The first Global Refugee Forum (GRF), a two-day gathering of United Nations member states, began in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday (December 17).
The Forum, jointly hosted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, and the government of Switzerland, aims to debate and discuss the response of the world’s countries to the global refugee situation.
According to the UNHCR, the first GRF is being held “at the end of a tumultuous decade in which the number of refugees has risen to over 25 million people worldwide”.
“Guided by the Global Compact on Refugees, the Global Refugee Forum is an opportunity to translate the principle of international responsibility-sharing into concrete action. The Forum will showcase impactful pledges and contributions and the exchange of good practices,” the UNHCR said on its website.
In an official release, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said: “This week, at the first ever Global Refugee Forum, we must focus our efforts in the coming decade on building upon what we have learned and committing action to support refugees and the countries and communities hosting them.
“This Forum is an opportunity to attest our collective commitment to the Global Compact on Refugees and rally behind the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals of leaving no one behind.”
The GRF will be held every four years at the Ministerial level. It is intended to present an opportunity for UN member states and other stakeholders to announce action plans and pledges towards meeting objectives such as easing the burden on the host country, enhancing refugee self-reliance, expanding access to third-country solutions, and supporting conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.
The first GRF has been organised around six areas of focus: burden- and responsibility-sharing, education, jobs and livelihoods, energy and infrastructure, solutions, and protection capacity.
Some of the issues discussed at the Forum on the first day include the displacement of Afghans and Central Americans, providing education for refugee children, and emergency situations and financial support through Islamic finance.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who addressed the Forum, predictably sought to use the platform to attack India over Kashmir. He also thanked Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “hosting the largest refugee population”, referring to the over 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Imran claimed that “Pakistan was born out of the biggest refugee problem in the history of mankind”, and that “Pakistan hosted at one point, 1.4 million refugees and still, after 40 years, Pakistan still has 1.4 million registered refugees…”
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