CIGI marks anniversary of first Syrian refugee arrivals in Canada with new burden and responsibility sharing solutions

Press Release

December 9, 2016

9 December, 2016 (Waterloo) — As Canada marks one year since the arrival of the first Syrian refugees, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) has released a new paper outlining the principle and practice of refugee burden and responsibility sharing. Resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees in a relatively short period, Canada was one of three countries that accounted for more than 80 percent of the world’s refugee resettlement efforts.

“The one-year anniversary of first arrivals marks an important moment for Canada to reflect on the impact of its efforts to address the needs of the world’s refugees,” said Fen Hampson, director of CIGI’s Global Security & Politics program. “While Canada was one of the few states that rose to the challenge of responding to the Syria refugee crisis, there is the unfading issue of how to ensure predictable and appropriate levels of international cooperation across a larger number of states.” 

Following two summits in New York in September 2016, some states and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are in the early stages of developing a Global Compact on refugees, due to be presented to the UN General Assembly in 2018.

Authored by CIGI senior fellow and global refugee policy expert James Milner, When Norms Are Not Enough outlines the nature and scope of international cooperation necessary to ensure the success of these negotiations.

“Since signing the 1951 Refugee Convention and establishing the basis for global refugee policy, states have agreed that international cooperation is needed to resolve refugee crises,” explains Milner. “The fundamental challenge is that cooperation remains discretionary, piecemeal and ad hoc. Developing a Global Compact on refugees provides an historic opportunity to Canada and the international community to ensure that international cooperation can be more predictable and effective.”
This paper is part of CIGI’s Global Leadership and Cooperation for Refugees project. The project is aimed primarily at developing and advancing ideas for a new system of international cooperation that is capable of anticipating mass movements of people and managing them in a way that is politically viable, equal and fair for all states. This project will also consider ways that Canada can provide international leadership on this crucial issue. Leading this project are Canadian refugee experts Paul Heinbecker, Andrew Thompson, James Milner, Jessie Thompson and Jacqueline Lopour.

For more information on CIGI’s Global Leadership and Cooperation for Refugees project, please see:


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