UN Gen Assembly 1On 19 September 2016 the UN General Assembly opened its 71st Session with a high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants.

Present at the meeting were heads of state and world leaders, as well as members of civil society including refugees, migrants and members of the diaspora. The Summit also saw the signing by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and IOM Director General William Lacy Swing of the decision to formally bring IOM directly into the UN system (see signing).

See the full video of the opening plenary of the Summit, with the ceremonial adoption of the New York Declaration at 00:13:10

Civil society representatives speaking at the Summit

Members of civil society and/or refugee and migrant representatives gave interventions throughout the Summit, both during the opening plenary and during the six roundtables held throughout the day. Here is a short sampling of some quotes, statements and links to video recordings of civil society speeches and interventions during the Summit

Opening Session (video)

Ms. Eni Lestari Andayani Adi, International Migrants Alliance (IMA), China / Indonesia (00:53:15 of video)

In two years, you are set to forge a global compact for us. Let’s make it real and actionable. Frame it as rights-based and make sure its implementation will lessen displacement or forced migration, resolves conflict and the root causes of poverty. Let’s work for a world without vulnerability, insecurity or invisibility. As people, as workers, as women, as migrants – we are ready to make this happen. Work with us.

Mr. Mohammed Badran, Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands (SYVNL), Netherlands / Syrian Arab Republic (00:57:55 of video)

Too often “inaction” is the only thing that the international community can agree on, when it comes to finding a solution to the refugee crisis.

Ms. Nadia Taha, Yazda, Germany / Iraq (01:02:10 of video)

You (the world leaders) decide whether it is to be war or peace. You decide to give hope or suffering […]. We must put an end to war […]. In order to restore peace we should not close our borders to any innocent women and children who flee from violence […]. The world has only one border, it is called humanity.

Roundtable Dialogues

1) Addressing the root causes of refugee movement (video)

Ms. Joyce Foni, Women’s Refugee Commission, Kenya / Sudan 00:14:40 of video; statement)

The best way to address these challenges is to give refugees the tools that we need to become the engineers of peace, stability and development to rebuild their nation. In this effort, the potential of refugee youth remains largely untapped. This must change. Refugee youth want the same thing young people everywhere want: to be consulted, to be listened to, to contribute, to engage, and to be part of solutions.

2) Addressing drivers of migration, particularly large movements, and highlighting the positive contributions of migrants (video)

Ms. Jille Belisario, Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers (CFMW), Philippines (00:23:25 of video; statement)

“To leave no one behind” – we need a more intense effort to work with civil societies reclaiming areas of development and that governments at state and UN level should promote policy coherence across the spectrum of development, trade and investment and peace and safe movement of peoples across borders.

3) International action and cooperation on refugees and migrants, and issues related to displacement; the way ahead (video)

Mr. Gibril Faal, African Foundation for Development (AFFORD), UK / Gambia (00:24:15 of video; statement)

Having worked with states and partners during the negotiations, I now commend to you the civil society response document entitled ‘Act Now’, as published. We acknowledge that progress has been made, yet we note that it is nowhere near enough. We observe that what could have been expected to be firm commitments are presented as considerations to be applied where appropriate. Alas, we noticed undue “hesitancy, half-heartedness…..and language [that] attempts to back-slide on or undercut existing fundamental human rights standards”.

4) Global compact for responsibility sharing for refugees and respect for international law (video)

Ms. Elba Yanett Coria Marquez, SOS Children Villages, Mexico (00:21:12 of video; article)

Children are detained without any other consideration than their irregular status or their parents’ status. Detention is NEVER in the best interest of the child. Alternative care options are a better way to protect them.

5) Global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration;

Towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving the full respect for the human rights of migrants (video)

Mr. Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO, US / Ethiopia (00:31:23 of video; statement)

I know, firsthand, how much refugee and migrants can achieve and contribute when they are given a chance […]. It is essential that any new commitments on migration empower workers to exercise their rights. We call on the leaders gathered here to produce a global compact the gives workers of all skills levels a real chance at family reunification and permanent migration. “Safe, regular and orderly“ is a bare minimum. Instead, we must pursue a rights-based approach that raises standards for all working people.

6) Addressing the vulnerabilities of refugees and migrants on their journeys from their countries of origins to their countries of arrival (video)

Ms. Eleanor Acer, Human Rights First, USA (00:22:20 of video; statement)

Respect for human rights and refugee law is essential to securing stability and security; it also benefits host states and communities. Civil society groups have expressed disappointment that the Declaration does not include more concrete commitments, and that some states worked to include language that appeared aimed at undercutting existing human rights standards, including for children.

Other Important documents and information regarding the Summit

Civil society delegates who applied to attend the 19 September Summit have received emailed confirmation from the UN Non-Government Liaison Office, with approved civil society delegates requested to complete a further confirmation process by 30 August 2016,  in order to register for their UN passes to access the Summit and related events.  Should you have any questions about this, please direct them to the UN-NGLS office coordinating this process by email:info@un-ngls.org, or by phone: +1 212 963 3125.

Modalities Resolution agreed upon, which defines the programme and format of the 19 September Summit

  • UN Member states have found agreement on the language for the “modalities resolution” that sets the organization of the 19 September Summit and related processes. This includes the roundtables and format of the Summit itself, as well as the involvement of civil society in the Summit, in the “informal interactive multi-stakeholder Hearing” that was held on 18 July and in the development of the Outcome by states. You can find the text of the resolution (dated 22 June) here.