Initiatives to share global responsibility for refugees

A Global Refugee Forum Update | August 2020
GCR in Action

Initiatives to share global responsibility for refugees

A Global Refugee Forum Update | August 2020
16 September 2020
Initiatives - A GRF Progress update

The Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network launched at the Global Refugee Forum - Switzerland

In addition to the 1,400 pledges made by States and stakeholders, the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) saw the launch of several initiatives envisioned by the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).

Designed to build the capacity of States, foster collaboration with a diverse range of stakeholders, and include refugees as agents of change, each initiative focuses on a specific area where greater burden and responsibility sharing is needed to develop better solutions for refugees. They include: the Asylum Capacity Support Group (ACSG), the Three-Year Strategy on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways, and the Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network (GAIN).

As the second part of a series of progress updates since the GRF, this article will focus on how these initiatives are helping to translate the principles of the GCR into action.

Building better asylum capacity for States

The ACSG is a framework to structure asylum system capacity development initiatives in different countries. It targets positive improvements in one or more of the four characteristics of a robust asylum system: fairness, efficiency, adaptability, and integrity.

Since its launch at the GRF, UNHCR has published the “Guide to the Asylum Capacity Support Group", which outlines the procedures for matching requests by States for asylum capacity support with corresponding offers. The Guide presents the coordination role of the ACSG Secretariat and the prioritization criteria for matching to ensure transparency.

The ACSG Secretariat is in the process of formalizing five matches identified using these criteria and will post information regarding these matches on the ACSG Online Portal, which is due to launch in early autumn 2020​. Looking ahead, the ACSG will continue to assess the potential for additional matches using GRF pledges as well as requests or offers of support that are submitted after the Forum. 

Resettling refugees to safety – the power of data, collaboration, and advocacy  

A woman stands in front of a building that says "University of West London"

In line with the Three-Year Strategy (2019-2021) on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways, in 2019 about 64,000 refugees were resettled in 29 countries following referral by UNHCR. The 2020 target of 70,000 refugees resettled in 31 countries will unfortunately not be met due to a shortfall in resettlement state quotas, further exacerbated by the pause in departures due to COVID-19. Data on complementary pathways will be published later in 2020 in a joint UNHCR-OECD report on complementary pathways, with a wider country representation and based upon an upgraded methodology.   

A Global Task Force on Third Country Education Pathways was launched in May 2020, and new education pathways programmes are well underway in Italy, Norway, and other countries. The Canadian government has launched a labour mobility programme for 500 applicants and committed to advancing the Global Task Force on Labour Mobility later in 2020. Many States have taken significant steps to ensure easier access to refugees via family reunification pathways. The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (GRSI) also continued its work as a multi-stakeholder partnership to advocate for and support community sponsorship.   

In January 2020, UNHCR and IOM launched the Sustainable Resettlement and Complementary Pathways Initiative (CRISP –, a crucial tool for the implementation of the Three-Year Strategy. The CRISP aims to support States and key stakeholders to grow resettlement programmes and advance complementary pathways through the provision of targeted capacity building in partnership with relevant actors. In order to achieve these objectives, the CRISP has embarked on several key activities, the first of which is to commission research to map global opportunities to expand third-country solutions. The results of the research will provide a necessary evidence base to guide future CRISP activities.  

After extensive consultations, the Global Action Plan to implement the Three-Year Strategy Pathways was also published in May, offering an evolving compendium of over 80 specific activities involving scores of partners.    

With the support of its co-chairs, the government of Canada, and the Canadian Council for Refugees, the 2020 Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR), which were held virtually, reflected the multi-stakeholder approach of the Three-Year Strategy and included dedicated sessions on the Strategy; complementary pathways and the launch of the dedicated Working Group; and meaningful refugee participation. A new internal digital platform for Consultations on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways was also made available to the members of the ATCR community.   

Towards truly global research and teaching on forced displacement and statelessness 

Statelessness - Uzbekistan

The Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network (GAIN) is a network that responds to the call in the GCR for research, training and scholarships on refugee, statelessness and other forced displacement issues. It connects universities, academic alliances, research institutions, UNHCR, and scholars and researchers who are forcibly uprooted from the global South.  

One of the top recommendations by both academics and UNHCR staff after the launch of GAIN was to establish a secretariat outside of UNHCR. The University of Essex pledged to support this at the GRF, and on 16 July 2020 the secretariat for GAIN was established through a high-level online signing ceremony.  

The ceremony also featured a dialogue on academic solidarity with refugees, led by the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs and the inaugural Chair of the GAIN secretariat, Professor Geoff Gilbert. The discussion featured interventions from a wide range of States and stakeholders, including Kenya, Germany, academics from the 30-university Carta Santiago pledge at the GRF, and the Global Refugee-led Network (GRN). GRN drew attention to its #ByRefugees collaboration with the University of Oxford which highlights refugee front-line responders to COVID-19 in East Africa and Asia. 

As a result of our work with academia we can transform the perception of refugees as ‘people to help’ to ‘people who can do' - Shaza Al Rihawi, Founding Member and Interim Chair, Global Refugee-Led Network 


Laying the foundations for future action, the progress made by all three initiatives since the GRF is a sign of sustained momentum. Continuing to build on the commitments from the Forum will now be vital to deliver sustainable solutions for refugees and the communities that generously host them. 

To find out more about these initiatives visit:  



Three-Year Strategy and CRISP