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Lauren Martin
Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law
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The sheer number of people displaced around the world today begs the question: can governments respond effectively to large-scale movements of people? Tens of millions of refugees remain in protracted limbo simply because there are few solutions. Yet this year, for example, the United States has accepted only 11 Syrian refugees.

At this pivotal moment, however, a new analysis by the Kaldor Centre says game-changing progress is possible – not only for refugees, but also for migrants crossing borders in a world where people are more mobile than ever before.

Making the Global Compacts Work: What future for refugees and migrants is a new Policy Brief from UNSW’s Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, in partnership with The New School’s Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility in New York. The Policy Brief examines two international agreements now under negotiation at the United Nations – the Global Compact on Refugees, and the Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration – and concludes that they have breakthrough potential to significantly improve the international systems of refugee protection and migration management.

Kaldor Centre Acting Director Professor Guy S Goodwin-Gill said: “This is a watershed moment. In Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, ‘We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now … We must move past indecision to action.’ For too long, States have stumbled in the face of people on the move. Here and now, they have a chance – to up their game on solutions for refugees; to agree practical, humane and sustainable responses for those in search of protection and security; to take on a whole of society approach to one of humanity’s greatest challenges.

“In this Policy Brief, as in all our work, the Kaldor Centre presents the evidence, draws out the sticking points but also the opportunities, and clears the path for serious progress. We know what works and what doesn’t; all we need now is the political will.”

Authored by Zolberg Institute Director T Alexander Aleinikoff and Georgetown University Professor Emerita Susan Martin, this latest Kaldor Centre Policy Brief is the first to be launched outside of Australia.

Making the Global Compacts Work: What future for refugees and migrants? offers a detailed analysis of the two agreements – what’s innovative, what’s missing, and what risks lie in the way of their adoption by the end of 2018. It makes specific, practical recommendations to strengthen the Global Compacts. Among these are that both agreements must reckon with the reality of migration to escape life-threatening situations, including natural disasters, climate change and various forms of violence. Given that developing countries host the overwhelming majority of displaced people, the Compacts must also incorporate fair ways of measuring how the global community shares its common obligations.

The success of the Compacts ultimately will depend on political leadership, as Professor Goodwin-Gill explored in a thought-provoking conversation with the authors at the Policy Brief launch on 23 April, introduced by Gregory Maniatis, director of the Open Society International Migration Initiative.

The Kaldor Centre, the world’s first and only research centre dedicated to the study of international refugee law, has been tracking the ambitions and challenges of the Global Compacts process, bringing together scholars, policymakers and other experts for discussion and publishing analysis. Its milestone Policy Brief series brings legal academic rigour to practical contemporary policy challenges.

What happens in the coming months of negotiations will determine if these agreements will amount to an opportunity lost – or a landmark in improved protection and help for refugees and migrants.

Read the full Policy Brief, Making the Global Compacts Work: What future for refugees and migrants.  

Find out more about the Global Compacts.