This week, leaders from around the world will gather in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. While all eyes will likely be on President Donald Trump and his MAGA hat, this meeting is incredibly important for another reason.
It’s a chance to check-in on the promises to help refugee children Australia made as a signatory to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It is also a chance for Australia to shape the new ‘Global Compact on Refugees.’ and the ‘Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.’ Here are 5 areas Australia should push this week:
1. Stay in school
One thing everyone agreed on last year: all refugee children should be in school and learning within a few months of becoming refugees. One year on, that promise has been broken. Refugee children have lost out on 700 million days of school. Every day another 1.9 million school days are lost. This year, keep an eye out for Australia’s action on getting kids back in school – in our region and worldwide.
2. Get Busy!
A terrible aspect of being a refugee is uncertainty about the future – not knowing where you will end up, or if you will be safe. The New York Declaration committed Australia to creating a ‘program of action’ where we set out exactly how we are going to meet our promises. Australia can lead the world in creating and circulating that program, to show our commitment to the process and our willingness to step up and do more. It will be especially important for Australia to find a sustainable solution for the refugees under our protection in offshore processing centres and commit to work towards a regional protection framework so that our region is prepared to respond when people are forced to flee their homes.
3. Do it for the kids
As the world struggles to come to terms with millions of people on the move, Australia should push for the Compacts to specifically look out for the best interests of children. This means ending the practice of children in detention, ensuring that all children can access child protection services when needed, and keeping families together or helping them reunite. These obligations should be a core part of our response.
4. Home alone
Unaccompanied children who are refugees face a scary world: they are uniquely vulnerable. Australia, because we are a generous nation with the ability to help, should be proactive in helping children who have lost their parents or become separated. We should also encourage our allies and friends to do the same. Together we can provide more places for permanent resettlement, better services for unaccompanied and separated children and funding to help poor countries do the same.
5. If you want to know, ask
There is one more simple way of making sure the new Compacts look after the interests of kids: ask them. Australia should champion processes that meaningfully engage children and adolescents in the creation of rules that affect them. The Compacts will be better for it.