UN Launches Consultation Phase for Migration Compact

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  • Experts, governments, UN Member States and other stakeholders met for the first informal thematic session in preparation for the intergovernmental conference on migration.
  • Ahead of the second informal thematic session, organizers released a procedural note and inter-agency issues brief on 'Addressing drivers of migration, including adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters and human-made crisis, through protection and assistance, sustainable development, poverty eradication, conflict prevention and resolution'.

Experts, governments, UN Member States and other stakeholders met for the first informal thematic session in preparation for the intergovernmental conference to adopt a global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration. Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration and Secretary-General of the conference, stressed the need to change the perception of migration from a phenomenon “currently feared by too many,” to reflect its overwhelmingly positive impact on society.

In September 2016, through the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (A/RES/71/1), UN Member States committed to launch a process of intergovernmental negotiations leading to the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. They later adopted the modalities for the intergovernmental negotiations of the global compact (A/RES/71/280), by which they decided that an intergovernmental conference to adopt the compact will take place at UN Headquarters in New York in the fall of 2018. The preparatory process for the compact includes three phases: 1) consultations (April to November 2017); 2) stocktaking (November 2017 to January 2018); and 3) intergovernmental negotiations (February to July 2018). Juan José Gómez Camacho, Permanent Representative of Mexico, and Jürg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland, serve as co-facilitators for the preparatory process.

The consultation phase began with the first informal thematic session, from 8-9 May 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, on the topic of ‘Human rights of all migrants, social inclusion, cohesion and all forms of discrimination, including racism, xenophobia and intolerance.’ Addressing the event, Arbour noted that the erroneous perception of an increased influx of irregular migration, combined with a lack of trust in state capacities to deal with such influxes, has led to increased intolerance and rejection of migrants. She said facilitating access to legal avenues for migration, through some combination of expanded opportunities for family reunification, study, humanitarian considerations and access to work at all skills levels, will reduce the need for many to migrate through irregular channels. Arbour called on “all of us” to take the lead in enacting migration policies that will contribute to changing the negative perceptions of migration. She asked States to ratify and implement all international and regional human rights instruments and related conventions, and to work with the private sector through both persuasion and better implemented regulation in eliminating or at least curbing the informal economy, which can serve as a driver of irregular migration.

Providing a summary of the panel on ‘Human rights of all migrants,’ Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of Morocco, said the discussions highlighted convergence of views on: the protection of vulnerable migration, especially women and unaccompanied children and the fact that their needs shall be taken into account; inclusiveness and ensuring the participation of all stakeholders in the global compact processes, including national human rights institutions and civil society; and the important role of existing international instruments, including on human rights protection. He added that many emphasized the need for: fundamental rights to be guaranteed to all migrants regardless of their migration status; developing migration policies to ensure that migration is well managed and orderly based on best practices; enhancing shared responsibility between countries origin, transit and destination; and strengthening capacity in countries of origin to ensure a better management of human rights, governance and the rule of law. On divergences, he said: some delegations denounce the detention of migrants, while others call for its use as a last resort; the detention of children or unaccompanied minors is rejected by a majority although some consider it necessary “as a red line;” and the decriminalization of irregular migration remains contentious. On the nature of the global compact, he reported that many outlined the necessity to have a non binding, comprehensive, holistic, innovative, operational global compact, that should include non repetitive principles drawn from existing legislation.

Reporting on the panel on ‘Social inclusion and cohesion,’ Evan Garcia, Permanent Representative of the Philippines, said participants outlined the need to align the global compact with the objectives and targets of the 2030 Agenda. Among the elements mentioned by participants, he highlighted the critical role of mass media and social media in defining public views on migrants in localities, and the importance of providing accurate data on multiculturalism and norms so that both locals and migrants can better understand one another. He said the private sector can be seen as a facilitator of social cohesion, adding that a migrant with a job is better regarded by the local host community. He also noted that States must interact with other stakeholders, local governments, community based organizations and associations, dialogue with neighborhood countries, and engage migrants themselves and diaspora community in the global compact preparation so their voices can be heard.

On the panel on ‘All forms of discrimination, including racism, xenophobia and intolerance,’ Jānis Kārkliņš, Permanent Representative of Latvia, said many participants share the views that there is no need for any additional international instrument to counter xenophobia and racism, but call for a strong implementation of existing instruments. He added that: policy making at the national level should be based on facts; hate crimes cannot be unpunished, and the attitude of politicians is very important in this regard; developing a narrative that contains local positive examples can help address the manifestation of xenophobia; there should be capacity building and education of officials confronted with migration issues; and making xenophobia economically unsustainable is an option to explore, including by not placing advertisements in newspapers publishing inflammatory articles on xenophobia.

The second informal thematic session will convene from 22-23 May 2017, in New York, US, on the topic of ‘Addressing drivers of migration, including adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters and human-made crisis, through protection and assistance, sustainable development, poverty eradication, conflict prevention and resolution.’ According to the procedural note issued on 2 May 2017, the session will include expert panels on: 1) sustainable development and poverty eradication; 2) human-made crises as drivers of migration; and 3) the adverse effects of climate change and natural disasters as drivers of migration. Panel participants will be encouraged to reflect on: effective national, regional and international policies; key policy priorities; data collection and disaggregation (by age, sex and migratory status); and capacities for implementation. They will also be encouraged to provide examples of good practices and multi-stakeholder partnerships, and present actions and commitments to inform the global compact. Each panel will be moderated by a UN Member State, to be appointed by the UNGA President, and a summary panel will present main conclusions and outcomes of the three panels.

The UN inter-agency issue brief provided by the Conference Secretary-General for the second session defines the various drivers of migration, discusses migration issues (including economic, demographic and environmental drivers, and human-made crises), and proposes ways forward in three areas for action: addressing drivers in countries of origin; addressing drivers in countries of destination; and the need for better data. The brief also suggests a set of “practical and action-oriented” commitments which could be made by “States and other stakeholders,” within the Global Compact. The list of suggested commitments is in line with the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the brief says, and focuses on: sustainable development and poverty eradication; conflict prevention; protection and assistance in crisis situations; and improving data collection and analysis towards effective and informed policies.

The informal sessions are part of a series of six, all organized by the UNGA President with the support of the UN Secretary-General, drawing upon the expertise of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), members of the Global Migration Group (GMG) and other relevant entities. The global compact for migration will be the first intergovernmentally negotiated agreement prepared under the auspices of the UN to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner. [UN Press Release on First Informal Thematic Session] [Programme of First Session] [Meeting Webcast] [Special Representative Statement] [EU Statement] [Preparatory Documents for Second Informal Thematic Session] [Information on First Phase of Preparatory Process and First Informal Thematic Session] [Migration Compact Website]

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