On September 20,2016, President Obama joined UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as well as leaders from Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico, and Sweden in hosting the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, culminating a sustained effort to rally nations to step up their efforts in response to the largest mass displacement crisis since the Second World War. From their joint statement:
"We have come together in support for the millions of refugees and other persons who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world. The majority are women and children, who are often at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. At a time when global response mechanisms have been strained past their limits by displacement levels not seen since the Second World War, it is incumbent upon the international community to act.
"We recognize that this crisis, while disproportionately driven by conflict in Syria, is truly global in nature, and demands a global response and political solutions. We also recognize the extraordinary steps that the international community has taken over the course of 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems and institutions that will be required to meet the growing need—including at the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. We applaud U.N. Member States for coming together at the high-level plenary meeting on September 19 to reaffirm their shared responsibility for refugees and migrants."
The Summit built on a meeting earlier in the day to mobilize private sector resources to address this same crisis Based on commitments received prior to the Summit, the results are as follows:
Fifty-two countries and international organizations participated in the Summit, announcing commitments that cumulatively increased their total 2016 financial contributions to UN appeals and international humanitarian organizations by approximately $4.5 billion over 2015 levels; roughly doubled the number of refugees they resettled or afforded other legal channels of admission in 2016; created improved access to education for one million refugee children globally; and, improved access to lawful work for one million refugees globally.
Over the course of 2016, 11 of the countries participating in the Summit have at least doubled their financial contributions for humanitarian assistance as compared to last year, with four countries committing to at least ten times more this year than in 2015. Notably, several new countries have pledged to maintain substantially higher rates of humanitarian financing for multiple years. Additionally, at least 18 countries across four continents committed to starting or significantly expanding UNHCR-facilitated third-country resettlement programs, or announced plans to significantly increase their admission of refugees based on family reunification, scholarships, or humanitarian visas. Seven countries committed to resettle and/or admit at least ten times more refugees than they did in 2015.
To achieve the Summit’s goal of improving refugees’ access to education, 17 major refugee-hosting countries pledged to help increase refugees’ school enrollment, including by constructing new classrooms, training and hiring new teachers, and certifying and streamlining refugee education programs that previously offered only informal education or education using foreign curricula. Fifteen countries also committed to take concrete action to improve refugees’ ability to work lawfully by adopting policies that permit refugees to start their own businesses, expanding or enacting policies that allow refugees to live outside camps, making agricultural land available, and issuing the documents necessary to work lawfully.
The Summit also showcased two new platforms that will improve the international community’s ability to share more equitably the responsibility for protecting refugees.
The World Bank announced the Global Crisis Response Platform, which will provide low- and middle-income countries hosting large refugee populations with access to financing on favorable terms for projects to benefit both refugees and their host communities.
The United States intends to contribute at least $50 million over the next five years to the Platform's middle income facility, subject to the availability of appropriations, above and beyond the $25 million contribution we announced earlier. This will leverage three to four times as much in low cost financing. We also look forward to supporting the facility for low income countries later this year as part of our broader replenishment of the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries.
Additionally, the United States helped to establish the Emergency Resettlement Country Joint Support Mechanism (ERCM) – a joint project of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – which will provide both financial and technical assistance to countries that are interested in establishing or expanding refugee resettlement programs.
The Summit built on efforts by the international community throughout 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems required to meet the growing need of refugees, including: the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, and the UN Summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.
U.S. Contributions to the Refugee Crisis-
Protecting and assisting refugees is a foreign policy priority and a proud tradition for the United States. Since 1975 the United States has resettled more than 3.2 million refugees representing more than 70 nationalities. We increased the number of refugees resettled annually in the United States from 70,000 in 2015 to 85,000 this year, and, as recently announced, have established an admissions target of 110,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2017.
The United States has also increased alternative pathways of admission, providing special immigrant visas to more than 11,000 people at risk from Iraq and Afghanistan in FY16, an increase of more than 4,000 from FY 2015. Last year the United States provided more than $6 billion in humanitarian assistance worldwide. We anticipate providing more than $7 billion in humanitarian assistance to international organizations and non-governmental organizations by the end of the current fiscal year. In direct support of the Summit’s goals, the United States recently made a contribution of nearly $37 million for UNHCR’s work with countries hosting refugees to increase the number of refugee children receiving a quality education.
The United States is proud to have provided $20 million in support for the Education Cannot Wait Platform, the world’s first fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, championing access to education in the most complex and dangerous environments.
The United States is also committed to making financial contributions to each of the groundbreaking financial platforms launched in connection with the Summit. We are pleased to have provided $11 million to the ERCM and intend to contribute at least $50 million over the next five years, subject to the availability of appropriations, to the Global Concessional Financing Facility – the middle-income portion of the World Bank’s Global Crisis Response Platform
Full Joint Statement on Leaders' Summit on Refugees:
We have come together in support for the millions of refugees and other persons who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world. The majority are women and children, who are often at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. At a time when global response mechanisms have been strained past their limits by displacement levels not seen since the Second World War, it is incumbent upon the international community to act.
We recognize that this crisis, while disproportionately driven by conflict in Syria, is truly global in nature, and demands a global response and political solutions. We also recognize the extraordinary steps that the international community has taken over the course of 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems and institutions that will be required to meet the growing need—including at the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. We applaud U.N. Member States for coming together at the high-level plenary meeting on September 19 to reaffirm their shared responsibility for refugees and migrants.
Throughout these engagements, certain priorities have become clear. We must seek to increase international humanitarian assistance funding, offer opportunities for refugee resettlement and alternative forms of legal admissions, and facilitate refugees’ access to education and lawful employment. We also note the importance of increasing the pool of countries that provide significant levels of humanitarian assistance beyond the current largest donors, as well as the number of countries providing opportunities for resettlement or other lawful paths to admission. Throughout we have, of course, continued to reaffirm the obligation of states to respect international law, international human rights law, and where applicable, international refugee law and international humanitarian law. We convened today’s Summit with these goals in mind and—because of the concerted efforts and generosity of the international community — we are in a position to reflect on the important progress we have made, while recognizing the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead. In particular:
In order to mobilize more substantial and sustainable funding for UN humanitarian appeals and other international humanitarian organizations, and provide further support to countries hosting large numbers of refugees, we sought a $3 billion increase in global humanitarian financing and commitments to maintain funding in future years. Through our mutual efforts, over the course of 2016, the 32 donors participating today have contributed this year roughly 4.5 billion additional dollars to UN appeals and international humanitarian organizations than in 2015. We commend all governments that have made new and significant humanitarian contributions this year, as well as the important contributions of host countries and will work to provide more aid and direct support. We continue to urge all governments to do even more over the years to come.
In addition, the Summit also sought to provide longer-term solutions for refugees stranded in exile, whose lives are on hold. Governments participating here today have come together, with different types of commitments, to approximately double the global number of refugees resettled and afforded other legal channels of admissions and to improve asylum systems. Some governments have committed to starting or significantly expanding new UNHCR-facilitated third-country resettlement programs and others have greatly increased the numbers of refugees admitted through family reunification or humanitarian admission visas. Several governments have committed to admit significant numbers of refugees into their countries for the first time in recent history. We welcome the inclusion of civil society, which, in many cases, has established private sponsorship programs. To support these efforts, we commend the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR for creating the Emerging Resettlement Countries Joint Support Mechanism, which will help new resettlement countries select, prepare, and support the movement of refugees, and develop systems to welcome and support refugees upon arrival.
We also sought to increase the number of refugees in school by one million globally, and the number of refugees able to lawfully work by one million. Altogether, at least 17 governments participating in today’s Summit have committed to strengthen and adapt their policies so that more refugees can attend school and/or lawfully work. The commitments announced today will help ensure that one million children have improved access to education and that one million more refugees have opportunities to pursue opportunities to legally access work. Noting the importance of fostering an environment of inclusion, as applicable, we are pleased that so many countries have made commitments to help facilitate these goals and recognize that, for purposes of implementation, refugee host countries will continue to require sustainable donor support.
In this connection, we welcome efforts by UNICEF and the international community to establish Education Cannot Wait, the world’s first fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, championing children’s right to access education in the most complex and dangerous environments. We likewise applaud the World Bank’s establishment of a Global Crisis Response Platform, which will provide grants and loans to help low and middle-income countries that so generously host large numbers of refugees. This financing can help provide quality education and economic opportunities for refugees and their host communities. There was consensus that the international community must recognize the protracted nature of the majority of refugee situations and work to strengthen coherence between humanitarian and development support so that our international response provides refugees with the tools necessary to be self-reliant and productive wherever they reside.
Finally, we applaud those countries participating in the summit that, through their pledges, have made qualitative leaps in their commitment to humanitarian financing and/or resettlement and other humanitarian admissions. Others have committed to strengthen their institutional capacity to address the specific needs of asylum seekers and refugees, especially those of the most vulnerable groups.
In closing, we recognize that no routine mechanism exists yet to facilitate the kind of voluntary responsibility-sharing for refugees that was demonstrated today or to more comprehensively address other challenges arising from large-scale refugee crises. We therefore commit to working together in support of the development of the Global Compact on Responsibility Sharing for Refugees, and to develop tools and institutional structures to improve the international architecture and lay a foundation for addressing both the immediate and the long-term challenges of managing refugee flows effectively and comprehensively.