Global compact receives go-ahead from Federal Council

Press release, 07.12.2018

In its meeting on 7 December, the Federal Council reviewed the global compact on refugees, which is expected to be endorsed by the UN General Assembly in conjunction with its annual resolution on the work of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Federal Council has tasked the FDFA to instruct Switzerland's permanent mission in New York to vote in favour of this resolution and to inform the competent parliamentary committees of its decision.

The global compact on refugees is based on current international law on refugees (1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol). The compact reaffirms the existing international refugee protection regime and pursues four key objectives:

• The first objective is to ease pressures on countries hosting large numbers of refugees (Uganda, Lebanon, Turkey, Bangladesh) and to encourage local assistance. This is in line with the wishes expressed by Parliament regarding international cooperation.
• The second objective is to support countries in the affected regions which make efforts to integrate refugees in local economies and communities, in order to enhance their self-reliance and make them less dependent on state support.
• A more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibilities associated with hosting refugees is envisaged in the third objective. The compact encourages states which are neither hosts nor donors to contribute more substantially to the international effort.
• Finally, the compact seeks to encourage the return of refugees to their countries of origin where possible.

By supporting the global compact on refugees, Switzerland protects its own interests, which are in accordance to the pact, and it asserts its humanitarian tradition. It is also adopting a position shared by the majority of the international community.

The global compact on refugees builds on the New York Declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2016 to strengthen international cooperation in order to better manage movements of refugees and migrants. This declaration provided for the adoption of two global frameworks, the global compact for migration and the global compact on refugees. The legal basis for the second compact already exists in the form of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, both of which Switzerland ratified.

The global compact on refugees thus reaffirms the existing international refugee protection regime, whereas the global compact for migration seeks to improve global coordination in migration matters and was established through intergovernmental negotiations. The global compact on refugees was drawn up by the UNHCR through a consultation process with the UN member states. Instead of being adopted at an intergovernmental conference, it will therefore simply be ‘endorsed’ by the General Assembly in conjunction with its annual resolution on the work of the UNHCR.

The only divergence with Switzerland's current practice in the protection of refugees is that the compact calls for ratification of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which Switzerland has not joined. Given that the global compact on refugees is not legally binding, Switzerland would not be under any additional obligation. The Federal Council considers that the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness does not need to be ratified since the current legislation already affords extensive protections to stateless persons.


Address for enquiries:

FDFA Information
Tel. +41 58 462 31 53
info@eda.admin.ch


Publisher:

The Federal Council
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs