Prospects for Responsibility Sharing in the Refugee Context

by Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)


The current state of forced displacement today, with record numbers and rising levels of need, poses challenges of a scope and complexity that we have not had to face since the Second World War. Yet, if we make every effort to place refugee protection at the heart of our response, these challenges are not insurmountable. The international refugee regime provides us with tried and tested tools to address them. What is needed now is to put our collective resources and capacities to their most effective use. We are already seeing this in the recent move towards creating a proposed Global Compact on Responsibility Sharing for Refugees, as set out in the UN secretary-general’s report, In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants. We are also seeing this with innovative directions in protection, assistance, and solutions for refugees that are helping us to operationalize long-standing principles of protection, transforming them into tangible results for refugees. New forms of group determination, combined with community-based protection and other measures, can help to ensure an appropriate legal status while at the same time identifying specific protection needs. Protection strategies can inform frameworks for governing migration and meeting the needs of the most vulnerable migrants. The integration of services to refugees within national systems and the expansion of cash-based programming can meet essential needs for assistance more effectively. Finally, the humanitarian-development nexus, the progressive realization of rights — including the right to work, and the creation of complementary pathways for admission — can provide the building blocks for achieving longer-term solutions, which remain, as ever, the ultimate aspiration of the international refugee protection regime.