Is the Global Compact on Refugees any good?
30 October 2018
Throughout 2018, you have walked more than 115,000 miles in solidarity with people forced to flee their homes in the run-up to world leaders agreeing the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration.
Meanwhile, we have been working with our Caritas partners in major refugee-hosting countries such as Lebanon and Jordan to make sure the Compact on Refugees draws on the experiences of both refugees and host communities.
We have also worked with partner organisations and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI) to ensure that the Compact captures the special role of faith-based organisations supporting refugees.
The Compact on Refugees has just been agreed, but what does that mean for those fleeing their homes?
What’s in the Global Compact on Refugees?
At the heart of the Compact is a recognition by world leaders that responding to displacement is a global and collective responsibility. The Compact’s vision is one where people who are forced to flee can benefit from protection, fundamental freedoms and respect for their human rights.
It also says that the countries hosting them can count on international solidarity to support them with material and financial contributions to find solutions to displacement. That’s a strong starting point and a support for an international system that’s been under strain in recent years.
When we started the Share the Journey campaign, we called for world leaders to develop the Compacts with 5 goals in mind. So how does this commitment to refugees measure up?
1. Does the Compact respect human dignity?
The Compact on Refugees recognises the dignity of refugees by explicitly featuring the human needs people on the move have: for work, for education, for healthcare. But as ever with international agreements like these, it will be the implementation of the Compact that will test governments’ commitment to the human dignity of refugees.
2. Does the Compact protect the vulnerable?
One of the more controversial approaches that the Compact takes is in its approach to employment. Work is a crucial part of being human, and refugees should be able to work. But labour protections are important to ensure workers, especially the most vulnerable people, aren’t abused.
The compact seeks “labour mobility for refugees, including through the identification of refugees with skills that are needed in third countries”; that is, countries that are not their country of origin or destination. But it’s important we see refugees differently from simply economic migrants so that we don’t reduce protection into access to jobs or strip refugees of the possibility of resettlement through asylum.
3. Does the Compact support host countries?
60% of the world’s refugees live in one of 10 poor countries. Host communities and their national governments shoulder most of the support for refugees. The Compact clearly recognises that this is not the responsibility of host countries alone and it establishes a series of responsibility-sharing mechanisms to support host countries.
Rich countries will help through providing development aid, preferential trade agreements, private sector investment, and similar measures.
Lebanon hosts over 1 million refugees, the equivalent of 15 million people coming almost overnight to the UK. In this context, the Compact pragmatically calls for measures benefiting both refugees and hosts, such as strengthening the hosting country’s national institutions and health and educational infrastructure, as well as supporting economic development and job creation.
4. Does the Compact keep families together?
The Compact acknowledges that refugees ought to be kept together in families where possible, and calls on states to ensure financial and practical support for family reunification for resettled refugees.
5. Does the Compact tackle the reasons for migration?
War, natural disaster and poverty drive unprecedented numbers of people from their homes. In reality, the Compacts can only deal with the impacts of movement, not the causes. The international community must maintain and extend their commitments to peace-building, tackling climate change and development.
The Compact is expected to be endorsed by members of the UN General Assembly in December 2018. But as with all agreements, implementation is crucial.
We are supporting the bishops in Africa and the Vatican’s Integral Human Development department to find ways to make sure African governments can respond to the Compact so it delivers the benefits it promises to refugees. You can play your own part by joining in our campaigns to help raise the voice of those who flee from the effects of poverty, war and climate change.