A channel for protection: 1st International Forum on Complementary Pathways

Screenshot from one of the online sessions at the forum on complementary pathways
Complementary pathways for admission to third countries

A channel for protection: 1st International Forum on Complementary Pathways

22 December 2022

Between 7 – 25 November 2022, UNHCR’s Division of International Protection cooperated with the International Institute of Humanitarian Law of Sanremo and its Department of International Refugee Law and Migration Law in organizing the first International Forum on Complementary Pathways for Admission of Refugees to Third Countries. This three-week online event convened more than 190 representatives of governments, refugee-led organizations, academic institutions, the private sector, civil society, international organizations, and other stakeholders from more than 65 countries around the world to advocate for the establishment and expansion of complementary pathways for refugees.

The Forum on Complementary Pathways raised awareness about complementary pathways and advocated for their expansion as an additional channel of protection to the traditional durable solutions for refugees. These complementary routes directly contribute to equitable responsibility-sharing and help meet three of the Global Compact on Refugees' (GCR) objectives.

While focusing mainly on third country education and labour mobility pathways, the event also gave stakeholders involved in all forms of complementary pathways the opportunity to discuss the international institutional framework. Additionally, the Forum on Complementary Pathways presented best practices from different countries and regions while highlighting potential barriers that refugees face when trying to access third countries.

The panelists in the nine discussions included representatives of different stakeholder groups from over 15 countries that have been involved in facilitating refugees’ access to opportunities to pursue higher education or work in third countries, as well as refugees who shared their experiences of accessing such pathways themselves. The overall goal was to present an overarching perspective on why complementary pathways represent an important opportunity for refugees and how they can benefit host societies.

The diversity of speakers was highly appreciated by participants, particularly the presence of refugee beneficiaries of pathways on different panels, which provided an opportunity to ask targeted questions and benefit from the insight of people with lived experience of displacement. Finally, participants greatly welcomed the opening address by Assistant High-Commissioner for Protection (AHC-P) Gillian Triggs, who provided an overview of the importance of complementary pathways in facilitating access to protection and solutions.

This Forum on Complementary Pathways is part of the pledges made by the Department at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019 to develop curricula focused on key areas in need of support of the Global Compact on Refugees, building the capacities of governments, academic institutions, civil society, and international organizations who could positively influence the protection of refugees, and facilitating the sharing of best practices and experiences among participants of an international background.

Following the closing of the event, participants were invited to share their next steps to continue promoting complementary pathways within their organizations and countries. The initiative has been welcomed with enthusiasm by participants who are already submitting suggestions for activities, some of which will be developed in partnership with stakeholders from the Forum on Complementary Pathways.

UNHCR and its partners will continue working on facilitating complementary pathways and mobilizing a whole-of-society approach to provide opportunities for refugees to be able to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity, while benefiting their communities.