Take Note! The Kolkata Declaration

The Kolkata Declaration was adopted on November 30, 2018 in Kolkata at a week-long conference hosted by the Calcutta Research Group. It is a document that advances a regional and postcolonial perspective on refugee protection, in part as a response to the New York Declaration and Global Compact for Refugees (GCR) that was initiated largely by global North actors in September 2016. The GCR process largely left out South Asia and Southeast Asia as regions, states, and civil societies that do a great deal to support and protect refugee who may also be called migrants, but who fall outside the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee definition and and that in the 1967 Protocol.

The full document is available online, but to highlight the main points, the document

Declares that,

  1. The right to move is a universal human right and any restriction on that right cannot be subject to policies and measures that violate the dignity of human beings;
  2. The refugees, migrants, stateless and other displaced persons are central figures in any protection system, legal regime, government and societal institutions;
  3. The idea of a global compact must acknowledge the practices of protection at various regional, country, local, customary, city, and other scales. Any global compact aiming at sustainable resolutions must be based on wide-ranging dialogues involving refugees, migrants, stateless persons and groups defending them;
  4. Any protection framework – global and local – must combat discrimination based on race, religion, caste, ability, sexuality, gender and class that affect rights and dignity of all human beings;
  5. In any redesigning of the global framework of protection, perpetrators of violence and displacement must be held accountable for their actions;
  6. Refugees, migrants and stateless persons working as informal labourers are entitled to social and economic rights;
  7. Stateless persons should be prioritised for protection. Restoration of their citizenship rights is a global responsibility;
  8. In the context of widespread forced migration and statelessness in Asia, a regime of protection along the lines of the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights and its regional systems and institutions is imperative. Such a Charter must involve specific provisions of human rights, including labour rights, of migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons to ensure the dignity and rights of all.”

Two CRS affiliates were part of the process of parsing out these statements drafted for the Declaration, Drs. Ranu Basu and Jennifer Hyndman. The Kolkata Declaration builds on the Humane Mobility Manifesto developed by refugee and migration scholars at the CRS June 2018 workshop; see humanemobility.net