In recent years, significant global attention — much of it through the negotiations of the 2016 New York Declaration and the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees — has been focused on developing more effective and equitable methods for sharing responsibility for refugees. States, international organizations, civil society organizations and academics have also put forward proposals and programs, alongside and in response to these negotiations.

This paper examines and compares these initiatives, analyzing their strengths and limitations. It calls for a clearer understanding of the meaning and application of responsibility sharing for the protection of refugees and for further examination as to how the refugee regime interacts with other areas of international governance. It also highlights opportunities associated with incorporating refugees within broader development or human mobility initiatives, while it reiterates the need to preserve the principal humanitarian purpose of refugee protection and the provision of durable solutions through effective responsibility sharing. It proposes transitioning refugee financing and refugee resettlement away from voluntary, ad hoc contributions and toward more concrete legal and financial commitments, while accounting for states’ differing capacities and resources. One approach to implementing these changes is to bring together the actors who are most capable, most responsible and most vulnerable, within a mini-multilateral framework.

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Research papers are policy documents commissioned by the World Refugee Council from world-renowned experts to help inform the work of the Council and its final recommendations. The measures and concepts in these documents do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Refugee Council.
  • Tristan Harley is co-author of Refugees, Regionalism and Responsibility (Elgar, 2016), with Penelope Mathew, and is a doctoral candidate at the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Tristan has worked as a consultant on international refugee law and policy with organizations such as the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network and Act for Peace and is a registered solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia.