Never have migrants and refugees been higher on the international agenda, largely owing to their prominence in national political debates and discourse. Prompted by the large-scale arrival of more than one million refugees and migrants in Europe during 2015 and resulting calls for greater international cooperation in addressing the needs of refugees and stemming irregular migration, the UN General Assembly held a summit in September 2016 on “large movements of refugees and migrants.” What issues were at stake? Who were the main state players? What does the General Assembly’s New York Declaration add to international efforts to improve the “governance” of international migration? What does the prevailing international climate with respect to refugee flows and migration augur for the aspirations framed in New York?
José Riera-Cézanne served with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for more than 31 years, working in areas such as international protection/refugee law, policy development and evaluation, major UNHCR publications, external relations, and multilateral consultations and negotiations relating to refugees. His most recent assignment was Senior Policy Adviser to Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk, the third-ranking UNHCR official. In this capacity, he organized an annual “Dialogue on Protection Challenges” for then-UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, which drew attention to emerging legal and policy issues relating to refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless people, and contributed to fostering appropriate responses. For a number of years, he also served as policy lead for a range of thematic portfolios including international migration; climate change and its ramifications for migration, displacement, and planned relocation; and UNHCR’s cooperation with faith-based actors. After retiring from the United Nations in 2016, Riera-Cézanne is an international consultant based in San José, Costa Rica.
Organized by Migration and the Spaces of Sanctuary, a collaboration studio grant of the Simpson Center for the Humanities.