GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Heads of state from Turkey, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Germany are expected to join more than 1,200 diplomats, humanitarians, academics, and refugees in the first Global Refugee Forum, to be held in mid-December in Geneva. The forum, which will be hosted by the U.N. refugee agency and Swiss government, aims to seek better, more sustainable solutions for the global refugee crisis at a time when many countries are closing their doors to refugees and asylum seekers.
The U.N. refugee agency says war and persecution have forcibly displaced a record-breaking 71 million people from their homes. More than one-third are refugees. Eighty-five percent of them live in developing countries. Only 15 percent have found refuge in rich, industrialized countries.
One year ago, the U.N. General Assembly affirmed a Global Compact on Refugees in which the world agreed to address the refugee situation in a new and better way. The UNHCR's director of the forum, Daniel Endres, said it hopes to build on this watershed moment.
He said the aim is to move away from tackling refugee situations through short-term, emergency methods toward more predictable, systematic, and sustainable responses.
"The new model in dealing with refugee situations means really we have to move away from refugee camps, where refugees are often isolated, not allowed to leave the camps, toward what we call inclusion in the host communities. So that they are part of the society, learn, are supported by this supported by this society, but then also contribute to that society," said Endres.
While the UNHCR will be seeking financial support, the two-day meeting will not be a typical pledging conference. The head of the Global Refugee Forum coordination team, Perveen Ali, told VOA attendees will be looking for policy commitments from states as well as monetary commitments.
"For example, making a commitment to include refugees systematically in decisions about funding and development support, for example. We are also encouraging material and technical support. Some countries may not have a lot of capacity to make significant financial contributions, but they can share good practice and expertise to help build systems and build the capacity of host countries," she said.
Ali says the UNHCR is encouraging countries to share the responsibility and burdens of the host nations through resettlement and complementary pathways. She said there will be many ways for countries and organizations to show their solidarity with the refugee-hosting countries by announcing their proposals at the forum.