The issue of what to do about the world’s 65.3 million displaced people takes center stage at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday when leaders from around the globe converge on New York for the first-ever summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.
With more people forced to flee their homes than at any time since World War II, leaders and diplomats are expected to approve a document aimed at unifying the UN’s 193 member states behind a more coordinated approach that protects the human rights of refugees and migrants.
“It’s very interesting because if we are able to translate that paper into a response in which many actors are going to participate, we will solve a lot of problems in emergency responses and in long-term refugee situations like the Syrian situation,” Fillipo Grandi, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees told The Associated Press.
That may prove an uphill struggle, however, as the document is not legally binding and comes at a time that refugees and migrants have become a divisive issue in Europe and the United States.
A number of countries rejected an earlier draft of the agreement that called on nations to resettle 10 percent of the refugee population each year, something that has led a number of human rights groups to criticize the document as a missed opportunity. The U.S. and a number of other countries also objected to language in the original draft that said children should never be detained, so the agreement now says children should seldom, if ever, be detained.
“Instead of sharing responsibility, world leaders shirked it. The UN summit has been sabotaged by states acting in self-interest, leaving millions of refugees in dire situations around the world on the edge of a precipice,” Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said in a statement.
Shetty said the agreement merely kicks the can down the road by calling for separate global compacts for refugees and migrants to be adopted within two years.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose report on refugees and migrants laid the basis for the summit document, said he was aware of the criticism from non-governmental groups.
“While we all wish it could be a stronger outcome document … all 193 member states had to agree on their commitment. As you will see, my report was a strong one,” Ban said. “I hope that, as the two compacts are adopted over the coming year and a half, some stronger language and commitment and elements from the report will reappear in the course of this negotiation.”