Discussion Thread: Forcibly Displaced Non-Refugees

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Time to think about a High Commissioner for Forced Migration?

Given that the number of IDPs is twice the number of refugees and that there are categories of cross-border forced migrants that do not come within the Convention definition of "refugee," is it time to think about a broader multi-lateral structure on behalf of all forced migrants?  The GCM and GCR only confound the issue--barely mentioning IDPs and relegating climate migration to the GCM.  This has naturally led to a turf batttle between UNHCR and IOM.  Establishing a High Commissioner for Forced MIgration (HCFM), proposed by Susan Martin more than a decade ago, would be a coherence-enhancing move, and could be accomplished by expanding the mandate of the High Commissioner for Refugees.  The office of the HCFM would have responsibility for response, protection, assistance and solutions for all forms of forced displacement (probably also absorbing the duties of OCHA/ERC relating to emergencies). This structural improvement would not amend the Convention--that is, it would not entail the extension of rights enjoyed by refugees to all forced migrants. But it would make clear the international community's repsonsibility for responding to all forms of forced migration.

This may seem like a far-fetched idea now, but I think that the growing dominance of displacement due to the effects of climate change will make the proposal look increasingly reasonable.