Successes, challenges and progress: the impact of pledges on the lives of refugees and host communities

A Global Refugee Forum Update | August 2020
Pledges & Contributions

Successes, challenges and progress: the impact of pledges on the lives of refugees and host communities

A Global Refugee Forum Update | August 2020
16 September 2020
Malawi. Children singing and dancing before the start of the class at the preschool

Malawi. Children singing and dancing before the start of the class at the preschool

Galvanizing some 1,400 pledges and contributions, the world’s first Global Refugee Forum (GRF) in December 2019 rebooted the response to displacement and support for  host communities. With the aim of translating the principles of international solidarity and burden and responsibility sharing into action, it generated a truly collective effort to identify concrete, long term solutions.  Eight months onwards and against the evolving backdrop of COVID-19, it is a timely moment to reflect on the early successes, the work in progress, and the opportunities and challenges ahead.

progress updates received by States, organizations, businesses and other pledging entities

Source: Pledges & Contributions Dashboard

The first round of updates on progress in implementing pledges at the request of UNHCR yielded more than 300 updates so far from States, organizations, businesses, and other entities, which paints an encouraging picture of progress on pledge implementation. From these updates, 70.4 per cent (212) indicated that implementation is in progress, 22.2 per cent (67) are in the planning stage, and a total of 22 pledges have been fulfilled.

Pledges progres bubbles

Here are some examples that show notable progress to date.  

1. Accelerating pledges to better respond to COVID-19

A number of States, organizations and businesses have demonstrated a remarkable adaptability to the COVID-19 pandemic by accelerating the implementation of some key pledges.

In March 2020, Malawi included refugees in its national Education COVID-19 Preparedness and Reponses Plan and secured a USD 10 million grant from the Global Partnership for Education’s Accelerated Education COVID-19 Response Grant Fund. This supported the implementation of Malawi’s wider pledge to integrate refugees in its National Development Agenda, benefitting both refugees and the host community through this inclusive approach.

Sesame Workshop responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by producing a special broadcast of the  new Arabic-language adaptation of Sesame Street called Ahlan Simsim in Arabic, which premiered in February 2020. This Sesame Street adaptation delivers quality early childhood education to children affected by the Syria and Rohingya situations.

Sesame Street Muppets meet guests at Global Refugee Forum


2. Matching pledges to develop innovative partnerships

During an informal briefing by UNHCR to key stakeholders on follow-up to the Global Refugee Forum in June 2020, Denmark announced a new pledge of financial support of USD 1.5 million towards the implementation of a pledge made by the Government of Rwanda at the Forum. This initiative, in the spirit of matching financial contributions with commitments towards inclusive approaches, marks an innovative partnership that will target 1,883 households, creating jobs for refugees and host communities in the agricultural sector using the climate-smart approach over a three-year period.  


3. Broadening the base of support

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has begun to pilot a project providing solar power to the Camp 4 extension in Cox’s Bazar, highlighting the crucial role of the private sector. The project delivers on a key element of ICC’s pledge at the Global Refugee Forum to leverage its network of business organizations and companies to support the economic integration of refugees and help meet their material needs, while also raising awareness of the economic opportunities that successful integration can create for refugees, migrants, and their host communities.

Over the last six months, the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative, also known as the DAFI programme, expanded its base of support following Germany’s pledge at the Forum to open the programme to other partners, inviting and encouraging other States to join. The Czech Republic and Denmark acted on this invitation and now support the access of refugees to higher education in refugee hosting countries.

Uganda, South Sudanese DAFI student on campus.


4. Ensuring refugee engagement  in decision-making and policy debates

The University of Essex, in collaboration with UNHCR, launched the Secretariat of the Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network (GAIN) in a high-level online signing ceremony and discussion on 16 July 2020. The Network seeks to bring together scholars from the global south and north to advance research, teaching, and scholarships in support of the Global Compact’s four objectives. It will also help refugee scholars to plug into global policy debates and to broaden the geographical and thematic scope of disciplines and academics working on refugee and Global Compact-related challenges and opportunities. The establishment of the Secretariat marks a key milestone to achieve these objectives.

As a result of our work with academia we can transform the perception of refugees as ‘people to help’ to ‘people who can do'

The Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK) announced progress on their pledge on meaningful refugee participation by providing more than 6,000 hours of legal aid and representation to refugees in Nairobi, Garissa, the Daadab and Kakuma refugee camps, and Kalobeyei and other urban areas in Kenya this year alone.  Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, RCK has leveraged the use of technology to continue providing free legal aid remotely by telephone and disseminating legal information through online platforms.


5. Addressing root causes through a development lens

The Federal Government of Somalia, through its National Commission for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (NCRI) and in partnership with the National Durable Solutions Secretariat, mobilized a ‘whole of government’ assessment in March 2020 of the causes of flooding in the South-Central regions of Somalia, a root cause of regular displacement for millions. A development approach and long-term view to address (and prevent) forced displacement, engaging local leaders and ensuring local ownership of potential responses, has facilitated important progress on the pledge to build sustainable flood management. Ultimately, the pledge aims to avert continued displacement and create sustainable livelihood opportunities for the entire population, including returnees, internally displaced persons, and host communities.


Looking ahead – A global responsibility

It will be key to continue adapting and implementing pledges, particularly in light of the needs arising from the pandemic, and to continue identifying ways to support the implementation of pledges made by host countries to enhance protection and inclusion of refugees.

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating existing hardships and the corresponding needs for protection and inclusion of refugees. The principles of the Global Compact on Refugees and the commitments made at the Forum play a key role in responding to the pandemic.  Staying on course to act on these principles is a global responsibility on which millions of refugees, displaced and stateless people, as well as their hosts, are counting.

This requires an upsurge in solutions and solidarity to address root causes and take practical steps to support refugees and their hosts, enhancing access to livelihoods, better education, resettlement and complementary pathways, and more.

Continuing to match financial, technical, and material support with policy pledges is also key. For example, progress updates made by Ethiopia and the Poverty Alleviation Coalition highlight the continued need for financial support to implement their respective commitments to create up to 90,000 socio-economic opportunities for refugees and host communities in Ethiopia, and to end extreme poverty for 160,000 households in 26 countries by 2023.

There are many remaining opportunities to match commitments and strengthen our collective impact. Burden and responsibility sharing are fundamental principles embedded in the Compact and continued pledge matching is essential to fulfilling its objectives. In the spirit of the GCR, UNHCR calls on States, businesses and organizations to support, and provide resources to help realize policy pledges aimed at facilitating refugee inclusion in national systems and structures, protection and sustainable solutions.

Illustration for matching pledges


Staying on course to advance all four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees is a global responsibility.  The progress reported to date gives reason for cautious optimism. The first Global Refugee Forum and the initial implementation of pledges and contributions have built significant momentum in support of the Compact. Collectively, we can succeed in delivering progress, and UNHCR will continue to work closely with all pledging entities to turn their commitments into action. This platform will regularly tell the stories of successful pledge implementation and highlight their impact on the lives of persons of concern across the globe.

Not only, but especially since the outbreak of COVID-19, the fundamental issues at the heart of the Global Compact on Refugees are more prominent today than ever before.


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Visit the dashboard to discover which pledges and contributions are in progress, in planning or fulfilled.