Refugee Council of Australia
Panel at UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2017
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New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants

On 19 September 2016, 193 countries made a series of commitments to refugees and migrants in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The New York Declaration includes a range of commitments to protect refugees and migrants.  The Declaration also sets out steps for developing a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and a Global Compact on migration in the next two years.

What is a Declaration?

It is an international agreement between countries. While it is not legally binding, it sets out goals and norms that can be very valuable.

What does the Declaration say?

The New York Declaration contains commitments to:

  • Protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status. This includes the rights of women and girls and promoting their full, equal and meaningful participation in finding solutions
  • Ensure that all refugee and migrant children are receiving education within a few months of arrival
  • Prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence
  • Support those countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants
  • Work towards ending the practice of detaining children for the purposes of determining their migration status
  • Strongly condemn xenophobia against refugees and migrants and support a global campaign to counter it
  • Strengthen the positive contributions made by migrants to economic and social development in their host countries
  • Improve the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance to those countries most affected, including through innovative multilateral financial solutions, with the goal of closing all funding gaps
  • Implement a comprehensive refugee response, based on a new framework that sets out the responsibility of Member States, civil society partners and the UN system, whenever there is a large movement of refugees or a protracted refugee situation
  • Find new homes for all refugees identified by UNHCR as needing resettlement
  • Expand the opportunities for refugees to relocate to other countries through, for example, labour mobility or education schemes, and
  • Strengthen the global governance of migration by bringing the International Organization for Migration into the UN system.

Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework

The Declaration called upon UNHCR to develop and start implementing a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. The framework is designed to provide a comprehensive response to particular situations where people are fleeing danger.

An annex to the Declaration set out key elements for this framework. These would include:

  • rapid and well-supported reception and admissions
  • support for immediate and ongoing needs such as protection, health and education
  • help for local and national institutions and communities receiving refugees, and
  • expanded opportunities for durable solutions.

The practical application of the CRRF will inform the preparation of a global compact on refugees, to be included in the High Commissioner’s annual report to the General Assembly in 2018. Read more here about how UNHCR is developing the Framework.

The Declaration also sets out steps towards a Global Compact on Migration, the development of which will be led by the International Organization for Migration. As with the Global Compact for Refugees, it is intended that this should be ready for adoption by 2018.

Australia’s response to the New York Summit

Following the meeting of the UN General Assembly, then US President Barack Obama hosted a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees. Australia came to this summit, where leaders were expected to bring fresh commitments to help refugees. However, Australia’s commitments were deeply disappointing.

Australia pledged to maintain an annual quota of 18,750 places in the Refugee and Humanitarian Program. However, the Australian Government had previously committed to such an increase by 2018-2019, with the new commitment only being to continue beyond those financial years with the same number of places. It is also still less than the 20,000 places provided by the Labor government in 2012-13.

Australia also pledged to give $130 million in new funding over 3 years to support peace-building and assistance to refugees in host states. This, of course, compares poorly to the billions spent on offshore processing in the last three years. Finally, Australia agreed to participate in a scheme operated by the US to protect refugees from Central America. However, very few people are likely to be resettled under this scheme.

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