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Drumroll… UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants to be held 19 September 2016

1 refugees and migrants walking
Refugees and migrants make their way to the border between Serbia and Hungary in the hopes of continuing their journey onwards. Photo: © UNHCR Hollandse Hoogte/Warren Richardson

29.08.2016 – The UN General Assembly will host a high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach.

While Europe’s struggle to manage more than one million refugees and migrants who arrived via the Mediterranean has dominated the Western media, the vast majority of the world’s displaced remain in low-and middle-income countries close to situations of conflict.

This is the first time the General Assembly has called for a summit at the Heads of State and Government level on the large movements of refugees and migrants and it is a historic opportunity to come up with a blueprint for a better international response. It is a watershed moment to strengthen governance of international migration and a unique opportunity for creating a more responsible, predictable system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants.

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The meeting will take place on 19 September from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in New York.

The Summit calls upon the expertise of a wide range of people. In attendance will be members of migrant and refugee communities and representatives from civil society and the private sector, in addition to heads of state and government. Specifically, there will be officials present such as the President of the World Bank Group, High Commissioners for Refugees and Human Rights, the Director General of the International Organisation for Migration, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for International Migration, the Executive Director of UN-Women on behalf of the Global Migration Group, the Executive of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Secretary General and Presidents of the 70th and 71st sessions of the General Assembly.

H.E. Mrs. Dina Kawar, Permanent Representative of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and H.E. Mr. David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland have been appointed as co-facilitators to lead open, transparent and inclusive consultations with Member States to finalise the organisational arrangements, including on a possible outcome.

3 ki moon visits refugee camp
Secretary-General Visits Syrian Refugee Camp in Beqaa Valley, Lebanon. Photo: UN/Mark Garten

The day will involve sessions on:

  • 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 the 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;
  • Addressing vulnerabilities of refugees and migrants on their journeys from their countries of origin to their countries of arrival.

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Maribeth was displaced from the department of Chocó, on the pacific coast of Colombia... Now 41, she has never returned to her home town. Photo: © UNHCR/Helena Christensen

Core issues such as personal identity have already been broached, with H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisation, stating that “At the heart of migration are human beings with human rights. The term ‘migrant’ describes what they do, but not ‘who they are’.”

Maintaining the human and practical considerations of this pressing issue promises thought-provoking work from the Summit. As Al-Nasser added, “We need to strengthen the culture of peace and work towards achieving the ultimate goal of living together in harmonious, inclusive and peaceful societies”.

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