5 Key Takeaways from the 2023 Global Refugee Forum

Sasha Chanoff speaking

Sasha Chanoff, Founder and CEO of RefugePoint, announces the Family Reunification pledge during the Global Refugee Forum 2023. Photo: UNHCR


By Ali Pappavaselio, RefugePoint with contributions from Kari Diener, Amy Slaughter, Martin Anderson, and Sasha Chanoff


The Global Refugee Forum (GRF), a quadrennial event and the main venue to drive and review progress toward the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees, took place last week in Geneva, Switzerland. RefugePoint and the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative delegations played a leadership role at several of the events of this year’s GRF relating to refugee self-reliance, labor mobility, family reunification, and resettlement.

Here are five key takeaways from last week’s events, which included plenary sessions, High-Level Side Events, Linked Events, Speakers Corners, and more.


1. There were over 1600 pledges presented at the Global Refugee Forum. Tracking the implementation of these commitments is improving, but remains unenforceable.

Among these were 43 Multistakeholder Pledges, which brought together multiple actors around common objectives.  These were co-led by states and other stakeholders (including RefugePoint and the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative) based on content area. With stakeholders positioned to track accountability to these pledges, there is optimism that those pledges will be actualized. With leadership from efforts such as the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative and the Global Refugee Family Reunification Network, there is more opportunity to follow up and ensure pledges are actualized than during the 2019 Global Refugee Forum. 


2. The largest multistakeholder pledge presented at the Global Refugee Forum was co-led by the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative (which is housed within RefugePoint and co-founded with the Women’s Refugee Commission).

The Multistakeholder Pledge on Economic Inclusion and Social Protection was announced by Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative Executive Director Kari Diener and consists of 234 partners, including over 70 governments, and over a billion dollars in funding. The pledge aims to build enabling environments and program supports that allow refugees to take control of their finances and futures


3. Family Reunification is a pathway that has been gaining momentum: The Multistakeholder Pledge on Family Reunification aims to reunite 1 million families by 2030.

This pledge was announced by RefugePoint CEO Sasha Chanoff during the plenary session and was greeted with spontaneous applause by those in attendance. RefugePoint has itself demonstrated leadership on refugee family reunification, pledging to help reunite 1 million refugee families in the next five years as part of the Global Family Reunification Network (FRUN). 

RefugePoint Chief Program Officer Simar Singh speaks at a Linked Event on Family Reunification. Co-hosted by RefugePoint at the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, this event was one of the most energized events of the forum. 


4. Interest in expanding access to Labor Mobility Pathways continues to grow. 

The Multistakeholder Pledge on Skills-Based Complementary Pathways aims to see 200,000 people arriving to third countries through labor mobility and education pathways throughout the next five years. As a member of the Global Task Force on Refugee Labor Mobility, RefugePoint has been a leader on this pledge as well.

Agnes Mude Lomoro, one of the first refugees to relocate from Kenya to Canada with RefugePoint’s help through Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP), spoke at a labor mobility event during the Global Refugee Forum and also in the closing ceremony in a conversation with Mr. Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees. In her remarks, Agnes emphasized how transformative labor mobility has been in her life. 


5. Inclusion of refugees and others with lived experience of forced displacement in the Global Refugee Forum has grown, but is still far from ideal. 

The Multistakeholder Pledge on Refugee Inclusion, which is co-led by the Global Refugee-Led Network, Oxfam International, and others, contains 66 pledges. Refugee participation at the Global Refugee Forum itself has also grown: at the 2019 GRF, there were 70 individuals with lived displacement experience, but this year about 300. This represents about 7% of the total attendees of the Global Refugee Forum. It was a consistent theme in many of the panel discussions attended by the RefugePoint delegation that meaningful refugee inclusion in the policies and programs that affect their lives is an urgent priority. RefugePoint also included points related to meaningful refugee participation in all of our own pledges.