On Sunday, 22 October 2023, the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies (CHS) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), held a public discussion regarding the upcoming Global Refugee Forum (GRF). The discussion featured UN Deputy High Commissioner Ms Kelly T. Clements and was moderated by Dr. Ghassan El Kahlout, the Director of CHS. The discussion explored the challenges faced in the last GRF and how UNHCR plans to address them through specific approaches in the upcoming GRF.
Ms. Clements first laid the foundations of UNHCR as an agency that maintains the traditional goal of a voluntary, safe, and sustainable return for refugees and the forcibly displaced through providing humanitarian assistance and working directly with host communities. Clements noted that the current global refugee crisis is unprecedented, with an estimation that the surge in the number of displaced persons will continue through to the end of this year. This aspect of the discussion was timely and crucial given the considerable spike in refugee populations, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa region, which faces ongoing instability, conflict, and disasters.
Following this contextualisation, Ms. Clements spoke about the issues of long-term solutions as opposed to only focusing on immediate relief. She stated that it is a common misconception that refugee status is short-term. Rather, protracted refugee situations have progressed from a duration of approximately 10 to 15 years as a global average, with new estimates that refugees remain in displacement for 20 to 25 years. This calls for long-term and effective solutions from the outset of the displacement response. These approaches include, inter alia, the integration of refugees in host countries with the local communities, such as school structures and medical systems. An emphasis was placed on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. As the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to be met in six years, the upcoming GRF is critical in facilitating the achievement of the goals.
Clements recognises a need for emphasising Global Compact Responsibility Sharing. In previous approaches, there was a heavy reliance on host countries only. Clements states that there needs to be a more nuanced approach through supporting host communities and international cooperation. There is a growing recognition that host countries and communities are providing global public services; therefore, the international community needs to provide support. This includes thinking innovatively with partnerships and framing the refugee crisis as one that affects everyone globally. Through collective action and responsibility, refugees and internally displaced people will be provided with the tools to be able to support themselves, fostering sustainability.
Following Ms. Clements' remarks, there was an interactive question-and-answer session with the attendees of the event. The audience included UNHCR partners in Doha, such as the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD), faculty and academic staff from the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, and the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, as well as students from the Doha Institute. The Special Envoy of the Arab League Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, H.E. Sheikha Hessa bint Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani, as well as delegates from sister UN agencies, were among the attendees of the event. The dialogue was insightful, focusing on the role of UNHCR as well as broader refugee-related concerns in today's conflict-ridden environments and international public matters.