World leaders Monday agreed to a far-reaching plan to provide migrant children with access to education and to curb sexual violence at the United Nations' first-ever Summit for Refugees and Migrants to address the international crisis.
The U.N. heralded the Declaration, adopted by leaders from 193 countries, as a “bold” and “landmark” plan to ramp up global efforts to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, regardless of immigration status, and normalize migration through 2018.
Other provisions include phasing out detention of children, the resettlement of migrants and refugees in other countries, and offer support to leading refugee host nations.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lauded the deal, saying it marks a “breakthrough” in tackling pressing global challenges of migration and mobility.
Ban said that the plan, referred to as the New York Declaration, will help ensure that ““more children can attend school; more workers can securely seek jobs abroad, instead of being at the mercy of criminal smugglers, and more people will have real choices about whether to move once we end conflict, sustain peace and increase opportunities at home.”
Critics argue that the widely-celebrated deal, which does not include binding mechanisms to hold countries to their commitments, doesn’t go enough to respond to the scale of the situation, the largest refugee and migrant crisis since World War II.
The Making of the Migration Crisis
Oxfam said in a statement ahead of the Summit that world leaders “may be patting themselves on the back,” but that “their political commitments are falling far short.”
“Many governments are worried about how this issue plays out on their political agendas at home, but they must uphold their obligations under international law and demonstrate leadership and empathy,” said Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, stressing that “lives are on the line.”
During the Summit, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Guillaume Long highlighted the root causes underlying global issues of migration and displacement.
“The current mobility and refugee crisis is a consequence of great inequalities in the distribution of wealth and power,” said Long.
Meanwhile, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein offered sobering comments urging world leaders to avoid reducing the deal to self-congratulation.
“The bitter truth is this Summit was called because we have been largely failing,” he said. “It is shameful the victims of abominable crimes should be made to suffer further by our failures to give them protection.”
According to the U.N., the agreement, adopted at the one-day summit in New York, lays out a two-year process to create global systems to manage migration.