The AALCO Secretariat organized its third webinar on the topic ‘Global Compact on Refugees: Mapping the Way Forward for AALCO Member States’ on May 24, 2023. The webinar witnessed leading international experts on international refugee law from both practice and academia gracing the occasion and addressing the participants on the theme. AALCO received more than 80 registrations for the event, mostly from diplomats and government officials from Member States, who were looking forward to engaging with the topic of forced displacement in light of the Global Compact on Refugees (also known as the Refugee Compact) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018.
The Inaugural Session of the webinar was presided by Mr. Jun Yamada, Deputy-Secretary General of AALCO. Dr. Ali Garshasbi, Deputy-Secretary General of AALCO moderated Sessions I & II of the webinar.
In his Keynote Address, H.E. Dr. Kamalinne Pinitpuvadol, Secretary-General of AALCO welcomed all the participants to the webinar being organized by the Organization. He highlighted the importance and relevance of the theme for the webinar which he stated was carefully arrived at after detailed deliberations with stakeholders including the UNHCR. The Secretary-General highlighted AALCO’s historical engagement with Refugee Law, noting in particular the continued relevance and receptivity of the historic ‘Bangkok Principles’ for the normative soft-law evolution of refugee protection as a concern of the international community. The significance of the Refugee Compact as a global framework mechanism for bridging together the loose ends of the international refugee protection framework including crucial aspects like burden and responsibility sharing and root causes was noted by the Secretary-General.
The Special Address of the event was delivered by Mr. Oscar Mundia, Chief of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Mission in New Delhi who highlighted the magnitude of the current global forced displacement crisis and the continuing challenges being faced by the international community for protecting refugees and stateless persons. While noting that the challenges being faced for the protection of refugees, he traced the historical evolution of non-binding international soft law mechanisms including the Global Compact on Refugees. He highlighted the importance of the Refugee Compact, including its key objectives while encouraging States to work together in the spirit of cooperation to assist refugees. Finally, the significance of the Global Refugee Forum as a multi-stakeholder forum for refugee protection scheduled to take place in December 2023 was noted by Mr. Mundia.
The webinar was divided into two sessions with Session I focused on the sub-theme Global Compact on Refugees: Safety, Solutions and Solidarity. This session saw the presence of two distinguished Asian International Refugee Law academics, namely Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Law, Chulalangkorn University, Bangkok and UN Special Rapporteur and Prof. Srinivas Burra, Associate Professor, South Asian University (SAU), New Delhi. Prof. Muntarbhorn provided a cutting edge analysis of the Refugee Compact from the perspective of the safety, solutions and solidarity paradigm and noted its cross-cutting dimensions with other treaty instruments like the Convention Against Torture among other aspects. Prof. Srinivas Burra in his presentation provided a succinct and lucid analysis of the Refugee Compact with a scholarly focus on some of its limitations and the challenges that lie ahead for international law in the backdrop of its much awaited review that will take place in the Global Refugee Forum scheduled in December 2023.
Session II of the webinar focussed on the sub-theme: Global Compact on Refugees: Building Protection Capacity. The Session saw the participation of Ms. Amaka Gold Elom, Deputy Director, International and Comparative Law Department and Head, Migration Team of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ms. Monique Sokhan, Senior Protection Coordinator in the Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific, UNHCR and Amb. Dr. Namira Negm, Director, AU Observer and Former Legal Counsel to the African Union, Ethiopia. Ms. Elom provided a detailed analysis of Nigeria’s practice on refugee protection including various pledges undertaken by the country to safeguard refugees as a vulnerable group entitled to legal protection. Ms. Sokhan in her presentation highlighted the legal and humanitarian nature of asylum as a core institution of international refugee protection and the importance of safeguarding this right in the backdrop of the Refugee Compact. Amb. Dr. Negm highlighted several nuanced aspects of the Refugee Compact while noting its relevance for Continental Africa especially the significance of international cooperation as an imperative for effective refugee protection.
The presentations were followed by questions and answers from the participants and the moderator, Dr. Ali Garshasbi.
The second session was followed by a Concluding Address by H.E. Dr. Kamalinne Pinitpuvadol, Secretary-General of AALCO who thanked the panelists for gracing the occasion and enriching the discussion on this highly useful and relevant theme. He noted that the webinar has helped AALCO in fulfilling its mandate under Article 1 of its Statutes which, inter alia, requires the organization to exchange views, experiences and information on matters of common concern having legal implications in the realm of international law for Member States.
The webinar was concluded by a formal Vote of Thanks delivered by Mr. Sun Guoshun, Deputy-Secretary General who noted the keen interest shown by Asian-African States in the development of International Law. He thanked the panelists, the diverse pool of attendees and the DSGs and staff of AALCO who played a major role in ensuring the success of the event. He noted that an event off this nature would not have been possible without the leadership of the Secretary-General of AALCO, H.E. Dr. Kamalinne Pinitpuvadol.