action.
“This week’s Global Refugee Forum will create opportunities for these and other initiatives to be highlighted and promoted, illustrating that community-based actions to find solutions for refugees have a vital role.”
Media enquiries: Laura Stacey on 0488 035 535
The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is the national peak body for refugees and the organisations and individuals who support them.