Working paper

International Responsibility-Sharing for Refugees


Susan F. Martin, Rochelle Davis, Grace Benton and Zoya Waliany


Responsibility-sharing is a core tenet of international responses to refugee crises. Too often, however, there are massive failures in responding collectively and cooperatively to large-scale movements of refugees and displaced persons. Responsibility-sharing is essential largely because the costs associated with protecting and assisting refugees and displaced persons are unequally placed. Where refugees go is often an accident of geography, with low- and middle-income states that are close to countries in conflict often called upon to host far larger numbers of refugees than wealthier, more distant states. The Global Compact on Refugees is expected to include a framework to enhance responsibility-sharing. This paper argues for a holistic approach to responsibility-sharing that enhances the protection of refugees as well as policy responses that address the needs of host communities. It focuses on several areas of responsibility-sharing, including efforts to address the underlying causes of displacement within and across borders; efforts to find solutions, including resettlement of refugees from host countries to third countries; initiatives to enhance protection; financial support for refugees, internally displaced persons, and the communities in which they reside; and technical assistance and training for host countries and local organizations. The paper examines these issues from the perspective of host country governments, other host country stakeholders, donor governments, service providers, and, most importantly, the refugees and internally displaced persons themselves. The paper includes a case study of attitudes toward responsibility-sharing among these actors in the Middle East and North Africa, where millions of refugees and internally displaced persons are located. The paper concludes with recommendations to enhance responsibility-sharing as well as mechanisms to alleviate the costs to host communities and broaden the benefits to refugees and hosts alike.