Today, Refugees Deeply published the second part of the RSC Director’s preview of the UN Refugee Summit taking place on 19 September. Here Alexander Betts argues that, while the summit’s limitations have been outlined, and its success remains uncertain, it also provides opportunities: “For the first time, there is widespread recognition that change is needed to the multilateral system created to address the large-scale movement of refugees and migrants.”
As he states, the UN Secretary-General’s report that preceded the summit, published in May, calls for two global compacts: one on responsibility-sharing for refugees; the other on safe, regular and orderly migration. However, as Betts notes, “History teaches us that abstract commitments to burden-sharing simply do not work… The key to achieving sustainable responsibility-sharing cannot be an abstract global compact alone. It has to be the creation of specific mechanisms for political engagement.”
He also highlights the imbalance between the refugee and migration components of the report and of the outcome document: “The compact on refugees has undergone a significant degree of conceptual development; the global compact on migration has not.”
While much of the summit will focus on discussion of these global compacts, Betts argues that “its greater responsibility” should not be obscured, that is “to reflect on the changing nature of forced migration and to set in motion a process of reform to update multilateral institutions designed for a different era.”
Various innovative ideas and initiatives will be “deliberated at the margins of the summit”, such as special economic zones for refugees in Jordan, and it is these he says “that will ultimately transform refugee and migration governance”. However, “the elephant in the room remains the question of institutional reform. The summit process has managed to bypass arguably the most fundamental question: what kind of global governance model do we need to address large-scale refugee and migratory movements in the 21st century?”
He concludes by setting out five potential catalysts to change the global refugee system.
Read the full article here: The real opportunity at the UN Refugee Summit
Read part one of the UN summit preview: UN Refugee Summit: Abstract discussions in the face of a deadly crisis