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Global Refugee Forum 2023

Volume 743: debated on Tuesday 9 January 2024

I am pleased to inform the House about the outcomes of the second Global Refugee Forum (GRF), co-hosted by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Government of Switzerland in Geneva on 13 to 15 December 2023.

We are living in a time of unprecedented international challenges, ranging from conflict in Ukraine and the middle east to flooding and drought caused by climate change across parts of Africa. As a result, estimates suggest that the number of people forced to leave their homes has risen to over 110 million people this year. In recent years, we have seen countries rally around to support the growing number of refugees across the world. The UK Government believe that collective action is needed to meet these growing challenges.

Four years after the first GRF, over 4,000 representatives from member states, UN agencies, civil society, financial institutions, the private sector and over 300 refugee leaders came together in Geneva to mark progress and pledge further efforts to deliver the Global Compact on Refugees, signed by 181 member states in 2018. More than 10,000 individuals from 120 countries participated online.

I led the United Kingdom delegation. Representing a whole-of-society approach, our delegation included two refugee representatives, as well as UK and devolved Administration officials. Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Edinburgh held a number of productive meetings and attended a reception for representatives to highlight the UK’s co-sponsorship of pledges on education and gender equality and preventing gender-based violence. Additionally, UK local authorities were represented by the Mayor of Bristol, in his capacity as part of the leadership of the Mayor’s Migration Council.

During the forum, the international community collectively reaffirmed and pledged towards the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees: ease pressures on host countries; enhance refugee self-reliance; expand access to third country solutions; and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.

All these objectives are, of course, aligned to the UK’s wider migration policies. We continue to regard the Global Compact on Refugees as the best framework for addressing rising global displacement, and for ensuring that refugees are supported to remain in the regions where they are currently hosted and return home safely and with dignity, when conditions allow. To drive forward work initiated at the first GRF, as well as the commitments set out in our international development White Paper, the UK announced 15 pledges:

A £4 million pledge to support inclusive refugee education—better educated children living through displacement and crises;

A contribution of £2 million new funding to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women’s special window on crises;

Support for meaningful refugee participation in policymaking and high-level meetings affecting displaced populations;

A contribution to ending statelessness multistakeholder pledge;

Working with the global community to drive greater action on conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding;

Action to help build the resilience of refugee, internally displaced and host communities to climate and associated impacts;

Support refugees to access cleaner sources of energy that meet their basic needs, reduces deforestation and improves security for women and girls;

Support for inclusion of forcibly displaced and stateless persons in national statistical systems;

A reaffirmed commitment to supporting the Rohingya and their hosting states;

A continued effort to provide safe and legal routes to the UK as well as support for those who arrive through these routes;

Continued resettlement of refugees through community sponsorship;

Continued provision of work routes for skilled displaced people;

Continued support around the integration of refugees in the United Kingdom;

Improving refugee self-reliance by supporting refugees with recognition of their professional qualifications in the UK; and

Support from the British Council to meet the language needs of refugees and displaced people.

As the UNHCR has recognised, the challenge now is to maintain momentum and translate the international community’s pledges into substantive outcomes.

To this end, we will work to fulfil our own pledges, continue to work to ensure that all countries are playing their part in supporting refugees, and pursue the related measures identified in the Government’s response to the International Development Committee’s eighth report of Session 2022-23.