Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration An Opportunity for Positive Policy Change or a Consolidation of State Practices?
In order to ensure civil society’s participation in this first consultative phase, several regional civil society consultations took place in parallel to the intergovernmental consultations. The purpose of these consultations has been to provide the space for civil society to identify lists of priorities to be shared with state actors and representatives in the context of ‘common spaces,’ with at least one of these civil societies consultations being connected to each of the four regional intergovernmental consultations. The first major civil society meeting took place in Berlin between June 29th-July 2nd under the umbrella of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). GFMD convenes an annual meeting “Civil Society Days” where civil society organisations from around the world come together and discuss pressing migration and development issues. This year, the overarching motto for the Civil Society Days was "Safe, Orderly, Regular Migration Now: Mechanics of a Compact Worth Agreeing to,” as implied in the motto, the Civil Society Days meeting focused entirely on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The meeting consisted of working sessions that directly tied to the Global Compact on Migration process.
From Berlin to Beirut
Several civil society organisations from the MENA region attended the Berlin meeting. In fact, the first consultation meeting for organisations from the MENA region was organized on the margins of the Civil Society Days by the Cross-regional Centre for Refugees and Migrants (CCRM) in Berlin.
After the meeting in Berlin,CCRM has convened a meeting in Beirut on July 24th- 25thin preparation for the regional civil society consultations on the Global Compact on Migration, which took place on August 24th-25th. The Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development - ARDD has been an active participant in both meetings. Building on our work experience with refugee, migrants, and other vulnerable groups in Jordan, ARDD contributed to identifying thematic priorities that can lead the discussions for the region. As a legal assistance provider, ARDD believes in the importance of facilitating access to justice for everyone as this can guarantee their protection against rights’violations, and the need to engage with decision makers and duty bearers where it represents the needs of the populations it serves as well as advocate for policy reform, especially for refugees and migrants.
ARDD sees the Global Compact on Migration as a unique opportunity for civil society organisations to promote the rights of the migrant and refugee populations they serve, especially through the ‘common space’ regional consultations that convene civil society organisations along with state actors. These‘common spaces’ open up the space for civil society to contribute to the discussion and lobby governments and state actors to take into consideration the priorities identified by civil society to the Stock-taking phase, which will culminate in the first draft of the Global Compact (February 2018), after which the third and final Negotiations phase will start.
Civil society at global level must consolidate its efforts at this stage because collaboration between states in the framework of the Global Compact has the potential to either positively or negatively impact the situation of migrants around the world. State collaboration could bear positive impact on migrants iffor example it leads to providing more secure migration schemes that respect the human rights of migrants and spares them of human trafficking;as well as facilitate their access to justice in event of rights violation. However, states’ cooperation could be harmful if states prioritised their interests to that of migrants. For example, agreements on returns and deportation could emerge from this cooperation; making it easier for states to separate migrants from their lives and families, thus returning them to countries that couldn’t offer much in the way of decent work or social support. Another example of the harmful impact this cooperation could bear on migrants is the creation and expansion of restrictive circular migration programmes that do not lead to stable residency in the new country, and furthermore could oblige migrants to give up fundamental rights and freedoms in exchange of working in another country.
Given the above, it is very necessary at this stage to affirm civil society’s role in the Global Compact(s) processes. In many contexts, civil society organisations are the voice of the voiceless. We stand up to protect and assert the rights of vulnerable populations, as well as represent their needs to state actors and hold the latter accountable towards people living within their borders. From this standpoint, the active, meaningful, and strategic participation of civil society in the Global Compact processes is crucial to maximizing opportunities for migrants and reducing possible harmful impacts.
In conclusion, the Global Compact is a very unique process that could substantially improve the livelihoods and rights of migrants around the world if it gets carried out as initially envisioned by the New York Declaration. However, it is critical that civil society actors recognise the need to act smart and act quickly in order to maximise the gains of this process.
The Cross Regional Center for Refugees and migrants is a network of civil society organisations in the MENA region that works to promote the rights of refugees and migrants in the Euro-Mediteranean and Arab regions and to amplify local, regional and international advocacy work on refugees and migrants.