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UN affirms ‘historic’ global compact to support world’s refugees

UNICEF/Nybo A group of Rohingya refugee children cross a makeshift bamboo bridge in Kutupalong refugee settlement in southern Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are sheltering after being forced to flee their homes in Myanmar.

UNICEF/Nybo
A group of Rohingya refugee children cross a makeshift bamboo bridge in Kutupalong refugee settlement in southern Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are sheltering after being forced to flee their homes in Myanmar.

The United Nations General Assembly affirmed a non-legally binding Global Compact on Refugees on December 17, marking the latest move by Member States to support the rights of 258 million people on the move worldwide.

An overwhelming number of majority States, 181, voted in favor of adopting the compact, with the United States and Hungary opposing the move. The Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya abstained.

UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Chief, Filippo Grandi, said the pact was “historic” and speaking at an event at UN Headquarters in New York to mark the compact, noted it was the first time the Assembly has seen an agreement between and beyond States, that acknowledges the need to work collectively for the rights of refugees.

“In this world of ours, which often turns it back to people in need, that has shamefully politicized even the pain of exile, that has demonized and continues to demonize refugees and migrants and sometimes even just foreigners, this compact, in synergy with the other compact, the compact on migration, can really represent tangibly, a new commitment to international cooperation,” said the UNHCR chief.

He said it represented “a new commitment to shared values of solidarity and the quest to just and sustainable solutions for disadvantaged people.”

This global compact for refugees, which is separate from the newly-adopted Global Compact for Migration, aims to strengthen the international response to large movements of refugees and their protracted situations, and was prompted by the historic, 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, in which all 193 Member States agreed that the protection of refugees should be a shared responsibility.

The Declaration tasked UNHCR with authoring the refugee compact, which came to fruition after 18 months of extensive consultations between Member States, experts, civil society, and refugees.

Just last week, the Global Compact for Migration, also non-legally binding, was adopted by 164 Governments at an international conference in Marrakech, Morocco in a bid to support safe, orderly and regular migration.



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