The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: A Way of Doing Things Differently
On July 13, over 191 U.N. member states gathered in New York – except for the United States and Hungary – and agreed on a global compact to promote and advocate for safer and more orderly human migration and mobility. The non-legally binding document was a result of two-year negotiations and thematic discussions preceded by the September 2016 New York Declaration that criticized unilateral efforts to manage migration flows, calling for transnational dialogue, commitment, and cooperation.
The New York Declaration called for the development of two global compacts to be developed this year: one on refugees under the auspices of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the other on safe and orderly migration under the General Assembly.The GCM (Global Compact for Migration) itself was a response to the 2015 European crisis ensuing from the largest influx of refugees and migrants in recent history. According to the international migration report, there are 258 million international migrants worldwide. It is also crucial to mention that some 600,000 migrants have died since the year 2000, and 2,331 migrants (including refugees and asylum-seekers) have died this year alone.
The Missing Migrants Project is a useful source for tracking the deaths of migrants. Although the number of fatalities is heart-wrenching, to say the least, we need such research to hold governments accountable, raise public awareness about the grave loss of life, as well as for advocacy purposes.
As civil society organizations, our role is to prevent refugees and migrants’ fatalities by advocating for their safe movement during their irregular, regular, and “mixed” movements.
Furthermore, issues pertinent to closed borders, deportation, expansion of detention centers, and other inhumane situations that lead to an array of violations must be tackled through inclusive agreements and policies, as migrants today still find themselves stuck in refugee camps, at the borders, in a detention center, on a boat, at the ghettos, and in jails.
Although the New York declaration was welcomed as a “minor miracle” by the UNHCR and member states, civil society organizations and human rights groups were less enthusiastic; criticizing loose phrases in the document such as, “as appropriate”, “as necessary” and “where possible.” Such language, they argued, creates ambiguity on deliverables. They also demanded concrete, contextualized actions to fighting xenophobia, and a clear matrix to hold states accountable. (Read the whole briefing here.)
The Global Compact
One of the compact’s key objectives is creating channels for people to migrate legally and safely, while protecting their rights. “Migration has been part of the human experience throughout history, and we recognise that it is a source of prosperity, innovation and sustainable development in our globalised world, and that these positive impacts can be optimized by improving migration governance,” it states.
Like all other agreements, the GCM is not perfect. but it is a step in the right direction, and it set the stage for inclusive and long-term efforts to protect the human rights of all migrants. Furthermore, the easy-to-understand language in the entire gamut of the compact’s text is quite refreshing, and it reiterates the exact concerns of human rights activists who object to the prevalent anti-immigration discourses by politicians and media.
In light of the decline of the open-borders discourse in Europe, numerous states might still withdraw from the pact, blasting it as a threat to their national interests and sovereignty. European voters are increasingly opposed to opening their borders to migrants. Australia, joining the US and Hungary, has already confirmed its withdrawal from the Compact.
From Hungary, to Italy, to Poland, to Australia, to the Unites States and elsewhere, the anti-migrant narrative is becoming the dominant one. That is why ARDD fully supports the GCM’s noble goals of encouraging "positive narratives about migrants and migration in order to counteract discrimination, racism and xenophobia”.
We have witnessed how national fragmented approaches to migration, coupled with vague discussions that are not particularly concerned with the human/migrant perspective, are not only time and resource consuming, but also allow for the spread of draconian rhetoric and policies, divorced from universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Certainly, to implement the GCM’s framework, we must be more austere. ARDD has been participating in the compact’s discussions for the last two years. On December 2017,CEO of ARDD Samar Muhareb joined a panel discussion organized by the Geneva Centre on the theme of “Migration and Human Solidarity, a Challenge and an Opportunity for Europe and the MENA Region.”
The European-Middle Eastern meeting brought together a coalition of migration experts and international organizations such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Catholic Migration Mission (ICMC), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to discuss cross-border movement, rise of populism, global human mobility, and the role of climate change in displacement and migration.
The meeting significantly contributed to the GCM’s agenda. ARDD is proud to have collaborated in finalizing the Geneva declaration on “Mobility and Human Solidarity” that calls for joint action, dialogue, and a shared responsibility towards migrants in the Arab world and Europe.
The formal adoption of the GCM is set for December 2018 in Marrakesh, Morocco. ARDD will support the adoption and closely work with relevant stakeholders on the implementation and promotion of the 24 objectives of the pact.
Although the compact is not legally binding, it has the potential for strong community mobilization and movement building to help change the negative attitudes towards migrants and migration, and to capitalise on existing pro-immigration positions around the globe.
There will not be immediate solutions to the current migration crisis, and there are many challenges to overcome. However, we believe that this non-binding agreement, which emphasizes the need to invest on migrants as social beings not burdens or criminals, deserves real acknowledgment and support beyond the usual contrived lip service.
Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said the compact is a “treasure chest of the best ideas on how to address the many challenges of migration with hard work and a pragmatic cooperative approach.”
We couldn’t agree more.