A global summit in Geneva is hoping to address a series of issues relating to global migration trends reaching from forcible displacement to the energy and infrastructure needs of refugees. The event, however, might also be hijacked by politicians pursuing their own agendas.
The Global Refugee Forum in Geneva hopes to address the latest trends and issues in global migration patterns, bringing together heads of state, government ministers, business leaders, humanitarians and refugees themselves in hopes of finding solution to provide more efficient assistance to some of the most vulnerable people in the world.
The event follows a year after the UN General Assembly adopted a global framework for providing assistance to refugees and their host communities. The two-day global conference is the first gathering "at the ministerial level to follow up on the practical implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees" finalized in December 2018. The Global Compact on Refugees calls for such a summit to be held every four years.
"We are at the end of a decade that has been more than tumultuous in terms of levels of displacement," UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly Clements told the Agence France-Presse news agency in an interview ahead of the summit.
"We see the need for states, for international organizations, for the private sector (to help explore) how the international community can better help to respond."
The search for innovative solutions
Clements insisted the first such forum would take a new approach to the issues of human migration, saying she expected a wide range of pledges for concrete actions to follow to help refugees and their host nations, especially in the areas of education, employment, and energy.
In addition to financial aid, some countries might be likely to commit to policy changes to make it easier for refugees to seek legal employment; companies from the private sector are meanwhile expected to make pledges for non-monetary support as well; for example, the French utilities company EDF is expected to promise the delivery of electricity to a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, where more than one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are currently being housed.
However, despite such resolute intentions, Clements also predicted the situation for displaced persons to globally worsen in the foreseeable future. "The outlook is not bright," she said, pointing to a host of problems including "the lack of political solutions we see among member states, the complications and the complexity of conflict today and the stalemate in political discussions."
All eyes on Erdogan
The summit, which is expected to attract more than 3,000 participants, will be opened with statements by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
A number of high-profile speakers will follow, including an address by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country – with more than three million refugees – is presently hosting the world's largest refugee population. Erdogan is expected to press demands for more international support.
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Clements said that Erdogan's presence would be a reminder of the importance of providing not just support to refugees but also to their host countries.
However, Erdogan might also use the summit as a platform to discuss his plans to potentially repatriate thousands of Syrian refugees to a "safe zone" to be established in northern Syria. Numerous humanitarian groups such as Amnesty International have said that this would amount to sending them back to a war zone.
Resettlement as a solution – for few
Another issue expected to be center-stage at the meeting is the subject of refugee resettlement. Refugees around the world are in need for resettlement in third countries to bring a sense of normalcy back into their lives and begin to adapt to their new realities.
However, Clements highlighted that refugee resettlement opportunities were only offered to a tiny fraction of those who are in need of it.
"There is a tremendous need to step forward with regards to this. We have estimated for 2020 that there are 1.44 million people in the world, refugees, who are in need of resettlement as a form of international protection. But the number of slots available are in the tens of thousands." she said.
At the end of 2018, more than 70 million people around the world were living in forced displacement for reasons such as war, violence and persecution. Almost a third of those individuals had fled across national borders as refugees, according to UN figures.
The UNHCR expects those numbers could likely rise further.