UN holds first-ever summit on refugees and migrants

UNITED NATIONS: The issue of what to do about the world’s 65.3 million displaced people takes center stage at the United Nations General Assembly when leaders from around the globe converge on New York for the first-ever summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.

With more people forced to flee their homes than at any time since World War II, leaders and diplomats are expected to approve a document aimed at unifying the UN’s 193 member states behind a more coordinated approach that protects the human rights of refugees and migrants.

“It’s very interesting because if we are able to translate that paper into a response in which many actors are going to participate, we will solve a lot of problems in emergency responses and in long-term refugee situations like the Syrian situation,” Fillipo Grandi, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees told reporters.

That may prove an uphill struggle, however, as the document is not legally binding and comes at a time that refugees and migrants have become a divisive issue in Europe and the United States.

A number of countries rejected an earlier draft of the agreement that called on nations to resettle 10 percent of the refugee population each year, something that has led a number of human rights groups to criticize the document as a missed opportunity.

The US and a number of other countries also objected to language in the original draft that said children should never be detained, so the agreement now says children should seldom, if ever, be detained.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose report on refugees and migrants laid the basis for the summit document, said he was aware of the criticism from non-governmental groups.

“While we all wish it could be a stronger outcome document … all 193 member states had to agree on their commitment. As you will see, my report was a strong one,” Ban said. “I hope that, as the two compacts are adopted over the coming year and a half, some stronger language and commitment and elements from the report will reappear in the course of this negotiation,”.

First-ever summit on refugees and migrants: Facts

When and where? The Summit is an all day event on Monday 19 September 2016 at the UNHQ in New York.

Who is organizing? The High Level summit is being organized by the President of the General Assembly on behalf of Member States.

In January 2016, the Secretary-General appointed a Special Adviser, Karen AbuZayd, to work with United Nations entities and undertake consultations with Member States and other relevant stakeholders in the lead up to the Summit.

Participation The Summit will be attended by heads of state and government, Ministers, and leaders from the UN System, civil society, private sector, international organizations, academia, and beyond in alignment with the General Assembly resolution establishing the summit’s modalities.

Background The UN General Assembly decided to convene a high-level plenary meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants on the 19 September 2016 and requesting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to prepare a report with recommendations on the issue.

– With inputs from www.refugeesmigrants.un.org

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