January 24, 2019 (UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK) — The World Refugee Council today is calling for a major overhaul of the global refugee system in order to protect the interests of the forcibly displaced, as well as those of the countries and local communities that host them.

The Council’s report, A Call to Action: Transforming the Global Refugee System, presents a prescription of concrete actions to protect the interests of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) — particularly the interests of women and children — while helping governments to manage refugee movements. The foundation of the report is the principle that all members of the international community must share the responsibility for supporting refugees and the countries that host them.

Last week, the Council initiated a process to implement its 55 recommendations when a Council delegation met with the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and offered a partnership with the African Union’s Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa. The African Union welcomed the Council’s offer.

Among the Council’s key recommendations:

  • create an independent Global Action Network for the Forcibly Displaced;
  • promote leadership roles for women and youth, thereby giving a voice to more than half of those who are forcibly displaced globally;
  • hold perpetrators accountable before the law;
  • develop a new peer review system to spotlight those in the international community who are not fulfilling their commitments to protect and assist refugees; 
  • mobilize innovative financing systems, including refugee bonds and private equity instruments, for the benefit of refugee-hosting states;
  • promote special measures through the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization for countries hosting large numbers of refugees in the developing world; 
  • strengthen protection for IDPs, including through the establishment of a Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to coordinate international responses; and
  • confiscate and repurpose frozen assets of corrupt or violent regimes to support those who are forcibly displaced by those regimes.

“What we’ve witnessed during our consultations across five continents is that there is an appetite to end the growing impunity and deficit of accountability on the part of those responsible for the conflicts and other actions that are forcing people to flee their homes and countries,” said Lloyd Axworthy, chair of the World Refugee Council and former Canadian foreign minister. “There is also the reality that some nations are shirking their responsibilities to protect refugees, often driven by nationalism and xenophobia to achieve short-term political gain. At the same time, genuine concerns in receiving states, deriving from uncontrolled movements of people, need to be addressed.”

Building on the recently adopted United Nations global compacts on refugees and for migration, the Council’s bold but realistic calls to action seek to address a crisis of political leadership and of financial and accountability gaps in the current system. These gaps have hampered the international community’s efforts to assist the largest number of people displaced by conflict and persecution since World War II, currently some 68.5 million people worldwide. The Council’s recommendations also aim to provide resources and support to countries receiving the majority of refugees, especially in the Global South.

The Council’s recommendations are available in its report A Call to Action: Transforming the Global Refugee System, which will be presented today at an event with ambassadors and representatives of international organizations at the United Nations in New York City.


For interview requests with World Refugee Council Chair Lloyd Axworthy or other Council members, please contact:

Jeff Stoub, [email protected],+1 514 466 5333

Erinn Steringa, [email protected], +1 519 885 2444 ext. 7237

About the World Refugee Council

The World Refugee Council was formed in May 2017 by the Centre for International Governance Innovation with the support of the Government of Canada and other partners. Led by former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy, the Council is an independent, global body composed of nearly two dozen political leaders, policy advisers and academic experts, including a Nobel prize winner, a business leader, civil society actors and human rights activists from around the world. In its major report, A Call to Action: Transforming the Global Refugee System, the Council seeks to strengthen the global response beyond the United Nations and its global compacts on refugees and for migration. 

About the Centre for International Governance Innovation

We are the Centre for International Governance Innovation: an independent, non-partisan think tank with an objective and uniquely global perspective. Our research, opinions and public voice make a difference in today’s world by bringing clarity and innovative thinking to global policy making. By working across disciplines and in partnership with the best peers and experts, we are the benchmark for influential research and trusted analysis.