UN General Assembly Meeting on Refugees & Migrants

September 19, 2016 - UN Headquarters, New York City
At-the-UN/New-York/Refugees--Migrants
By: Alexa Ward

Report on High Level Summit

The UN General Assembly hosted a high level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants, for the purpose of bringing countries together to support a framework for a coordinated international response. It was the first time the General Assembly had called for a summit to address this topic on the level of Heads of State and Government.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, at the end of 2015, the number of refugees in the world reached 65.3 million, or one out of every 113 people on Earth. Today, large-scale movements of refugees and migrants are a reality, with countries playing various roles as places of origin, transit or destination depending on the circumstances. The past several years have witnessed an array of crises causing mass movements of refugees and migrants in different parts of the world. While humanitarian assistance has provided immediate relief to millions of people, long-term responses have been incomplete and uncoordinated.

The Summit included an Opening Session, followed by two Plenary Sessions and six Roundtables. The Summit was attended by heads of state and government, Ministers, leaders from the UN System, as well as representatives from civil society, the private sector, international organizations, and academia. The Opening Session began with an address by H.E Peter Thomson, President of the 21st Session of the General Assembly. Speakers for this session included by H.E. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General; H.E. Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees; H.E. William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM); and Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, on behalf of the Global Migration Group.

During the Opening Session, 193 Member States reached agreement by consensus on a far-reaching outcome document, The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. H.E. Filipo Grandi, the High Commissioner for Refugees described the agreement as "a political commitment of unprecedented force and resonance. It fills what has been a perennial gap in the international protection system - that of truly sharing responsibility for refugees, in the spirit of the United Nations Charter." The Declaration addresses issues related to protecting the human rights of all refugees and migrants, including the rights of women and girls, and promoting their full, equal and meaningful participation in finding solutions; ensuring education for refugee children; improving the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance to those countries most affected; and finding homes for all refugees needing resettlement.

In addition, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and H.E. William Lacy Swing signed the agreement to make the IOM a Related Organization of the United Nations. Established in 1951, the IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. The IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.

The Women's Federation for World Peace International (WFWPI) was among a select group of NGOs that were granted the opportunity to attend this historic Summit. Alexa Ward, WFWP International Vice President and Deputy Director for the UN Office, attended the Opening Session as well as one of the two Plenary Sessions.