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The first Global Refugee Forum

The number of refugees has risen steadily in recent years, with over 70 million people now living as either refugees or internally displaced persons. This is not a challenge that any country can take on alone: it requires a joint, international framework for cooperation, which is precisely the intention behind the United Nations (UN) Global Compact on Refugees, approved by UN member states in December 2018. The first Global Refugee Forum (GRF), held in Geneva on 17–18 December 2019, aims to spur progress in implementing the compact.

The forum provides a platform for all actors – governmental and non-governmental – to forge partnerships and showcase innovative solutions, and to address together the growing challenges facing refugees and host communities. The forum brings together governments, international organisations, local authorities, civil society, the private sector, host communities and refugees themselves. It gives these stakeholders an opportunity to announce new measures that they will take to ensure international protection, ease the pressure on first host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance and identify sustainable solutions.

Switzerland's role

The forum, co-hosted by Switzerland, is opened by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis with the High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Secretary-General.

Switzerland contributes to a number of key topics being discussed at the GRF, chief among them education, protection, employment and integration. Switzerland has a wealth of hands-on experience in these areas, both at home and abroad.

For many years, Switzerland has been helping countries of first refuge to protect refugees and internally displaced persons as quickly and effectively as possible. By providing assistance on the ground, it seeks to ensure adequate protection for the people concerned. This means that refugees are not forced to move on to other countries and regions, which usually entails a dangerous journey during which they run the risk of falling victim to human trafficking and other human rights violations. As well as providing protection in regions of origin, Switzerland also supports measures to prevent large-scale refugee or displacement movements and to promote refugees' social and economic self-reliance and their integration in countries of first refuge. Switzerland works with a number of humanitarian and development organisations to this end. A particularly important collaboration is that with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The significance of this partnership was confirmed by the Federal Council's decision in spring 2019 to grant UNHCR a total of CHF 125 million over the next four years.

Switzerland renews support to UNHCR, press release, 7 June 2019

At the forum, Switzerland also presents its new asylum procedure and the implementation of its Integration Agenda as examples of good practice. The Geneva Refugee Convention guarantees protection for refugees around the world and forms the backbone of Switzerland's asylum policy. The new asylum procedure, which has been in place since spring 2019, aims to improve the protection of refugees, speed up procedures, make them more effective and uphold the rule of law. But Switzerland's efforts do not stop there. The country attaches great importance to integrating refugees, and its new Integration Agenda aims to get refugees and temporarily admitted persons into work more quickly and make them less reliant on social assistance.

Another Federal Council decision that Switzerland showcases at the forum is its implementation of the resettlement plan for recognised groups of refugees. Resettlement has been a part of Swiss refugee policy for many decades. Developed in close consultation with the cantons, cities and communes, the plan will see up to 800 particularly vulnerable refugees, living in precarious circumstances in countries of first refuge, resettled in Switzerland in both 2020 and 2021.

Federal Council approves implementation of resettlement concept, press release, FDJP, 29 May 2019 (de)

Switzerland's participation in the GRF follows the whole-of-Switzerland approach. Experiences and innovative solutions from the country's cantons and cities, private sector, academia and civil society feed into the discussions, alongside contributions by the Federal Administration.

Last update 26.01.2022