UN refugees meeting a wasted opportunity to improve the lives of millions of children

September 19, NEW YORK – As the UN high-level meeting on refugees and migrants draws to a close in New York today, World Vision has expressed serious disappointment with the outcome.

“We had high hopes for children, but today displaced and imprisoned children are left with a business-as-usual approach that offers little hope,” said World Vision’s Helen Keogh at the Summit in New York. 

“There are two glaring problems with what has happened today,” said Keogh, the CEO for World Vision Ireland.

The first, says World Vision, is that the New York Declaration, agreed to at the meeting today, effectively allows for the imprisoning of children seeking asylum.

“It’s a sorry reflection on global leaders that they have agreed to allow countries to violate children’s rights in certain circumstances. In this day and age, the message this sends to children all over the world is morally indefensible.

“Imprisoning a child while you establish their right to asylum is never in that child’s best interests, and so it is never in our best interests as a global network of people who believe all children deserve better.”

The second issue World Vision is concerned about is the lack of attention given to internally displaced people.

“It’s a false distinction, when you’re looking at solutions, to separate out refugees from people displaced within their own countries – the reasons they have fled their homes are the same. The reasons they need help and compassion, and remedies to root causes, are the same,” said Keogh.

“Failure to address this will continue to leave millions of children with no voice. They live and die unseen and unheard by most of the world. This is wholly unacceptable.”

The original intent of today’s meeting was to agree on a way to share responsibility, so that countries where one in four people is a refugee aren’t having to cope with a global crisis alone. They did not.

“It is neither fair nor realistic for a handful of countries to shoulder the burden of the refugees crises we see children caught up in all over the world – from the shores of Europe to the borders of Somalia,” said Keogh.

“Leaders have re-affirmed support for existing frameworks, which is a good sign, but it’s not really clear how we can keep them accountable for the support they have expressed today.

“We, and our millions of supporters around the world, will continue to work with governments and the UN to encourage more detailed targets for resettlement, accountability systems to monitor existing commitments, and triggers for cooperation and support.

“We came here wanting to see extraordinary steps taken to deal with extraordinary crises affecting children. We leave here with everything very much business as usual. Leaders continue to sit on the fence, and children continue to pay the price. Children deserve better.”



Initially, leaders were supposed to agree on sharing responsibility for upholding the safety and dignity of refugees and migrants, and to develop a global compact on “Responsibility Sharing for Refugees” and a global compact for “Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration”. Following extensive consultations led by the Permanent Representatives of Jordan and Ireland, an Outcome Document was developed and, on 9 September, accepted as a General Assembly resolution and renamed the New York Declaration. This resolution was adopted and signed today. 

The New York Declaration re-affirms support for existing frameworks, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Optional Protocol, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, etc. The Annex of the declaration is the “Comprehensive Refugee Response" Framework.

 They have resolved to support child protection, child rights, pyscho-social support, education and refugee access to labour markets. There is also more detailed language on child-appropriate reception and support for unaccompanied and separated children. They have committed to have all children in school within months, which is not as quickly as we would have liked.