The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) recognizes that increased parliamentary engagement is necessary to create the political will and momentum for its successful implementation. The adoption of a resolution and publication of a report in support of refugees by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) this month is another milestone in cementing the support of parliaments for the implementation of the GCR.
The PACE resolution, the “Role of parliaments in implementing the United Nations Global Compacts for Migrants and Refugees”, encourages European parliamentarians to champion and apply the principles and arrangements outlined in the GCR and the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The report identifies the urgent need in the face of COVID-19, for parliaments to promote actively solidarity with refugees and migrants at home and abroad, highlighting the universal values of humanity and dignity for all.
How parliamentarians discuss different issues and the laws they pass profoundly affects refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, and stateless persons. This is increasingly relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: parliaments play a crucial role in countering xenophobia and ensuring inclusive responses to the pandemic that consider age, gender, and diversity.
“Parliaments need to put in place legislative and budgetary measures that will help manage refugee causes and create environments where refugees and host communities can live together,” said Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). “In conclusion to the 142nd IPU Assembly held last week, our Member Parliaments confirmed that the post-COVID world would only be better if we have the courage to take bold measures to protect the rights of men and women, including refugees. We have the tools to do it. What we need now is the political will.”
At the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) in December 2019, regional and international parliaments submitted 11 pledges in support of the GCR objectives, while several other State pledges made require parliamentary action and involvement through oversight, legislative, policymaking, budgetary, and opinion-shaper functions.
UNHCR's global-level partnership with the IPU led to the IPU making a pledge at the GRF to support the GCR and the #IBelong campaign to end Statelessness. UNHCR and IPU are in close cooperation to mobilize and raise awareness of parliaments on issues of forced displacement and to support parliaments at the national and regional levels through capacity building and peer-to-peer exchanges.
In this regard, the IPU and UNHCR co-hosted a Global Webinar on Parliamentary Action to End Statelessness by 2024, where Members of Parliaments from Indonesia, Madagascar, and Albania shared good parliamentary practices and lessons learned. During the 142nd IPU Assembly, a political statement calling upon members to accede to the 1961 Convention on the reduction of Statelessness was adopted, marking the Convention’s 60th anniversary.
In response to COVID-19 and as pledged at the GRF, the IPU ensured that refugees were included in its Road map for action on women’s, children’s and adolescents (Handbook for Parliamentarians N° 31) health, and Guidance Notes for Parliaments on COVID-19 and Human Rights and COVID-19 and Gender.
Another parliamentary commitment towards implementing the GCR and protection responses and solutions for refugees in Africa is the Midrand Declaration adopted by 15 African parliaments and the Pan-African Parliament (PAP). The PAP submitted five pledges at the GRF and the High-Level Segment on Statelessness. Members of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) committed to the crafting of a Model Law on the subject of ‘Statelessness in Africa’ in collaboration with UNHCR, legal experts, and the PAP Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolution.
Parliaments around the world are stepping up to the challenge to ensure that no one is left behind and will keep doing so. Parliamentary action plans are being developed for the implementation of pledges submitted in 2019, and momentum will continue as UNHCR and IPU jointly support the development of new pledges by parliaments in the lead-up to the next GRF in 2023.