The first United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Global Refugee Forum took place this week on December 17 and 18 in Geneva. The conference brought together leaders and refugee representatives from around the world to discuss the issues surrounding, and the potential remedies for, the over 25 million displaced refugees worldwide over the past decade.
The president of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, was one of the leaders who spoke.
“Vengo de un país con una larga tradición de proveer refugio personas desplazadas contra su voluntad por motivos de seguridad o violencia y por lo tanto me siento muy honrado de co-auspiciar este primer foro global de refugiados junto con los países amigos de Etiopía, Alemania, Pakistan, Turkia, y Swisa, nuestro co-anfitrión.”
I come from a country with a long tradition of providing refuge for people who have been displaced against their will for security and violence reasons. I am therefore very honored to co-sponsor this first global refugee forum together with our friends from the countries of Ethiopia, Germany, Pakistan, Turkey, and Switzerland, our co-host.President Carlos Alvarado
The number of refugees entering Costa Rica especially spiked during the 2018 protests in Nicaragua. Since April 2018, Costa Rica has received over 77,000 refugee applications from Nicaragua.
It is a call very close to our hearts. This occasion provides us the opportunity to discuss ways to broaden our shared response to this humanitarian challenge in the midst of the one year anniversary of the global compact on refugees.President Carlos Alvarado
The conference composed of speeches, plenaries, and ‘dialogues’ around the topics of jobs, education, protection capacity, energy and infrastructure. The speakers included not only leaders and those in power, but also refugees themselves.
However, were there any actionable or substantive steps taken as a result of the gathering? According to UNHCR, “over 700 pledges to boost opportunities for refugees and their hosts” were made. The pledges were made by “heads of state and government, UN leaders, international institutions, development organizations, business leaders and civil society representatives among the 3,000 attendees” and they promised a range of activities and “job opportunities, school places for refugee children, new government policies, solutions like resettlement, clean energy, infrastructure and better support for host communities and countries”.
A list of the pledges was published and broken down by type of pledge (financial, material, legal, etc), area of focus, and location. However, it is unclear what the enforcement or oversight was put in place by UNHCR, if any.