This page contains analysis and resources on two upcoming international summits on refugees: the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants on 19 September, and the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees hosted by US President Barack Obama on 20 September.
This page will be regularly updated in the lead up and aftermath of the summits.
An extraordinary series of meetings took place in 2016 to respond to perceptions of an unprecedented global refugee crisis. This policy brief traces the context and the results of these meetings and explores the common themes that emerged over the course of the year. The meetings examined include: the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference, held in London in February; the High-Level Meeting on Global Responsibility Sharing through Pathways for Admission of Syrian Refugees, held in Geneva in March, the World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul in May; the Summit on Refugees and Migrants, held in New York on 19 September; and the United States (US) Leaders’ Summit, held in New York on 20 September. Although not all these meetings were technically ‘summits’, they all sought to mobilise attendance and commitments at the highest political level, and for this reason are referred to in this policy brief as ‘the summits of 2016.’
Four specific contextual factors set the stage for the summits of 2016. First, the United Nations (UN) had scored major successes in summits focused on development, climate change and disaster risk reduction in 2015. Secondly, the growing carnage in Syria and the inability of the international community to address it was a vivid backdrop to all of the summits. A third and related trend was the dramatic increase in requests for humanitarian funding. Donors had tripled their contributions to humanitarian appeals over a decade – and yet it still was not enough. Finally, the summits took place at a time of political change. The United Nations Secretary-General’s term was coming to an end. There were nasty politics in Europe with the rise of right-wing populist parties and the United Kingdom (UK)’s decision to leave the European Union. Xenophobic politics in the United States had led to a vociferous reaction to the resettlement of Syrian refugees. These all contributed to a sense that the system itself was not fit for purpose.
At a time of increasingly polarised debate globally, Australia faces many difficult questions about refugee protection. What is the future for offshore processing? Are boat turn-backs safe and legal? Is regional cooperation a realistic policy goal? Are there alternative ways to provide safe pathways to protection for those who need it?
On 12–13 September 2016, the Kaldor Centre convened a two-day Expert Roundtable on regional cooperation and refugee protection in the Asia-Pacific, at UNSW. Participants included a range of academics, legal practitioners, civil society representatives and other subject-matter experts, as well as representatives from the UNHCR Regional Representations in Canberra and Bangkok.
Kaldor Centre Senior Research Associate Madeline Gleeson has taken out the prestigious 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for non-fiction for her book Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru.
Released to acclaim by NewSouth Publishing, Offshore is a searing account of what has happened on the Pacific island nation of Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island since Australia began its most recent offshore processing regime for asylum seekers in 2012.
Offshore was also shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and long-listed for the Walkley awards.
“I’m honoured even to have been considered alongside the other exceptional shortlisted authors,” Gleeson said.
We live in tumultuous times. Since Donald Trump was inaugurated as president of the United States three weeks ago, the political scene in the United States has been roiled by mass demonstrations, boldface headlines, and tweets in the middle of the night. Immigration, linked by Trump to criminals and terrorists, has been a flashpoint.