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International cooperation on refugees and migrants

The Summit for Refugees and Migrants:

On 19 September 2016, the General Assembly-mandated summit at the Heads of State and Government level on large movements of refugees and migrants was a historic opportunity to develop with a blueprint for a better international response. The Summit was a watershed moment to strengthen governance of international migration and an opportunity for creating a more responsible, predictable system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants. All 193 Member States signed up one plan for addressing large movements of refugees and migrants: the New York Declaration. The Summit was attended by heads of state and government, Ministers, and leaders from the UN System, civil society, private sector, international organizations, academia, and beyond.

The New York Declaration:

The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants expresses the political will of world leaders to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale. It contains bold commitments both to address the issues we face now and to prepare the world for future challenges. The Declaration also contains concrete plans for how to build on these commitments and other international commitments, such as the 2030 Agenda (para 16), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (para 18), the Paris Agreement on climate change (para 18) and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (para 18), including: 

  • Start negotiations leading to an international conference and the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018. The agreement to move toward this comprehensive framework is a momentous one. It means that migration, like other areas of international relations, will be guided by a set of common principles and approaches.
  • Develop guidelines on the treatment of migrants in vulnerable situations. These guidelines will be particularly important for the increasing number of unaccompanied children on the move.
  • Achieve a more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees by adopting a global compact on refugees in 2018.

The Declaration includes commitments to:

  • Protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status. This includes the rights of women and girls and promoting their full, equal and meaningful participation in finding solutions.
  • Ensure that all refugee and migrant children are receiving education within a few months of arrival.
  • Prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Support those countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants.
  • Work towards ending the practice of detaining children for the purposes of determining their migration status.
  • Strongly condemn xenophobia against refugees and migrants and support a global campaign to counter it.
  • Strengthen the positive contributions made by migrants to economic and social development in their host countries.
  • Improve the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance to those countries most affected, including through innovative multilateral financial solutions, with the goal of closing all funding gaps.
  • Implement a comprehensive refugee response, based on a new framework that sets out the responsibility of Member States, civil society partners and the UN system, whenever there is a large movement of refugees or a protracted refugee situation.
  • Find new homes for all refugees identified by UNHCR as needing resettlement; and expand the opportunities for refugees to relocate to other countries through, for example, labour mobility or education schemes.
  • Strengthen the global governance of migration by bringing the International Organization for Migration into the UN system. 


International Organization for Migration became a member of the UN system:

Member States of the United Nations, through the General Assembly, unanimously adopted a resolution approving the Agreement to make the International Organization for Migration (IOM) a related organization of the UN on 25 July 2016. The Agreement outlined a closer relationship between IOM and the UN to strengthen the cooperation and enhance their ability to fulfil their respective mandates in the interest of migrants and Member States. Through the Agreement, the UN recognized IOM global leading role in the field of human mobility including the protection of migrants and displaced people in migration-affected communities, in areas of support for refugee resettlement and voluntary returns, and incorporates migration in country development plans. On 19 September 2016, the UN Secretary-General and the Director-General of the IOM signed the new agreement to further strengthen the comprehensive global approach to migration. Further information on the IOM’s work is available online.

United Nations’ TOGETHER initiative:

As an outcome of the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016, IOM is taking a lead implementation role in the UN’s ‘Together’ Initiative. TOGETHER is a global initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life. UN Agencies, under the coordination of the UN Department of Public Information, are working with private and public sector partners to finalize a campaign strategy with an expected launch in September 2017. IOM’s existing I am a migrant global platform is at the heart of the ‘Together’ campaign. The I am a migrant platform aims to promote positive perceptions of migrants and challenge the prevailing negative narratives in politics and media which can lead to xenophobia and discrimination. Public reactions to the European migration situation have resulted in a dangerous swing to xenophobic discourses in key EU member states. Elsewhere, including the United States, migrants have become a convenient scapegoat of populist politicians and the tabloid media. To combat this growing anti-migrant sentiment, the campaign uses the testimonials of migrants to connect people with the human stories of migration.

The Migrants in Countries in Crisis initiative

The Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) initiative is a State-led undertaking which seeks to improve the ability of States and other relevant stakeholders to increase the protection and decrease the vulnerability of migrants caught in countries experiencing conflicts and natural disasters. Co-chaired by the Governments of the Philippines and the United States, the MICIC initiative aims to distil Principles, Guidelines, and Effective Practices through a broad consultative process. Derived from the input of States, civil society, international organizations, and private sector actors, the initiative released voluntary and non-binding Guidelines to Protect Migrants in Countries Experiencing Conflict or Natural Disaster in all six UN official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish).