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Taking responsibility and sharing the burden – eight questions on the Global Refugee Forum

Children standing in front of tents of the UNHCR

The international community adopted the Global Compact on Refugees one year ago., © dpa

02.12.2019 - Article

The international community adopted the Global Compact on Refugees one year ago. The Global Refugee Forum will take place in Geneva in mid‑December and will address the implementation of the Compact. What will be discussed there and what role will Germany play?

A year ago, the vast majority of the world’s countries reached agreement for the first time on a comprehensive framework on refugee issues. The aim of this Global Compact on Refugees is to improve international cooperation on refugee issues and to achieve more equitable burden‑sharing. How can the Global Compact on Refugees help to achieve this? And how much progress has been made on implementing it?

You will find answers to the most important questions here.

1. What is the Global Compact on Refugees?

The Global Compact on Refugees is the first comprehensive framework on more equitable international responsibility and burden‑sharing in the refugee context. The Compact was adopted on 17 December 2018 by the vast majority of UN member states (almost 94 percent of the member states voted in favour of it, while only two voted against and three countries abstained.)

The Global Compact on Refugees has four main goals:

  • to reduce the pressure on host countries
  • to foster refugees’ autonomy
  • to expand access to third‑country solutions, that is, resettlement and other humanitarian host programmes
  • to promote the conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity to their country of origin

2. What obligations arise for Germany from the Global Compact on Refugees?

The Global Compact on Refugees is not an international agreement and is not legally binding. Countries have sovereignty as regards deciding whether and how to support and implement measures politically, and do so at their own responsibility.

Germany already meets the main goals of the Compact, and in fact does more than required in many areas. The measures of the Global Compact on Refugees are funded by voluntary contributions. The Compact does not create any compulsory direct costs for the German Government.

3. How can it be ensured that the Global Compact on Refugees is implemented?

The situation facing refugees and host countries would improve if the Compact were implemented worldwide and pledges were kept. Various steps will be taken to monitor implementation of the Compact. These will include Global Refugee Forums, meetings at senior official level and an annual report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to the UN General Assembly.

In Germany, refugee issues have already been included in the Sustainability Strategy, the German Government’s framework for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The German Government also regards the further development of its National Integration Action Plan as important in achieving the goals of the Global Compact on Refugees in Germany, particularly in the field of local integration.

4. What is the purpose of the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva in December?

A Global Refugee Forum will be held every four years in order to monitor implementation of the Compact. The first Global Refugee Forum will open in Geneva on 17 December 2019. The six priorities of the event are burden and responsibility‑sharing; energy and infrastructure; education; solutions to refugee situations; jobs and livelihoods; and protection capacity.

All UN member states and other relevant interested parties are called on to announce voluntary concrete pledges and contributions during the Forum aimed at achieving the goals of the Global Compact on Refugees and to review progress made to date on reaching these goals.

5. Who will attend the Global Refugee Forum and how can I follow the event?

Representatives of all 193 UN member states, NGOs, associations, companies and refugees have been invited to attend. The Forum is open to the public. The programme is available on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

6. As regards implementing the Global Compact on Refugees, the German Government has taken on a special role as co-convener of the Global Refugee Forum. Why?

As a major donor and host country, Germany was highly involved in drawing up the Global Compact on Refugees. The German Government is committed to protecting refugees internationally and to the goals and approaches laid down in the Global Compact on Refugees. It wants to play an active role in fostering more equitable international sharing of responsibility and burdens.

Along with other member states (Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Turkey), and with Switzerland as the co‑host, Germany is thus taking on the role of co‑convener of the Global Refugee Forum. In the run‑up to the event, the German Government has called on other member states to send high‑level representation to the Forum and to make substantial voluntary commitments to implementing the Global Compact on Refugees.

7. What role will the German Government play at the Global Refugee Forum?

The German Government will take part in the various elements of the programme. Germany has taken on the role of co‑sponsor of education, one of the six priority issues. In its role as Chair of the Sub-Working Group on Tertiary Education, Germany will co‑organise a spotlight session on this topic.

Among other things, the German Government will call on more countries to contribute to the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative, the UNHCR‑run university fellowship programme that has been funded entirely funded by Germany so far. This programme enables young refugees to study in their host country.

8. How will the German Government provide information on the Global Refugee Forum?

As during the consultations on the Global Compact on Refugees, the German Government will inform parliament and the public via various forums and channels such as websites and social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter). Further information on the first Global Refugee Forum is also available (here, here and here) on UNHCR websites.

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