Submitted by Sabine Lehr, Private Sponsorship of Refugees Manager
In June, two important annual events in Geneva, Switzerland, brought together international delegations around a joint purpose: To find more protection for refugees in a world where people are on the move, driven by violent conflict and human rights violations in their home countries. The Annual Tripartite Consultation on Resettlement (ATCR) and the Working Group on Resettlement (WGR) are the primary fora for dialogue and planning on global refugee resettlement. ATCR is attended by representatives from resettlement states, Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other resettlement partners. This year’s theme was ”New Partners, New Approaches” to highlight the need for innovation to supplement traditional resettlement efforts.
ATCR 2017 had about 250 participants from 32 countries, and Canada had one of the largest delegations with 10 participants, of which five were from Government (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) and five from NGOs. ICA’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Manager, Sabine Lehr, represented the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) which is also the focal point NGO for ATCR in Canada.
Every year, the participating NGOs publish a joint NGO statement that focuses on common concerns. This year, the statement called on UNHCR and last year’s New York summit hosts to deliver on pledges and engage with civil society. NGOs expressed their worries about the situation in the USA and strongly refused the prevailing securitization discourse. NGOs also called for an increased response to “forgotten” areas, especially in Africa and parts of Asia. They emphasized the need for permanent solutions and family reunification, including through complementary pathways.
The full NGO statement can be found here.
ATCR was followed immediately by the UNHCR-NGO Consultations, at which Sabine Lehr also represented the CCR. Organized by the UNHCR’s Partnership Section and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), these Consultations provide an opportunity for NGOs to raise issues, to network, and to exchange views with UNHCR and other NGOs. This year, the Consultations were dominated by the Global Compact on Refugees discussions under the theme “Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) – Putting the pieces together”. The global erosion of fundamental protection standards has served as a catalyst to search for whole-of-society, multi-stakeholder solutions that enhance protection spaces.
Sabine was a presenter and breakout group facilitator in the session on “Expanding Resettlement and Establishing Complementary Pathways for Better Protection and Solutions for Refugees.” The session explored temporary and permanent protection solutions through labour mobility, family reunification, and educational scholarship schemes. UNHCR’s main concern around such schemes is the preservation of traditional resettlement pathways – throughout the Consultations, it was emphasized again and again that complementary pathways must be in addition to state-led resettlement efforts, and that such state-led resettlement must not be replaced by complementary schemes.
All important documents from the UNHCR-NGO Consultations are available at:
UNHCR Partnership Sections’ Stories – Storify: