Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

ILO/UNHCR: Agreement Signed to Benefit Refugees

(July 8, 2016) On July 1, 2016, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) concluded a Memorandum of Understanding designed to promote work opportunities for refugees and others who are involuntarily displaced; the new Memorandum builds on an existing one from 1983. (Press Release, ILO, UNHCR and ILO Sign New Agreement to Help Displaced People Find Work, ILO website (July 1, 2016); Jackie Keegan, UNHCR and ILO Sign Memo on Helping Refugees to Find Work, UNHCR website (July 1, 2016).)

The Memorandum, which was signed by Voker Türk, the UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, and Deborah Greenfield, Deputy Director-General for Policy of the ILO, is focused on long-term solutions to the work needs of those forced from their homes by persecution or armed conflict and forms a part of the overall U.N. response to the situation of Syrian refugees. One additional goal is to open a period of more extensive cooperation between the ILO and the UNHCR. (UNHCR and ILO Sign New Agreement to Help Displaced People Find Work, supra.)

Greenfield said of the agreement that it will “enable our two agencies to join forces and promote comprehensive durable solutions enabling refugees and other forcibly displaced persons to obtain decent work, while protecting their rights and supporting the countries and communities hosting refugees.” (Id.) On behalf of the UNHCR, Türk said “[a]llowing refugees and other forcibly displaced persons to get jobs helps them fend for themselves, restore confidence, and rebuild their lives, but just as importantly it allows them to contribute economically to the communities they are part of.” (Id.)

The Memorandum establishes a number of priorities, for which concrete steps will be outlined in an action plan within the next three months. These priorities include:

  • promotion of solutions to refugees’ problems and protection of their rights;
  • inclusive and equal treatment in access to work opportunities and social protection;
  • support of local communities;
  • efforts to prevent economic exploitation of the displaced;
  • ending child labor; and
  • inclusion of refugees in development initiatives. (Id.; Keegan, supra.)

According to the UNHCR, at the end of last year, there were 21.3 million refugees globally. In many cases, they were unemployed or underemployed, having only low-paid, menial, and/or dangerous jobs. (Keegan, supra.)