2021: At the midpoint between Forums

Looking back and charting the future

2021: At the midpoint between Forums

Looking back and charting the future

High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi chairs the High-Level Officials Meeting taking place virtually in Geneva on 14 and 15 December 2021. From left to right: H.E Ms. Shara Duncan Villalobos, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of Costa Rica; H.E. Mr. Jürg Lauber, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Switzerland; Mr. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Ms. Ellen Hansen, Head of Governance Service, UNHCR.

Two years ago, the first Global Refugee Forum took place. Not only was it the first event of its kind, but it was also an important benchmark in the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees. Soon after, the world was confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the global refugee response. The context and environment we had all planned on had completely changed.  

While the pandemic amplified already existing concerns, especially relating to education, border closings, and livelihoods, it also highlighted the relevance of the Compact – its principles of solidarity, inclusion, and protection, and the criticality of the multi-stakeholder and partnership approach at its centre. 

This was further illustrated by the first Global Compact on Refugees Indicator Report published this year. It demonstrated progress made in key areas starting in 2016, when the New York Declaration was adopted, calling for the development of the Compact. It revealed obstacles we still have to overcome, and where we need to focus our efforts for refugees and host communities, including as we look ahead to the next Global Refugee Forum. Unfortunately, low- and middle-income countries host more than 90 per cent of the world’s refugees, and the numbers of refugees are growing around the world. Responsibility sharing therefore must continue to be stepped up across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. 

The High-Level Officials Meeting gave us a chance to reflect on progress made towards more equitable and predictable responsibility sharing, and it charted the direction for the future. It concluded an eventful year that saw 226 new pledges. In 2021, we received over 800 updates, and 75 per cent of the pledges updated were reported to be in progress. The number of pledges fulfilled has continued to grow.  

It was very encouraging to see the international community gather to renew its commitment to improve protection, assistance, and solutions for people forced to flee and those who host them. More than 1,300 of you joined the event online, and more than 350 pieces of related content were received for the Virtual Space. The diversity of stakeholders participating showed that despite our not being able to meet in person this year, the momentum felt at the first Global Refugee Forum is still going strong. 

In these difficult and still unpredictable times, translating more of these pledges into concrete impacts in the lives of refugees and host communities is crucial. We look forward to receiving further updates on how the Compact is affecting lives, and on new pledges and pledge matches.  

In looking to the future, the meeting this December showed where more progress is needed to step up support, including through bilateral development cooperation and our work with international financial institutions. We need to bring more local actors, including refugees, as partners to the table. Further efforts to ensure access to education are urgently required, especially at the secondary level. Inclusive policies that enable access to work and alleviate poverty need to be translated into action. More countries are encouraged to offer resettlement places, and more opportunities for resettlement and complementary pathways are needed. And finally, we need greater investments in peacebuilding, addressing root causes, and creating conditions for voluntary return. At the halfway mark between Forums, we must continue to sustain this impetus to leave no one behind.  

As this year is ending, I would like to send my best wishes to you and thank all who have continued to support forcibly displaced people and their host communities in this international effort.  

Notwithstanding the challenges, what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019 – “This has the makings of a success. Making it a success is incumbent on all of us.” – still holds true today. 

The Global Compact on Refugees remains a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to create new initiatives and find new solutions for refugees and the countries and communities hosting them. We must remain committed. Together, we will meet the objectives of the Global Compact for Refugees. 

Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, UNHCR

Woman sitting at podium