By Leah Zamore
Approximately half of the total number of refugees are women or girls. To meet the promise of the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, the Global Compact on Refugees and its Programme of Action must specifically address the rights and the needs of over half the world’s refugees at every stage in displacement and recovery.
Humanitarian organisations rescue endangered populations in zones that have been devastated by natural disasters and violent conflict, on the paths of exodus and in camps for survivors, refugees and displaced people. Help is focused, as is necessary, on vital needs such as health care, food, drinking water, sanitary facilities and shelters. In the last few years however, humanitarian actors have become increasingly aware of the consequences of humanitarian crisis on individuals’ and communities’ mental and psychosocial health. When one’s refugee status lasts, access to information, education and culture become a necessity.
Producing (or revising) a more functional and responsive refugee regime is the primary goal of a global refugee compact. An accountability mechanism would be a valuable supplement to this project.
Strengthening the Refugee Regime calls for enhancing responsibility sharing. Responsibility sharing was a central commitment in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It also is a key commitment in the preamble to the landmark 1951 Refugee Convention. Countries of first refuge are promised that their providing refuge will be met by “international cooperation,” though without specifying its content. Yet, just as the 1951 Refugee Convention failed to define what international cooperation meant; so too the New York Declaration is – as was the Humanitarian Summit before it – long on principles; and short on specific commitments.
This paper addresses the current refugee definition and discusses how categories of protected persons might be expanded.