February 5, 2019 – A Canadian-led group says the global refugee system faces collapse unless fundamental changes are made to the way the world responds to humanitarian crises.
The World Refugee Council, led by former Canadian foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy, has called for the formation of a Global Action Network spearheaded by like-minded countries to replace the current United Nations-linked top down approach.
In 55 bold recommendations made by the WRC in a new report, the group calls for an end to ad hoc responses from individual nations in favour of a more flexible approach to individual situations.
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The call to action, released on January 24 at the UN Headquarters in New York, proposed such actions as confiscating foreign assets of corrupt rulers to fund refugee relief and creating an early warning system to help forecast situations that could force people to become refugees.
Beginning with a small group of five or six countries, the Global Action Network would involve partnerships among nations, non-governmental organisations, other international bodies and the UN.
The report put forward some startling statistics, including that 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced as of June 2018, up from 51.2 million in 2013. The figures include both those displaces within their own countries and those who left their homeland.
“The WRC recognizes that this is an ambitious agenda for change, particularly given the present negative climate toward refugees, and that priorities will need to be set,” the report says.
“Nonetheless, the Council is convinced that without bold change, the system will ultimately collapse.
The report continues: “It is worth the effort to devote substantial resources of time, energy and funds to strengthen the present global refugee system to meet the needs of both today’s and tomorrow’s refugees and internally displace people (IDPs).”
The WRC report follows Canada’s adoption in December of the UN Global Compact on Migration of Refugees, after two years of negotiations just to agree on the language. The compact aims to improve cooperation and the sharing of responsibilities within the existing UN-led framework.
Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the Global Compact would help form a ‘useful framework’ for migration, enhancing cooperation and communication.
He also stressed it was not legally binding, and that many of the objectives set out in the compact were already being done in Canada. Canada has been actively engaged in the development of the compact.
The Ontario-based Centre for International Governance Innovation launched the World Refugee Council in 2017 as a body of global political figures tasked with forming an action plan to tackle a growing global refugee crisis.
The Global Action Network aims to initially bring together those willing to tackle the root of the problem, while at the same time helping those currently in its grip.
“Together, the recommendations provide the basis for a “new deal” between refugee hosting and donor states, supported by others, that will demonstrate the benefits of collective action and inspire the will needed to pursue multilateral responses to protection and solutions for refugees,” the report states.
“The reforms around responsibility sharing, governance, finance and accountability can be used as incentives for host states to engage with the Global Action Network and be part of the coalition.
“They can also be used as opportunities to build trust among key constituencies and to foster a collaborative environment in which collective action can be advanced.”
Other key action points include:
- Greater accountability by insisting on consequences for those who cause forced displacement and for member states who do not do their part in responding when it occurs.
- Address the great funding and institutional gaps between refugees and IDPs.
- Better anticipate and respond to forced displacement and to convene appropriate parties in the search for solutions.
- Pass laws that empower the government to confiscate frozen assets within their jurisdictions, and to repurpose those assets for the benefit of the population of the country of origin, with special consideration for the interests of the forcibly displaced.
- Favourable trade agreements to benefit countries hosting large numbers of refugees to ease economic and political pressure.
- Special consideration to host countries when establishing terms for loans and investments.
- Adopting and promoting practices and policies to change the negative narrative attached to refugees and asylum seekers.
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