4th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 71st Session - Part 3

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19-Sep-2016 03:04:19
General Assembly adopts declaration for refugees and migrants, as United Nations, International Organization for Migration sign key agreement.

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‘We’re Living on the Edge of Hell’, World Leaders Told as Speakers Demand Action

The General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants today, thereby mapping a route towards a collective, rights-based response to record displacement numbers around the world.

As outlined in the Declaration (document A/71/L.1), such a response would be of key importance in providing burgeoning numbers of refugees and migrants with desperately needed assistance. The Declaration recognized that in 2015 alone, the number of migrants had surpassed 244 million, in addition to roughly 65 million forcibly displaced persons, including more than 21 million refugees, 3 million asylum seekers and over 40 million internally displaced persons.

In endorsing the 90-paragraph Declaration, Member States agreed to a set of commitments, among them acknowledging a shared responsibility to manage large movements of refugees and migrants in a humane, sensitive, compassionate and people-centred manner. They agreed to do so through international cooperation, while recognizing the varying national capacities and resources in responding to those movements.

Also by the Declaration, the Assembly underlined the importance of working collectively and, in particular, with origin, transit and destination countries, noting that “win-win” cooperation in that area would have profound benefits for humanity. The declaration’s two annexes outlined a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, as well as a comprehensive refugee response framework.

Describing the grim situation of people who were both stateless and stuck, Mohammed Badran of the organization Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands, declared: “We are living on the edge of hell.” Every day brought anger and fear directed at refugees, and many doors were closed while the international community continued its inaction as crisis followed crisis. “We have been waiting for so long for the day that the world would hear our voice,” he said. “Refugees are already taking action; we want world leaders to do the same.” He expressed hope that actions would be taken to keep refugees from having to put their lives on hold.

Elaborating on that point, Eni Lestari Andayani Adi, Chairperson of the International Migrants Alliance, said: “We are the people who have been denied the future, the rights and the dreams we used to imagine.” Noting that poverty in Indonesia had caused her to seek domestic work abroad, she said that for the majority of migrant workers, the promise of a better future was a lie, often ending in exploitation. She called for a “real and actionable” global compact on migration, based on rights and intent on reducing displacement, resolving conflict and ending the root causes of poverty. “Let’s work for a world without vulnerability, insecurity or invisibility,” she added.

Nadia Murad Basee Taha, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, shared her perspective as a refugee who had fled from areas controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). Describing herself as a survivor of the Yazidi genocide, she recalled that when Da’esh had attacked, they had killed men and enslaved women. “I wished that the rapes I endured by 12 terrorists were 12 bullets in my flesh,” she said. “We have to address the causes of immigration, eradicate terrorism and stop instability.” Until security was established in conflict areas, the international community must keep borders open to innocent women and children, she said, declaring: “The world has only one border; it is called humanity.”

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights, reflected on the reasons behind convening today’s meeting, saying “the bitter truth is, this summit was called because we have been largely failing”. The summit “cannot be reduced to speeches and feel-good interviews”, he said, emphasizing the urgent need for action.

To foster such action, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a new global campaign called “Together — Respect, Safety and Dignity for All”. He urged States to join the campaign and commit to concrete steps in that direction. “Today’s summit represents a breakthrough in our collective efforts to address the challenges of human mobility,” he said, adding that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was advancing the same principles as the Declaration, with the common goal of leaving no one behind.

Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the seventy-first session of the General Assembly, expressed hope that the new campaign would help to overcome the hostile and hateful rhetoric that some refugees and migrants were facing. “The well-being of millions rests with us at the United Nations,” he said. “We must not fail them in their hour of need.”

Echoing that message, Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark), President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, said “the desperation and suffering of people in flight tugs at our collective conscience and compels us all to act compassionately to forge a global response to what is clearly a global challenge”.

Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, said the Group had increased funding for refugees, bolstered data collection and helped the job-creation efforts of host countries. Much was riding on the summit because the outcome would have a bearing upon everyone’s future, he said.

Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees, called upon Member States to take the necessary steps to make all efforts to work, emphasizing that “we are looking at you”.

Also during the opening segment, Secretary-General Ban and Director General William Lacy Swing signed the United Nations-International Organization for Migration (IOM) Agreement.

Throughout the day, almost 200 Heads of State and Government, senior officials, representatives and observers agreed that countries must together embrace a robust action plan to address the needs of refugees and migrants and fight against the xenophobia they faced.

Also delivering statements during the opening segment were Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), on behalf of the Global Migration Group; Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and Mats Granryd, Director General of GSMA.

During the day, Heads of State and Government chaired six round tables covering the following issues: “addressing the root causes of large movements of refugees”; “addressing drivers of migration, particularly large movements, and highlighting the positive contributions of migrants”; “international action and cooperation on refugees and migrants and issues related to displacement: the way ahead”; “global compact for responsibility sharing for refugees; respect for international law”; “global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration: towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving full respect for the human rights of migrants”; and “addressing vulnerabilities of refugees and migrants on their journeys from their countries of origin to their countries of arrival”.

Participating in the plenary discussion were Heads of State and Government, as well as other senior officials, representing the following countries: Finland, Mozambique, Latvia, Brazil, China, Cyprus, Estonia, Kenya, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Mexico, Guyana, Malta, Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Indonesia,, Denmark, Greece, Georgia, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Malaysia, Kuwait, Colombia, Jordan, Ghana, Italy, Cameroon, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, Hungary, France, Côte d’Ivoire, Japan, Iceland, Gambia, Haiti, Malawi, Guinea, Ireland, El Salvador, Germany, Congo, Mali, Croatia, Canada, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Botswana, Chile, New Zealand, Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Morocco, Honduras, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Guatemala, India, Iran, Eritrea, Cuba, Czech Republic, Iraq, Peru, Slovakia, Nigeria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Niger, South Africa, Slovenia, Poland, Nauru, Portugal, Senegal, Spain, Paraguay, Andorra, Ukraine, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Panama, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Thailand, Australia, Philippines, United Kingdom, Yemen, Turkey, Uganda, Nepal, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Belarus, Seychelles, Namibia, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Argentina, Somalia, United States, Netherlands, Serbia, Zambia, Uruguay, Romania, Sudan, Armenia, Syria and Tunisia.

Also participating were the delegations of the European Union, the State of Palestine and the Holy See.

Representatives of the International Olympic Committee, Council of Europe, Sovereign Order of Malta, League of Arab States, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Inter-Parliamentary Union, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, International Development Law Organization, INTERPOL, African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, International Committee of the Red Cross, International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, Partners in Population and Development, Union of South American Nations and the University for Peace also spoke today.
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