The Global Refugee Forum Must Address the Priorities of Refugees in Major Refugee-Hosting Countries

Blog by Oxfam-KEDV
Published: 15th December 2023

African Refugee Led Network, Global Refugee-led Network MENA Chapter, and the Refugee Council of Turkiye (TMK)

The Global Refugee Forum (GRF) is a vital platform for systematizing commitments made by the international community under the framework of the Global Compact on Refugees to enable collective action to support the well-being of refugees and forcibly displaced people globally. It is vital that the outcomes of the 2nd GRF, to be held this week between 13-15 December, address the priorities of refugees and host communities living in major refugee-hosting countries.

Refugees and host communities living in major refugee-hosting countries face significant barriers in ensuring their priorities are reflected in policy-making spaces like the GRF, despite being directly impacted by their outcomes. Many are unable to attend in-person due to restrictions on freedom of movement for many refugees and host community members alike coming from countries in the global South, as underscored in our recent experiences trying to obtain visas for representatives of the Africa Refugee-Led Network to attend the Global Refugee Forum this week.

To address the challenges refugees and host communities in major refugee-hosting countries face in attending and influencing international policy-making on refugees, the Global Refugee-Led Network, the Africa Refugee-Led Network, the GRN MENA Chapter, and the Refugee Council of Türkiye consulted refugee-led organizations and local and national civil society organizations in our respective countries and regions to gauge the priorities of refugees. Our networks have a presence in more than half of the top 10 refugee-hosting countries globally, like Türkiye, Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Sudan. Close to a fifth of the global refugee population resides in the MENA region, while countries in sub-Saharan Africa host more than one fourth of the world's refugees.  

We reached 57 refugee-led organizations and 37 local and national civil society organizations, including 18 women-led organizations. Here’s what they had to say:

First, while the situations in each of the major refugee-hosting countries is unique, access to basic services continues to be a pressing issue for refugee and host communities alike, with continuing problems for both refugees and host communities in accessing education, health services, water and sanitation, shelter, and other basic needs. Access to long-term regularized forms of status for refugees emerged as an effective approach to ensuring that refugees in our networks can access these basic services.

Protecting freedom of movement and the right to cross international borders to seek safety was another key priority that emerged among members of our networks. Such efforts are needed to ensure that we as refugees can access long-term solutions to our displacement.

Critically, our networks also raised that the principle of non-refoulement or protection against involuntary or forced return must be protected, and that the root causes of displacement need to be addressed before returns in safety and dignity can take place.

The findings of these surveys are not surprising to us, as surveys we have been conducting with our networks in the last five years have shown that these priorities have barely changed. Addressing these issues requires a whole-of-society approach and the collective action of the international community. Despite this, the support of the international community has not kept pace with the rising number of refugees and displacement situations globally, making effective and equitable responsibility-sharing out of reach.

The international community must go beyond rhetoric and take concrete steps to change outcomes for refugees and host communities. These actions must in particular extend to systematic forms of predictable support to the countries hosting the highest numbers of refugees. It needs to continue to provide support that addresses the needs of refugees and host communities living in situations of protracted displacement, in proportion to the scale of displacement. Most critically, it must cooperate with and amplify the leadership of the diverse stakeholders representing refugees and host communities in these countries to enable effective cooperation on refugee issues.

Four years from now, the GRF will be convened again to take stock and assess progress in addressing the priorities of refugees globally. We sincerely hope that it won’t have to take another consultation survey with the same outcomes to convince the international community to step up and take action.