09/13/2016 10:03 am ET Updated Sep 14, 2017

UN Must Lead Nations on Migration Challenges


The ongoing refugee drama has been a sharp reminder to Europe that it cannot insulate itself from the troubles of its wider neighborhood. Fortunately, the international community has already established guidelines and protocols under United Nations auspices that determine how nations manage refugee crises.

The UN's 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol constitute the main framework for international protection of people fleeing from persecution, and provide the basis for the work of the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration. The cornerstone of it is the duty of non-refoulement, a key principle of international law, which forbids the rendering of a true victim of persecution to his or her persecutor. As they balance legitimate national-security concerns with human rights, democratic governments that slammed shut their borders should be reminded of the principle of non-refoulement, deeply embedded in international law.

Fresh thinking is desperately needed as we sadly witness the plight of these refugees. Furthermore, we need to make the refugee convention and further protection embodied in regional agreements effective and applicable in practice.

One smart way to begin would be to establish a new compact between the countries where refugees seek asylum in Europe, North America and Asia on the one side and the border-war-zones countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan or Kenya on the other.

An opportunity to make vital changes is fast approaching. In mid-September in New York, the UN Refugee Summit aims at exploring fresh avenues for international protection and offers a chance to lay down the foundations of such a compact. A precondition for the achievement of this noble goal is to urge world leaders to take a significantly more far-sighted approach toward refugee management with the UN. The complexity of the problem is evident and it requires a multi-stakeholder approach as well as leadership.

Migration again, including the refugee phenomenon, is a consequence of war atrocities, poverty, socio-economic malformations worldwide, and natural catastrophes, as well as global warming.

From the point of view of history, there is no nation on Earth that could morally and politically justify ignorance as an answer to the refugee problem.

President Obama embraced this approach as a basis for searching common solutions. He is aware of the socio-economic aspect of the problem.Therefore, insisting on the necessity of a coalition of donors is the only right approach after all.

There are four guiding principles to keep in mind as we move toward this important UN Summit:

Multilateralism: more UN-led management of the problem. Global challenges that affect millions of citizens and nations must be examined collectively, inclusively and jointly. The large influx of migrants does not represent a single isolated issue that can be easily dealt with, but rather demands greater efforts. The United Nations -- the global multilateral organization established to do just this -- can provide a more robust platform for addressing the migrant crisis. All nations together -- alongside international organizations, NGOs, the media, governments and private business -- must participate in addressing and offering support to refugees and the host nations.

Place an emphasis on humanitarianism: prioritize saving lives. The value of human life must be the priority when addressing or attempting to resolve the migration crisis. Inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers is morally unacceptable and we must more vigorously defend this position. We cannot propagate peace and security if we are unwilling to aid children being chased from their homes as a result of violent conflict. It is paradoxical to be proclaiming democracy while creating hurdles to those who seek a better life and stability.

Establish a concept of partnership or responsibility-sharing. Partnership represents the key element when we discuss the concept of sharing responsibility. Nations cooperating together, joined by common values and concerns, create far better harmony and effectiveness when dealing with high-stake crises.

The World Bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, The OECD and other similar institutions should work jointly and offer concepts or projects that will be based on a cost-benefit analysis. In contrast to the emotional and xenophobic cries in some parts of the world, which only raise tensions and postpone the solution of this global problem.

Focus on regulatory procedures and employment. When addressing the influx of migrants on such a large scale, multilateral mechanisms must be solidified and implemented accordingly. Having global standards and well-structured procedures (such as screening and registering) is essential for attaining fair and equal treatment of migrants and refugees.

From a financial standpoint, the forces that drive economic growth in the developed industrial countries are first and foremost viewed in terms of productivity and expansion of a new labor force. Nevertheless, factors such as quality education, innovation and technological development still remain indispensable values that set employable standards. A factually based grasp of how migration and economic factors are related is essential. What are the labor-market costs and benefits? And most importantly, how will the shifts in the national labor markets influence the overall economic state of the highly industrialized nations?

As a former president of the UN General Assembly and a former Foreign Minister of Macedonia, where our economy and social fabric were intensely challenged during this crisis, I was saddened to find such a lack of solidarity and common commitment during this time. I know we can do better.

The history of mankind is a tale of migration. Joining forces on all sides of the issue will provide us with better, longer lasting solutions.

Dr. Srgjan Kerim is a candidate for UN Secretary General.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to mark the occasion of two critical conferences at the UN on the Refugee and Migrant crisis: the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants (Sept. 19th, a UN conference) and the Leaders Summit on Refugees (Sept. 20th, hosted by U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, at the UN). To see all the posts in the series, visit here. To follow the conversation on Twitter, see #UN4RefugeesMigrants.