During a panel discussion in Geneva, IDLO Director-General Irene Khan suggested that out-of-the-box partnerships, flexibility and investment in innovative ideas could help the international community address the world’s refugee problems.
Speaking about examples of successful burden- and responsibility-sharing arrangements between states, Ms. Khan referred to refugee flows from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. An action plan was brokered to give refugees temporary asylum in neighboring countries prior to resettlement in the West, effectively allowing more than 500,000 people to depart Vietnam legally.
Some of the most significant achievements of the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indochinese Refugees included its ability to bring governments together to find humanitarian solutions in a highly political scene, and the geopolitical shift towards a recognition that refugee protection could not be isolated from non-refugee outflows.
“The risk and the danger in the humanitarian sector has been treating refugee problems as silos to be resolved here and now, without linking them to very important peacebuilding initiatives on one side, and longer term development initiatives on the other,” said Ms. Khan.
“What we are all struggling to find is this integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to solving problems. Refugee problems, humanitarian problems are not problems that are created on their own. They arise from situations of conflict. Unless the broader context is addressed, we see other problems emerging later on.”
Ms. Khan also referenced IDLO’s work in Central America, where the organization has taken a a multi-disciplinary approach to help women migrant victims of violence access legal orientation and assistance, and build the capacity of community leaders and civil society representatives working with migrant women.
In September 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, affirming the political will of the international community to address large movements of refugees and migrants and protracted refugee situations. Amongst other things, the New York Declaration called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to develop a ‘Global Compact on Refugees’, consisting of a framework to guide the refugee response and a program of action setting forth the steps for its implementation.
The event in Geneva kicked off a series of thematic discussions organized by UNHCR in an effort to conduct multi-stakeholder consultations with states and other stakeholders. Chaired by Volker Turk, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, the panel also included a former Foreign Minister of Tunisia and academics from Costa Rica and Australia.