PROTECT Expert Forum 26 November
International protection and the Global Compacts in the time of Covid-19: lessons and challenges from South(ern) Africa
Forum title: International protection and the Global Compacts in the time of Covid-19: lessons and challenges from South(ern) Africa
When: 26 November 2020, 1:30 – 3:15 pm GMT+2
Hosts: University of Witwatersrand
The extensive negotiations of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) between 2015 and 2018 were met with some apprehension in South Africa and the SADC region. This was due to perceived Northern bias in the negotiations and an apparent focus on prevention and localised solutions, over supporting migrant movement over longer distances. Nevertheless, since their adoption in 2018, commentators and advocates have begun to explore how best to use the political space the two Compacts have created to improve protection for refugees and migrants in southern Africa and the continent more broadly. For instance, promoting the possible harmony between the GCR’s key focus on encouraging equitable burden and responsibly sharing and attempts to improve implementation of Article II(4) of the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention, which promotes African solidarity and international cooperation.
2020 has however brought new and unexpected challenges, notably with the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic. This has exacerbated existing protection issues while also creating new ones for refugees and migrants in urban spaces in South Africa and the sub-region. With many state-run safety nets not available to non-citizens, multiple border closures and a renewed focus on nationalism and xenophobia, many migrants in southern Africa have been left entirely without assistance or forced to make (often informal) ‘return’ journeys to find support from family networks.
This Expert Forum has been convened to take stock of the role of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in South(ern) Africa, two years after their adoption. It will examine the extent to which the GCR and GCM are influencing the implementation of South Africa’s legal and institutional frameworks surrounding refugee and migrant protection in cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The Forum will also explore the unique challenges the global COVID-19 pandemic has created in terms of implementation of the two Compacts at the city, national, and regional levels. Equally, looking forward, the Forum will ask if the pandemic may offer some opportunities to utilize the Compacts further to improve international protection structures for refugees and migrants. For example, by developing more inclusive ‘whole of society’ approaches to healthcare systems at the local and municipality level.
A facilitated panel discussion with speakers from AU, IOM, UNHCR, academia, and civil society. Speakers TBC.