Sep 19, 2016

With more people forced to flee their homes than at any time since World War II, world leaders came together at the United Nations today to adopt the New York Declaration, which expresses their political will to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, to save lives and share responsibility for large movements on a global scale.

At the opening of the UN General Assembly’s first-ever Summit for Refugees and Migrants, delegations adopted the landmark Declaration, which contains bold commitments both to address current issues and to prepare the world for future challenges, including, to start negotiations leading to an international conference and the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018, as well as, 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;
  • Find new homes for all refugees identified by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as needing resettlement; and 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 (IOM) into the UN system.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Member States saying: “Today’s Summit represents a breakthrough in our collective efforts to address the challenges of human mobility.” He said the adoption of the New York Declaration will mean that “more children can attend school; more workers can securely seek jobs abroad, instead of being at the mercy of criminal smugglers, and more people will have real choices about whether to move once we end conflict, sustain peace and increase opportunities at home.”movements of refugees and migrants. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly pledged to take forward the commitment of the membership “to begin a process leading to a global compact on migration, as well as to support a global compact on refugees. I will be urging Member States to maintain their high levels of ambition throughout these processes, and to always reach for the higher ground. The fate of millions of refugees and migrants rests with us.”

Mogens Lykketoft, President of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, emphasized that all countries must do their part in responding to the global challenge.

“The desperation and suffering of people in flight tugs at our collective conscience, and compels us all to act compassionately to forge a global response to what is clearly a global challenge,” he said.

Calling on all partners to support implementation of the Declaration’s commitments, Mr. Lykketoft also welcomed the Secretary-General’s campaign to counter xenophobia and intolerance. He said: “In the face of a changing world, it is vital that we do not give in to fear, but that we strive to maintain our principles and common humanity.

As called for in the Declaration, the Secretary-General also launched a new campaign called ‘Together – Respect, Safety and Dignity for All’ to “respond to rising xenophobia and turn fear into hope”. He urged “world leaders to join this campaign and commit together to upholding the rights and dignity of everyone forced by circumstance to flee their homes in search of a better life.”a Pak

Also today, the Secretary-General and William Lacy Swing, the Director-General of the International Organization for Migration, signed the new agreement by which IOM officially becomes a related organization of the United Nations system, thus strengthening the comprehensive global approach to migration.

‘Race-baiting bigots’ will not escape judgement by ‘we the peoples’ – UN rights chief

Also speaking at the opening session, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Husseinunderlined that the Summit and its outcomes should be reduced to speeches, feel-good interviews and self-congratulation.

“The bitter truth is, this Summit was called because we have been largely failing,” he stressed and added that: “It is shameful [that] the victims of abominable crimes should be made to suffer further by our failures to give them protection.”

The UN rights chief underscored that change is possible if the global community acts collectively on this vital subject. However, he also warned that in many countries, people working to ensure the rights, safety and dignity for all peoples are facing grave challenges “by race-baiting bigots, who seek to gain, or retain, power by wielding prejudice and deceit, at the expense of those most vulnerable.”

Pointing to the individuals who continue to pursue extremism and divide people, the UN rights chief said: “We will continue to name you publicly. You may soon walk away from this hall. But not from the broader judgement of ‘we the people’, all the world’s people – not from us.”

New York Declaration fills ‘perennial gap in protection’ – UN refuge agency chief

Also today, in his remarks at the opening session, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandihighlighted that the Summit is an extraordinary opportunity to have real impact for refugees.

Emphasizing the importance of the New York Declaration, Mr. Grandi said that it marked an unprecedented political commitment and that “it fills what has been a perennial gap in the international refugee protection system – that of truly sharing responsibility for refugees, in the spirit of the UN Charter.”

The top UN refugee official also pledged to work with world leaders to manage forced displacement and called on governments to provide political engagement, funding and concrete acts of solidarity in support of host countries and pursuit of solutions for refugees.