CFMS Works in Pursuit of Solutions at the UNHCR Annual Consultations in Geneva

September 18, 2015

Speaking at the Opening Plenary of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Annual Consultations with NGOs, High Commissioner António Guterres stated, “the moment of truth has arrived” for those helping refugees and displaced persons. The humanitarian community is facing a record-breaking crisis as support and funding for refugees is diminishing.

The numbers are stark. According to the UNHCR Annual Global Trends Report, at the end of 2014, around 59.5 million people had been forcibly displaced from their homes. In other words, there are about 113 individuals displaced per minute. Roughly two thirds of the world’s refugee population and host communities are located in the Middle East, highlighting the segmented nature of today’s refugee crises.

Responding effectively to refugee crises necessitates not only humanitarian action, but depends on research institutions like CFMS to gather data and provide the theory and analysis in the search for solutions.

Joining UNHCR "In Pursuit of Solutions" to the Refugee Crisis 

CFMS in Geneva for UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOsOn July 1–3, 2015, representatives from CFMS attended the UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs in Geneva, Switzerland. The Consultations brought together UNHCR officers, NGO practitioners, humanitarian aid workers, and academics from around the globe to discuss and issue recommendations for the upcoming year.

Focused this year on the theme “Solutions,” attendees consulted on topics central to the research of CFMS such as refugee resettlement and alternative forms of refugee protection.

Annually for the past five years, CFMS has offered three to four students the unique opportunity to participate in the Consultations through the Geneva International Refugee Advocacy Internship Program. In addition to attending the Consultations in Geneva with CFMS Director Galya Ruffer, students attend weekly training sessions prior to departure, contribute to the CFMS action plan and, during the Consultations, serve as Assistants to the Official Rapporteur for NGOs. 

This year, the Buffett Institute provided a $3,000 supplemental grant for a Northwestern undergraduate to participate in the internship. The 2015 interns were (pictured left to right) Kevin Nigarura (philosophy, economics, minor in legal studies ’16), Areeba Tariq (biology and international studies ’16), and Ary Hansen (political science, minor in international studies and French ’16) who, in addition to serving as Assistants to the Rapporteur, were part of the social media team tweeting during each of the sessions and contributing the Rapporteur report. A highlight for the team was hearing the UNHCR publicly acknowledge each of them by name during the closing plenary. 

A Community-Driven Approach to Solving Refugee Issues

The Consultations emphasized that refugees themselves—their skills and potential—are the best solution. Community-based protection in which the refugee community works together to identify needs, develop projects and implements them is the durable solution. At the 2014 Consultations CFMS contributed to the community-based protection panel and provided analysis for the multiple understandings of community-based protection. Building on last year’s report, this year’s session on community-based protection more deeply explored the need to build upon the new communities of shared experience that arise in displacement and not make assumptions that ethnic/national groups are natural “communities” for displaced populations.

These findings mirrored those of the June 2015 CFMS Symposium, Conflict Zones and Zones of Conflict: War, Peace and the Continuum of Sexual Violence in Eastern Africa, where participants who work with Somali refugees in the host country context of Kenya and in the resettlement context of Minnesota noted the need to support communities of women who have come together for their own protection.

Many NGOs in attendance at the Consultations acknowledged a clear disconnect between the indicators of success for resettled refugees and the lived experiences of those refugees. While millions of refugees dream of resettlement, it remains an option for less than one percent of the 13 million refugees worldwide.

CFMS’s new research program on refugee resettlement intends to contribute knowledge on the economic impact and integration of resettled refugees that will enable the United States to prioritize and extend resettlement policy as a durable solution to the plight of refugees.

In early December, CFMS will host the first symposium on refugee resettlement to continue the discussion and outline a research agenda. For more information on CFMS’s current work and research please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @NUCFMS.

Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Human Rights, Law, Middle East, Migration, Peace/Conflict, Undergraduate Students, US Foreign Policy