Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Turning the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework into Reality

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Turning the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework into Reality

Article excerpt

The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), one of two annexes to the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (New York Declaration), outlines a comprehensive response to large-scale movements of refugees, based on a collective approach engaging different actors and approaches. Its objective is "to ease pressures on the host countries involved, to enhance refugee self-reliance, to expand access to third-country solutions and to support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity."1 Fundamentally, the CRRF is about changing cultures, mind-sets and the ways we do business. It is about engaging a greater range of stakeholders, and thinking in more creative ways to enable refugees to be more self-sufficient, while better supporting the communities that host them. States are working towards the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) based on learning from how the CRRF is applied.

Several countries including Uganda and Tanzania have stepped forward to implement the framework. Plan International Tanzania and Plan International Uganda have supported the work of a consultant to work with the broader community to look at what needs to be achieved, and what challenges addressed, if the implementation of the CRRF is to be successful. Many of the observations and recommendations in this article draw on meetings held with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government officials and UNHCR in Tanzania and Uganda in May and June of 2017, as well as on subsequent discussions in Geneva.2

Learning from previous attempts

The unanimous adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) of the New York Declaration in September 2016 was historic - never before had so many States committed to responding better to refugees and migrants. The New York Declaration commits States to developing two compacts by 2018: the GCR and a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. While the lack of attention to internally displaced people (IDPs) is significant, this opportunity to improve our collective response to refugees and migrants should not be overlooked.

However, the CRRF and the impending GCR have been met with limited enthusiasm. It is not the first time that many of these concepts, ideas and approaches have been put forward. Many of the concepts have been tried out before, not necessarily successfully. For example, the attempt to engage a broader range of stakeholders in refugee responses - what is being termed a 'whole of society' approach - has been made before under numerous different names. Engaging development actors in refugee responses from the beginning is also not new. For the CRRF to succeed, it is important to learn from past attempts - and failures - to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated, and that learning is incorporated early on. There are a number of challenges that must be tackled if the CRRF's implementation is to be successful.

Simple, practical language: Negotiated in New York, the language of the New York Declaration and CRRF does not easily translate into practical terms. At the time of writing there is still no clear, concise or consistent description of what the CRRF means in concrete terms. Even the acronym itself means little to many people. It even prompted the High Commissioner at the UNHCR Annual NGO Consultations in 2017 to suggest (half-jokingly) a re-naming competition.

The CRRF is meant to lead to a change in the way business is done, both by those stakeholders who are currently involved and by those that should be. Simply relabelling ongoing efforts and programmes or resurrecting old ideas will not be sufficient to achieve the step-change required. There is a pressing need for communication and practical guidance showing clearly what is new and different, which can then be contextualised in each of the CRRF countries. Otherwise the risk is that differing interpretations of the CRRF simply lead to a repackaging of ongoing activities. …

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