2nd International Forum on Complementary Pathways for Refugees

GCR Objective 3: Third-country Solutions

2nd International Forum on Complementary Pathways for Refugees

12 October 2023

On 10 – 27 July 2023, the Department of International Refugee Law and Migration Law of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law of Sanremo and UNHCR’s Division of International Protection Resettlement and Complementary Pathways Service hosted virtually the 2nd International Forum on Complementary Pathways for Admission to Third Countries, on the importance of expanding complementary pathways routes through which refugees can find safety and solutions beyond their asylum country.  

The event drew in over 170 participants, from more than 70 countries, representing governments at the central and regional/local levels and from diplomatic missions, members of the NGO sector, academia, international organizations (including UNHCR), refugee-led organizations and the private sector. 

While the previous edition focused on skills-based pathways (education and labour mobility), this year’s discussion expanded to include family reunification, humanitarian pathways, and private sponsorship. Over the three-week agenda, participants looked at defining the concept of pathways, discerning some of its key benefits for refugees and for host countries, outlining the roles of different stakeholders, and discussing the key place for refugees themselves in the process. Throughout the programme, the Forum showcased practical examples of established and emerging pathways initiatives from around the world.  

The nine panel discussions were built around panellists from diverse backgrounds, representing global, regional, and country-level best practices and frameworks, and included refugees with lived experience of different types of complementary pathways. 

UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, opened the inaugural session and underscored the necessity of the International Forum's objective, especially in light of the upcoming Global Refugee Forum (GRF) in December 2023. To highlight the importance of the GRF, the last session on the agenda focused on the multi-stakeholder pledges relevant to complementary pathways that are meant to streamline global efforts across different countries. 

Feedback from participants indicated the International Forum helped to disseminate crucial knowledge and provided a platform for dialogue that promoted concrete follow-up by the participants exploring the feasibility of establishing new pathway initiatives in their countries. The audience especially valued the first-hand experiences shared by refugees, reinforcing the centrality of their voices and experiences in shaping these pathways. 

The Forum highlighted the benefits that third-country complementary pathways can bring to all parties involved, presenting them as a form of global responsibility sharing that complements the traditional durable solutions for refugees, in the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees. One of the conclusions was that the meaningful and effective involvement of refugees themselves is an important guide in establishing pathway initiatives that effectively materialise refugees’ rights, while at the same time optimising the benefits that refugees can bring to their new host countries.  

The Forum on Complementary Pathways is part of the pledges made by the Department at the GRF in 2019 to develop curricula focused on the Global Compact on Refugees’ key areas in need of support, building the capacities of governments, academic institutions, civil society, and international organisations who could positively influence the protection of refugees, and facilitating the sharing of best practices and experiences among participants from different backgrounds and countries. 

In the context of the 40th anniversary of its global partnership with UNHCR, the Sanremo Institute and its Refugee Department remain committed to promoting complementary pathways and the multi-stakeholder and partnership approach, to provide opportunities for refugees to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity, while benefiting and contributing to their host communities.