World Bank director addresses Global Refugee Forum

Axel van Trotsenburg, managing director of operations at the World Bank, addresses the Global Refugee Forum. © UNHCR/Mark Henley

A high-level meeting in Geneva of governments, international financial organizations, business leaders, humanitarian and development actors, refugees, and civil society representatives has secured wide-ranging and substantial commitments of support for refugees and the communities they live in, notably with important pledges of new long-term support for inclusion.

Substantial support came from governments, civil society, refugee groups, sports associations, faith groups and the private sector, partnerships being key to successful outcomes for refugees and often under-resourced host countries.

For a complete list of pledges, see the dashboard here. Further pledges are expected in the near future and indicators to assess success, for example in jobs created, school places and reduction of poverty levels, have been established to track progress. A stock-taking meeting will occur in two years.

“Public support for asylum has wavered in recent years. And in many cases communities that host refugees have felt overwhelmed or forgotten,” said UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi. “But refugee situations are ‘crises’ only when we let them become so, by thinking short term, by failing to plan or work together across sectors, and by neglecting the communities they arrive in. At this Forum, we have seen a decisive shift towards the longer-term view.”

An initial analysis indicates that there were also major financial pledges. Over US$ 4.7 billion was pledged by the World Bank Group, through a dedicated funding window for refugees and host communities, as well as a separate funding window to boost the private sector and create jobs, with refugees and host communities also considered in the latter.  There was a similar announcement from the Inter-American Development Bank of US$ 1 billion. In addition, a broad range of states and other stakeholders  pledged financial support for refugees and their host communities of over USD 2 billion.   These aim at substantially strengthening support for inclusion and long-term development needs in host communities – recognition that for the majority of the 25.9 million refugees worldwide, exile lasts years or even decades.

The private sector made the widest range of commitments ever for the forcibly displaced. Providing employment opportunities for refugees has also seen strong support – crucial for allowing refugees to be regain dignity and give back to the communities they live in. In addition to humanitarian and development pledges, more than US$ 250 million was pledged by business groups. At least 15,000 jobs will be available to refugees through these initiatives. There will also be some 125,000 hours per year of pro bono legal counselling.

The Forum has had six main areas of focus: Education, work, energy and infrastructure, shared responsibility, protection, and solutions like resettlement. Most pledges have been made in the areas of protection and education, the former involving in many cases changes to legal and policy environments to promote inclusion, and the latter creating places potentially for many more refugee children to go to school and improve their life prospects.

The question of how best to create conditions for safe and voluntary return of refugees has also been a major theme. There have been commitments from a number of countries-of-origin relating to voluntary return and reintegration of refugees and other displaced communities.

The Forum is a key element of the new Global Compact on Refugees that was affirmed by UN member states in New York in December 2018. Under the Compact, Global Refugee Forums take place every four years, meaning the next is scheduled for late 2023.

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Originally published on UNHCR 18 December 2019

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