UN General Assembly Adopts Declaration for Refugees and Migrants


Amidst acclamation of global leaders, the 71st session of the General Assembly adopted the ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants’ today which mapped out a route towards a collective, rights-based response to the unprecedented number of displaced persons around the world. The Declaration (document A/71/L.1), would be of key importance in providing burgeoning numbers of refugees and migrants with desperately needed assistance.  The Declaration recognized that in 2015 alone, the number of migrants had surpassed 244 million, in addition to roughly 65 million forcibly displaced persons, including more than 21 million refugees, 3 million asylum seekers and over 40 million internally displaced persons.

The Member States endorsed the Declaration agreeing to a set of commitments, acknowledging a shared responsibility to manage large movements of refugees and migrants in a humane, sensitive, compassionate and people-centred manner.  They agreed to do so through international cooperation while fully recognizing the varying national capacities and resources in responding to those movements,

The Declaration underlined the importance of working collectively and, in particular, with origin, transit and destination countries, noting that “win-win” cooperation in that area would have profound benefits for humanity.  The declaration’s outlined a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, as well as a comprehensive refugee response framework.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights, recalled that “the bitter truth is, this summit was called because we have been largely failing”.  The summit “cannot be reduced to speeches and feel-good interviews”, he said, emphasizing the urgent need for action.

To foster such action, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a new global campaign called “Together — Respect, Safety and Dignity for All”.  He urged States to join the campaign and commit to concrete steps in that direction adding that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was advancing the same principles as the Declaration, with the common goal of leaving no one behind.

Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the seventy-first session of the General Assembly, expressed hope that the new campaign would help to overcome the hostile and hateful rhetoric that some refugees and migrants were facing.  “The well-being of millions rests with us at the United Nations,” he said.  “We must not fail them in their hour of need.”

Also during the opening segment, Secretary-General Ban and Director General William Lacy Swing signed the United Nations-International Organization for Migration (IOM) Agreement.

Throughout the day, almost 200 Heads of State and Government, senior officials, representatives and observers agreed that countries must together embrace a robust action plan to address the needs of refugees and migrants and fight against the xenophobia they faced.

Also delivering statements during the opening segment were Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson; Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group; Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Ms.  Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

During the day, Heads of State and Government chaired six round tables covering the following issues:  “addressing the root causes of large movements of refugees”; “addressing drivers of migration, particularly large movements, and highlighting the positive contributions of migrants”; “international action and cooperation on refugees and migrants and issues related to displacement:  the way ahead”; “global compact for responsibility sharing for refugees; respect for international law”; “global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration: towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving full respect for the human rights of migrants”; and “addressing vulnerabilities of refugees and migrants on their journeys from their countries of origin to their countries of arrival”.

Participating in the plenary discussion were Heads of State and Government, as well as other senior officials from 193 member countries of the UN. Presidents or Heads of Governments of the following PPD member countries made statements at the plenary :   Bangladesh, China,  Egypt, Ghana,  Gambia, India, ,  Indonesia,  Jordan, Kenya,  Mexico ,  Morocco,  Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Senegal, Thailand,  Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe. PPD participated in the deliberations and the Executive Director Dr. Joe Thomas delivered a statement at the Plenary on behalf of the organization.

From PPD Permanent Observer at the UN, New York.
19 September 2016

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