World Law to Protect Refugees and Migrants


Rene Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

14 Sep 2017 – On 19 September 2016, the UN General Assembly held a one-day Summit on «Addressing Large Movements o Refugees and Migrants» and set a new agenda for responding to large movements of people crossing frontiers.  The UN resolution is called The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.  It has as an annex a plan of action “Towards a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” setting out a framework for positive responses.  The New York Declaration builds on a 2013 UN conference and on the efforts of both the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Migration and the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the Human Rights of Migrants.

Just one year later, the world society continues to face the issues of refugees from areas of armed conflict and serious tensions as well as with the ways to deal in an adequate fashion with migration.

The Association of World Citizens has been actively concerned with the issues of migrants, refugees, the «stateless», and those displaced by armed conflicts within their own country.   Thus we welcome the spirit of The New York Declaration with its emphasis on cooperative action, a humane sense of sharing the responsibilities for refugees and migrants and on seeking root causes of migration and refugee flows. There are three issues mentioned in The New York Declaration which merit follow up action among the UN Secretariat, world citizens and other non-governmental organizations:

  • The migration of youth;
  • The strong link between migration, refugee flows, and improving the structures for the resolution of armed conflicts;
  • Developing further cooperation among non-governmental organizations for the protection and integration of refugees and migrants.

The Migration of Youth

Youth leave their country of birth to seek a better life and also to escape war, poverty, and misfortune. We should add to an analysis of trans-frontier youth migration a very large number of youth who leave their home villages to migrate toward cities within their own country.  Without accurate information and analysis of both internal and trans-frontier migration of youth, it is difficult to develop appropriate policies for employment, housing, education and health care of young migrants and refugees. It is estimated that there are some 10 million refugee children, and most are not in school.

Studies have noted an increasing feminization of trans-frontier migration in which the female migrant moves abroad as a wage earner, especially as a domestic worker rather than as an accompanying family member.  Migrant domestic workers are often exposed to abuse, exploitation and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity and occupation. Domestic workers are often underpaid, their working conditions poor and sometimes dangerous. Their bargaining power is very limited. Thus, there is a need to develop legally enforceable contracts of employment, setting out minimum wages, maximum hours of work and responsibilities.

The Association of World Citizens recommends that there be in the follow ups on The Declaration a special focus on youth, their needs as well as possibilities for positive actions by youth.

The Strong Link between Migration, Refugee Flows, and Improving the Structures for the Resolution of Armed Conflicts

The United Nations General Assembly currently in session is facing the need for action on a large number of armed conflicts in which Member States are involved.  In some of these conflicts the United Nations has provided mediators; in others, UN peace-keepers are present.  In nearly all these armed conflicts, there have been internally-displaced persons as well as trans-frontier refugees.  Therefore there is an urgent need to review the linkages between armed conflict and refugee flows. There needs to be a realistic examination as to why some of these armed conflicts have lasted as long as they have and why negotiations in good faith have not been undertaken or have not led to the resolution of these armed conflicts.  Such reflections must aim at improvements of structures and procedures.

Developing Further Cooperation among Non-Governmental Organizations for the Protection and Integration of Refugees and Migrants

We welcome the emphasis in The New York Declaration on the important role that non-governmental organizations play in providing direct services to refugees and migrants. NGOs also lobby government authorities on migration legislation and develop public awareness campaigns.  The Declaration has stressed the need to focus on future policies taking into account climate change and the growing globalization of trade, finance, and economic activities.  Thus, there needs to be strong cooperation among the UN and its Agencies, national governments, and NGOs to deal more adequately with current challenges and to plan for the future. Inclusive structures for such cooperation are needed.


René Wadlow is a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Task Force on the Middle East, president and U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens, and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Sep 2017.

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