Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Comprehensive Solutions: A 'Whole-of-Government' Approach

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Comprehensive Solutions: A 'Whole-of-Government' Approach

Article excerpt

In response to the complex nature of protracted refugee situations, the Government of Canada is developing a 'whole-of-government' approach built on its specific areas of expertise and policy priorities.

The issues surrounding refugees and forced displacement are complex, and cut across a number of sectors, including development, humanitarian policy, peacebuilding, diplomacy and immigration. Responsibility for developing appropriate policy and programming to meet the needs of refugees is therefore shared between a number of departments within the Government of Canada - Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Each department plays an important role in refugee protection.

The pursuit of durable solutions for displaced persons has long been part of Canada's dialogue on refugee issues and in February 2007 an Interdepartmental Working Group on Protracted Refugee Situations was formed to help Canada respond effectively to these situations. Since its inception, the Working Group has looked at the broad range of tools that Canada has at its disposal. Although not all of these are available or useful in each situation, it was felt that an inventory of tools would assist Canada in participating in comprehensive solutions for specific protracted situations. The Working Group also reviewed past efforts to resolve protracted refugee situations in order to learn from their successes and shortcomings. Academics and civil society representatives have brought valuable expertise and perspectives to this discussion and will continue to be important stakeholders. With this information, the Government of Canada is building a broad-based, whole-of-government approach to inform Canada's response to protracted refugee situations.

Understanding Canada's tools

This approach has allowed the Government of Canada to reflect on its areas of expertise in three key areas - diplomacy, development and refugee resettlement, which are inter-related elements of a Canadian contribution to comprehensive solutions for protracted refugee situations.

Diplomacy: DFAIT is mandated to ensure that Canada's foreign policy reflects Canadian values and advances Canada's national interests. As protracted refugee situations are characterised by protection risks, human rights violations and basic human dignity issues, promoting durable solutions for refugees in protracted situations is consistent with Canada's long-standing humanitarian interest in protecting and assisting refugees. Efforts to promote a rights-based approach and encourage countries both of origin and of asylum to respect their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law comprise a fundamental aspect of Canada's foreign policy. Canadian officials have actively sought to highlight protracted refugee situations internationally. They have emphasised that securing durable solutions to these long-standing situations should be of paramount importance, while democracy, human rights and rule of law should be at the heart of long-term efforts to prevent massive refugee outflows and be central components of their eventual resolution.

Canada pursues diplomatic dialogue on refugee issues with host governments and with the countries of origin on return and reintegration, has taken a leadership role in core groups focused on specific protracted situations (including the Core Group on Bhutanese Refugees in Nepal1), and has highlighted protracted refugee situations in the UN General Assembly and within the Organization of American States. It also actively engages in UNHCR's Working Group on Resettlement. Canada recognises that diplomatic dialogue can increase the focus on protracted refugee situations in multilateral discussions on peacebuilding, post-conflict reconstruction, early recovery, development and human rights, as well as its importance to supporting reform within the UN, encouraging improved collaboration of humanitarian response and addressing the gap between relief and development. …

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