On 19 September 2016 the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Under this Declaration, two new non-binding agreements have been drawn to commit governments to strengthening international protection for refugees and migrants — the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (also known as the Global Compact for Migration or the Marrakech Compact). The Global Compact on Refugees was presented to the UN General Assembly in September 2018. The Global Compact for Migration was formally adopted at a special conference in Marrakech, Morocco in December 2018.

Global Compact on Refugees

The Global Compact on Refugees aims to achieve four key goals: 1) to ease pressure on host countries; 2) to enhance refugee self-reliance; 3) to expand access to third-country solutions; and 4) to support conditions in countries of origin for safe and dignified return.

The Compact is split into four main sections which set out separate steps to achieve these goals:

  • The first is an introduction which lays out the Compact’s context and guiding principles.

  • The second is a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).  The CRRF is based on the idea of helping refugees thrive, not just survive. This involves refugees being included in communities from the very beginning; meaning refugee camps should be an exception, not the rule.

  • The third section is a Program of Action. This provides concrete steps for burden and responsibility sharing between governments. It includes arrangements for international cooperation in a ministerial-level Global Refugee Forum, to be held every four years, beginning in 2019. The Program of Action also incorporates arrangements to support comprehensive national and regional responses to specific refugee situations, such as the use of Support Platforms, which will provide advocacy, financial, technological and humanitarian support, to help countries respond to specific refugee situations. Other key measures include setting up partnerships between stakeholders and sharing data in order to measure the program’s impact.

  • The final section includes provisions for follow up and review of each government’s progress in carrying out their commitments under the Compact. This involves high level officials’ meetings every two years between the Global Refugee Forums and an annual report from the High Commissioner for Refugees to the General Assembly.

Global Compact for Migration

The Global Compact for Migration aims to improve and coordinate governments’ collective cooperation on international migration. It covers 23 different objectives to ensure a safe, orderly and regular migration process for all. This includes identifying and reducing vulnerabilities in migration, using migrant detention as a last resort rather than as a deterrent, and providing migrants access to basic services. It provides similar review mechanisms to the Global Compact on Refugees, including an International Migration Review Forum meeting every four years.

Australia’s response

Although Australia adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016 and endorsed the Global Compact for Refugees on 13 November 2018, it has refused to adopt the Global Compact on Migration, alongside the United States and a range of other countries with strong anti-immigration policies. This has largely been due to concerns over sovereignty.

For Australia, this includes the fact the Compact insists that migrant detention must only be used as a last resort. On 21 November 2018, Prime Minister Scott Morrison called it ‘flawed’ and ‘contrary to the country’s national interests’.


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Last updated 12 December 2018