Leaving No One Behind: A Look at the Global Compact on Refugees

Leaving No One Behind: A Look at the Global Compact on Refugees
19 November 2018, 6.00pm - 8.00pm
Room 349, Third Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

The International Refugee Law Seminar Series, sponsored by the Refugee Law Initiative at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, provides a public space for discussion, promotion and dissemination of research between academics, practitioners, students and others with an interest in the refugee and forced migration field.

9th International Refugee Law Seminar Series

The 9th International Refugee Law Seminar Series is an open theme covering a range of topics related to refugee law and protection, and presented by experts from a number of professions.

Leaving No One Behind: A Look at the Global Compact on Refugees


The landmark New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants signalled a better, collective response to refugees and migrants. It envisages the adoption of two global compacts on migration and refugees that will provide the basis for more equitable responsibility sharing for refugees and a form of migration governance that facilitates safe, orderly and regular migration.

Rejecting the unilateral deterrence measures prevalent in the Global North, the international community seeks instead to preserve the right to seek asylum, financing refugee protection in a way that meets both humanitarian and development needs and providing more regular migration pathways for people on the move. The conceptual vehicle driving the change in approach is a reframing of the arrival of refugees and migrants as an opportunity for development, not just a development challenge. The Declaration reiterates the catch-cry of the Agenda for Sustainable Development and the World Humanitarian Summit core commitment to ‘leave no one behind’.

This seminar paper explores the approach of the final draft of the Global Compact on Refugees – due to be endorsed at the current session of the UN General Assembly – to its primary task of providing ‘a basis for predictable and equitable burden and responsibility-sharing’. Notwithstanding the disappointment expressed by some about the level of ambition of the Compact during its drafting, a careful reading of the final draft reveals the outlines of a firmer mechanism for responsibility sharing that is to be constructed in the future. The paper poses a deeper question concerning the viability of development as the critical vehicle for change.


Penelope Mathew is a research professor at Griffith Law School, where she served as Dean from June 2014 to June 2018. Her primary area of expertise is international refugee law. Immediately before her appointment as the Griffith Law School Dean, she held a research chair at the Herbert & Valmae Freilich Foundation at The Australian National University. Prior to that, she was a visiting professor and interim Director of the Program Refugee and Asylum Law at the University of Michigan Law School, where she convened the 5th Michigan Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law.

From 2006-2008, Pene was a legal adviser to the ACT Human Rights Commission, where she conducted the Human Rights audit of the ACT's Correctional Facilities. She has also taught at the Australian National University College of Law and Melbourne Law School, and is a past editor-in-chief of the Australian Yearbook of International Law. Her most recent book, co-authored with Tristan Harley, is Refugees, Regionalism and Responsibility (Elgar, 2016): 


Refugee Law Initiative
020 7862 8668