Migration Challenges and Opportunities for Canada in the 21st Century

Remarks by:

Simran Singh, Senior Humanitarian and Gender Advisor, CARE Canada
Shaughn McArthur, Policy and Influence Lead, CARE Canada

Delivered to House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

[Simran Singh]

CARE Canada is honoured to contribute to the Committee’s deliberations.

CARE is a rights-based, international non-governmental organization.

We support life-saving humanitarian assistance, peacebuilding, as well as longer-term development work with a specific focus on women and girls.

Last year, our work reached nearly 60 million people in 95 countries – including in refugee-hosting countries such as Jordan, Kenya and Bangladesh.

I will begin by sharing an example of the way we work with refugees and host communities in such contexts.

My colleague will then provide our perspectives on the Global Compact on Refugees.

CARE has been in Jordan since 1949.

In recent years, Jordan has absorbed almost seven hundred (700) thousand Syrian refugees, over eighty-five (85) percent of whom live below the poverty line.

This has placed significant strain on government services, and on the communities where the refugees are trying to eke out a new living.

So we have set up four Urban Refugee Hubs across Jordan.

These are essentially community centres, like you would find in any city in Canada: Children singing off-key, a flurry of activity.

But the Urban Refugee Hubs are innovative in that they provide services to refugees and vulnerable Jordanians alike: immediate cash assistance, psychosocial support and skills training.

This accomplishes a number of things:

First, it helps supplement services provided by the Jordanian government.

Second, the Hubs relieve pressure on the humanitarian system by building women and men’s capacities to generate income and become self-reliant.

Third, the Hubs foster social cohesion – providing services that otherwise would not be available to the local Jordanian population.

Finally, Urban Refugee Hubs provide a safe space for refugees to speak to other refugees, share their experiences and recover a sense of normalcy and dignity.

As you will have seen in Uganda, amazing things happen when we help refugees help themselves.

Our most recent annual assessment noted that refugees in Jordan are becoming more self-sufficient, and less reliant on aid.

In an era of unprecedented humanitarian need, more protracted conflicts, and increasingly scarce resources – solutions like these help us stretch our aid dollars and foster longer-term, more sustainable impact.

[Shaughn McArthur]

This is why, in 2016, states, NGOs, and multilateral agencies came together to ensure that the complementary implementation of best practices would no longer be left to chance, but rather woven into the fabric of the global refugee system.

Because, at the end of the day, the global refugee challenge is entirely manageable:

Consider that refugees make up just 0.3 per cent of the global population.

The problem is rather that eighty-eight percent (88%) of the world’s refugees are concentrated in a handful of frontline states:

Low- and middle-income countries already grappling with poverty, poor infrastructure, food insecurity and political instability.

These countries have, to a great extent, been left to shoulder the responsibility of hosting refugees alone – oftentimes over decades.

That is why, in the New York Declaration, world leaders expressed their determination to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility for the highest number of refugees since World War II.

CARE was actively involved in the articulation of the New York Declaration.

And we have remained engaged through the two (2) years of intensive consultations towards the strongest possible Global Compact on Refugees.

I am confident that this is what we have achieved.

By no means is the Global Compact on Refugees perfect.

But it is a document that recognizes:
– that the global forced displacement challenge is inherently political,
– that countries of first asylum provide a vast public good,
– that women and girls experience particular gender-related barriers, and bring unique capacities and contributions,
– that labour policies that support refugees’ self-sufficiency help them become a net benefit to host communities, and
– that more must be done to tackle root causes such as conflict, abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, exploitation, discrimination, and poverty.

CARE supports the Global Compact on Refugees, which we believe can help bring about a more predictable, consistent, coherent, and efficient international response to large flows of refugees.

What the Global Compact on Refugees lacks is legal teeth, or a clear way of holding states and other stakeholders accountable for its implementation.

As paragraph four (4) of the Compact states,

“It will be operationalized through voluntary contributions to achieve collective outcomes and progress towards its objectives.”

This is where the world needs more Canada.

CARE recommends two key ways in which Canada can help the Global Compact for Refugees set a new standard in the way the world responds to refugee crises.

First, Canada should offer to co-host the first Global Refugee Forum.

The Global Refugee Forum, established under the GCR, represents a critical opportunity to calibrate progress, share best practices, and pledge contributions towards the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees.

Canada is regarded as an honest broker and is uniquely positioned among countries to help co-host the first Global Refugee Forum.

Second, Canada should support a comprehensive, gender-responsive response to a specific large-scale or protracted refugee situation.

This would be done in partnership with a refugee-hosting country, and in collaboration with UNHCR and local civil society organizations.

It should involve the activation of the Support Platform conceived in the Global Compact for Refugees, including efforts to:
– Galvanize political commitment;
– Mobilize financial, material and technical assistance;
– Facilitate coherence between humanitarian and development responses; and
– Support policy initiatives that can help ease pressure on host countries, build resilience and self-reliance, and find solutions.

The Global Compact on Refugees offers a blueprint for a more consistent, predictable and efficient global refugee response system – a system capable of restoring trust and cooperation between countries.

CARE firmly believes that the Compact’s operationalization – and our ability as an international community to report on its progress in the coming years – is a key migration opportunity for Canada in the twenty-first (21st) Century.

With that, we look forward to your questions.