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71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly:
"The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push to Transform Our World"

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is one of six principal structures of the United Nations (UN), an international organization, with 193 sovereign states as members, that promotes international cooperation. The UNGA gathers in sessions to discuss important issues of global concerns, such as peace, security, development, and budget matters. Each of the 193 member states has one vote. The 71st session of UNGA with the theme “The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push to Transform Our World” took place 19-23 September 2016 at the UN Headquarters in New York, USA. The discussions focused on ways to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how to address issues associated with refugees/migrants, terrorism, and education. In addition, many side events are organized alongside the UNGA that are designed to expand the dialogue of the high-level General Assembly among diverse stakeholders.

Investment in Education
During the 71st session of the UNGA, the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity launched the report “The Learning Generation: Investing in Education for a Changing World.” The report is an ambitious Financing Compact to be realized through four education transformations: performance, innovation, inclusion, and finance.

United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants
The UNGA hosted a high-level summit to address the large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing nations together behind a more humane and coordinated approach. This was the first time the General Assembly had called for a government-level summit about this issue. It was an historic opportunity for nations to develop a blueprint for a better coordinated international approach to address the challenges posed by over 65 million people who are displaced worldwide. At the Summit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a new campaign called “Together – Respect, Safety and Dignity for All,” emphasizing that refugees and migrants should not be viewed as a burden by member states.

Ban Ki-moon proposed a “Global Compact on Refugees” that would ask governments to commit to welcoming 10% of the world’s refugees annually. Although member states acknowledged and agreed that the human rights for all vulnerable migrants and refugees, including children, must be protected, they did not welcome Secretary-General’s proposal. Instead, the states agreed on the “New York Declaration,” which urges states to enhance migration management and governance and strengthen international cooperation to address the needs and rights of the most vulnerable. The Declaration further aims to ensure that children get an education, and boost humanitarian funding and resettlement of refugees. However, the declaration only sets out non-binding principles and recommendations applying to migrants and refugees.

Leaders’ Summit on Refugees
In connection with the General Assembly meeting, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, hosted the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, together with Sweden, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, and Mexico. The meeting aimed to increase funding for humanitarian and international organizations, contribute to the admittance of more refugees through resettlement and other legal pathways, and increase refugees’ self-reliance and inclusion through education and legal work.

For more information:

Outcome documents from the UNGA:

International Commission on Financing Global Education. (2016). The Learning Generation: Investing in Education for a Changing World

The New York Declaration contains two key documents: Annex I Comprehensive refugee response framework and Annex II: Towards a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

Other relevant resources recently published about refugees and migrants:

The UN Refugee Agency. (2016). Missing out: Refugee education in crisis, UNHCR, New York, USA

United Nations Children’s Fund. (2016). Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children, UNICEF New York, USA

Save the Children. (2016). Forced to Flee - Inside the 21st Largest Country, Washington, DC, USA

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. (2016). In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, Seventieth session, UN General Assembly

Anne Bauer