Today, more people than ever live in a country other than the one in which they were born. Many of them have been forced to flee because of the scourge of war in search of peace and stability, as in the case of the recent Ukrainian refugee wave that has displaced more than 14 million people from their homes. International IDEA stands in full and unwavering solidarity with the people and democratically elected government of Ukraine, including those that have remained in the country, as they face an aggression of which consequences will long be felt not only in Ukraine but well beyond.
However, wars are not the only causes that prompt people to move. We also know that the effects of climate change will drive an increase in migration and refugee flows globally.
The preamble of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, states that refugees and migrants are entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms as outlined in the UN Charter and that these rights “must be respected, protected and fulfilled at all times”.
Moreover, as included in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to take part in the government of their country directly or through freely chosen representatives, and that the people’s will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections. ‘Everyone’ includes citizens, refugees and migrants.
International IDEA wishes to bring the failure to guarantee these rights for migrants and refugees to the attention of this Assembly. We are greatly concerned that in practice, international migrants and refugees commonly do not have voting rights in their host countries and often additionally become disenfranchised in their countries of origin.
According to International IDEA's Database on Voting from Abroad, only half of countries in the world allow voters from abroad to vote in legislative elections and presidential elections. 54 countries do not allow any voting from abroad at all.
We are also gravely concerned that beyond the franchise, how they gain access to the electoral procedures may be problematic. States may effectively deny access to the vote for voters abroad by failing to make appropriate voting arrangements available to them. For example, through complicated voter registration procedures, by demanding documentation that migrants or refugees do not have available, or by only allowing voting in person at a diplomatic representation which, in practice, may not be reachable by many.
To conclude, International IDEA would like to share three main recommendations with this assembly:
- We urge countries of origin to revisit the ways in which they legally and practically enfranchise international migrants and refugees.
- We ask host countries to consider extending voting rights at the local level to long-term non-citizen residents.
- And finally, considering the current wave of refugees from Ukraine, we urge for the protection of their rights by member states. We also note that all refugees fleeing a war-affected country should be granted the same rights independently of their country of origin.
I thank you.
*The full oral statement is available here.