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First-Ever Global Refugee Forum Kicks Off in Geneva Next Week

WRC Urges Support for Refugee Self-Determination, Focus on Gender Equality

NEW YORK, NY – Representatives from governments, international organizations, local authorities, civil society, the private sector, and refugees from around the world will gather in Geneva next week for the first-ever Global Refugee Forum. The two-day event is co-hosted by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the government of Switzerland, with the governments of Turkey, Germany, Ethiopia, and Costa Rica serving as co-conveners.

The Forum follows the Global Compact on Refugees, an agreement that was endorsed by the UN General Assembly one year ago and which sets out to achieve four main objectives: Ease pressures on host countries; enhance refugee self-reliance; expand access to third-country solutions; and support conditions in countries of origin for safe and dignified returns.

“The Global Refugee Forum comes at a crucial time,” said Sarah Costa, executive director of the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC). “More than 70 million people have been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, or human rights violations. Women and girls not only constitute at least half of those affected by crisis but are also affected differently than men and men and boys, as emergencies can exacerbate existing gender inequalities.”

WRC will be co-hosting three events at the Forum as part of its ongoing work around refugee youth engagement, gender-based violence prevention and response, and the rights of refugees with disabilities, and will also participate in an event focused on refugee self-reliance.

“It has been our experience that if you get it right for refugee women, you get it right for everyone,” said Costa. “To do that means putting gender equality at the center of humanitarian response across the board. It means working in partnership with refugees with diverse backgrounds, including refugees with disabilities, and their respective organizations. And, it means tapping into the skills and capacities of refugee women and girls to advance their economic opportunities and self-reliance.”

During the Forum, governments, NGOs, the private sector, the refugee community, and others are expected to work together to commit to new contributions and proposals to advance the four core objectives of the Compact.

“Gender inequality persists. Economic empowerment of women and girls is still inadequate in humanitarian response,” said Costa. “There are still 25 countries that deny women the right to pass on their citizenship to their children. And, sexual and reproductive health care must be made more readily and more widely available to all women and girls at the very onset of a crisis. I hope to see a robust prioritization of gender equality as an outcome of this week’s Forum. The time to act is now.”

Click here for a full schedule of WRC-sponsored events at the Forum.