First Global Refugee Forum in Geneva brings together actors committed to finding shared solutions

Bern, 17.12.2019 - Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis has opened the Global Refugee Forum together with UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. The purpose of the forum, which takes place on 17 and 18 December at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, is to find shared solutions to meet the needs of refugees and their host communities.

There are over 70 million refugees and internally displaced persons in the world today – more than at any other time since the Second World War, and that number is growing. The scale of this issue requires joint action from the international community as no single country can cope with the challenge alone. In December 2018, the UN member states adopted the Global Compact on Refugees, which expresses their political will and objectives in addressing this issue.

The Global Refugee Forum was subsequently established to give concrete expression to the compact and obtain solid commitments from all relevant stakeholders, including governments, international organisations, local authorities, NGOs, the private sector, and the parties most affected, the refugees themselves and their host communities, who have also been invited to attend the event. As the first event of its kind, the forum is intended to serve as a platform for sharing and discussions, making it possible to forge partnerships and come up with innovative solutions to the growing challenges facing refugees and host communities.

In his opening address at the forum, which Switzerland is co-hosting with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ignazio Cassis stressed that "this is an opportunity to move from words to action." Mr Cassis noted Switzerland's long track record in protecting refugees. With International Geneva and the Geneva Conventions, which celebrated their 70th anniversary this year, Switzerland is the global humanitarian and human rights capital. Switzerland's cities and cantons, together with the academic community, private sector and NGOs, are also major contributors to this tradition. They all play a key role in integrating refugees into Switzerland, two examples being Zurich's FOGO project, which provides space for small businesses as well as culinary, cultural and educational initiatives, and SINGA, an association based in Zurich and Geneva that helps refugees and migrants looking to form start-ups.

Switzerland has defined three key action areas: firstly, the protection of displaced persons, given that over 80% of refugees remain in their region of origin. Secondly, the promotion of self-sufficiency and the integration of refugees into their host countries. A major challenge facing refugees is access to education: less than half of the world's refugee children complete compulsory education. And thirdly, taking preventive action by promoting respect for international humanitarian law, through peacebuilding and development cooperation, and by implementing the 2030 Agenda with a view to addressing the root causes that lead people to flee their countries and seek protection from threats and persecution.

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