The Global Refugee Forum drew UN member states, international organizations and NGOs, civil society, and private sector groups to Geneva in December 2019. The first-ever Global Refugee Forum was an arrangement of the Global Compact on Refugees which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2018. The Compact calls for states and other actors to convene every four years to translate the written intention of responsibility-sharing when it comes to refugee responses into measurable steps of concrete action.

As many countries, such as the United States, have been dramatically decreasing resettlement programs over the past few years, it is fair to say that the current refugee response model is failing to protect and assist all people fleeing from war and persecution. Therefore, it is with an urgency that actors need to be re-energized and invest in pathways to safety for persons affected by war and violence.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, hundreds of pledges were made at the Forum by states and other entities to support inclusive policies, mobilizing political will and broadening the base of support for refugee communities worldwide. Pledges included financial, technical and material support, as well as policy changes and an increased committment to resettlement and complementary pathways. When it came to complementary resettlement, assurances were diverse and included examples such as Germany pledging to “open the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) program to other partners” and Turkey pledging the “construction of new schools for Syrian Kids to provide quality education.” In total, states pledged $3 billion to support refugee populations, as well as 50,000 new resettlement spaces. In addition, approximately $250 million was pledged to refugees by the private sector. To explore further, the UNHCR created an interactive digital platform that allows viewers to access all pledges and contributions that were made at the Forum and to implement the Global Compact for Refugees.

Refugee Pathways supports the Global Refugee Forum’s call for more dignified solutions for refugees and calls on the international community to further expand upon these solutions ranging from traditional resettlement to complementary resettlement pathways such as humanitarian visas, family reunification, private sponsorship, and educational programs.

In 2019, out of 1.4 million refugees estimated to be in urgent need of resettlement, only 63,696 were resettled through the UN Refugee Agency. These statistics highlight that few refugees can be resettled through traditional resettlement pathways, because of the tremendous gap between resettlement needs and places made available by governments across the world. This is why complementary safe and legal resettlement opportunities, as presented on are urgently needed and must be increased.

It is the goal of Refugee Pathways to empower refugees in their decision-making process and search for legal and safe passage, and it is clear that more pathways need to be created to ensure adequate resettlement for everyone in need of protection. With the protracted nature of today’s refugee crises, Refugee Pathways urges the international community not to lose focus of these immense goals now that the Global Refugee Forum has passed, but to seriously commit to their pledges and invest in longer-term projects with sustainable solutions for refugees.

Emily Ervin for Refugee Pathways