Countries Reach Agreement on Migration Compact, Seek to Build Momentum
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UN Member States reached consensus on the final draft of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The compact will be forwarded to the UNGA President, who will transmit the text to the intergovernmental conference in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration, said the global compact is a “blueprint for hope”, and called for building momentum and forging partnerships in the lead-up to the conference.

13 July 2018: Countries agreed by consensus on the final draft of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Once adopted by UN Member States in December 2018, the compact will be the first intergovernmentally negotiated agreement prepared under the auspices of the UN to offer a “360-degree vision of international migration,” aiming to address all dimensions of migration in a comprehensive manner.

In UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution A/RES/71/1 of September 2016, UN Member States adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, by which they decided to hold intergovernmental negotiations on a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, for adoption at an intergovernmental conference in 2018. The preparatory process for the global compact started in April 2017 and comprised a consultation phase (thematic sessions, regional consultations and stakeholder consultations), a stocktaking phase and six months of intergovernmental negotiations.

The last round of negotiations took place from 9-13 July 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Delegates discussed the third revised draft of the compact (‘Draft Rev 3’), and a final draft released on 11 June. Delegations reconvened on 13 July 2018 and agreed on the final text by consensus. The agreed compact will be forwarded to the UNGA President, who will transmit it to the intergovernmental conference for adoption. The conference is scheduled to take place in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 10-11 December 2018.

Opening the meeting on 13 July, Jürg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland, said the negotiations had “reached the end of the road,” and qualified the compact as “fact-based,” comprehensive, and practical so it can make a difference for people on the ground. Juan José Gómez Camacho, Permanent Representative of Mexico, thanked governments for “standing up,” saying the compact is the conclusion of decades of effort, diplomacy, and almost two years of “phenomenally important hard work and negotiation.” He said the UNGA has achieved what it aimed to achieve, and characterized the conclusion of the global compact negotiations as a “truly historic day” for the UN, for multilateralism and above all for millions of migrants around the world. He declared the conclusion of the global compact.

Miroslav Lajcak, UNGA President, highlighted what the compact does and does not do. He said the compact does not encourage migration nor aim to stop it, it does not dictate or impose, and it “fully respects the sovereignty of states.” On challenges that remain, Lajcak indicated that while 2,098 migrant deaths have been recorded since the beginning of the negotiations, including 400 children, migration continues to be used as a political tool, based not on facts but on political interests. Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration, characterized the global compact as a flexible and forward-looking document, and a “blueprint for hope” that will bring safety, order and economic progress for everyone’s benefit. She called for building momentum and forging partnerships in the lead-up to the intergovernmental conference to adopt the compact in December. Arbour will serve as Secretary-General of the Conference.

Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, said the compact recognizes the “constantly changing canvas” created by demographic, economic and other factors, and considers all geographical locations and aspects of migration. However, she said the compact will be judged on its results, and called on countries and stakeholders to use the time between now and the conference in Marrakesh to generate ideas that will “breathe life” into the Compact. Mohammed noted that, ahead of the conference, the UN aims to put in place a UN migration network to ensure coordinated, coherent support for the compact’s implementation, with a particular focus on the country level.

In a written statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres qualified the agreement as a significant achievement that reflects the “shared understanding” by governments that cross-border migration is an international phenomenon, and that its effective management requires international cooperation to enhance its positive impact for all. The agreement recognizes that every individual has the right to safety, dignity and protection, he said.

Mexico asked to ensure that hope prevails over fear, and evidence over prejudice.

Among the comments by government delegations, some noted that the compact shows that the UN and its Member States are able to agree even on subjects that are characterized by strong disagreements, stressing the importance of multilateralism. One country qualified the compact as a landmark for the UN, bringing human rights and a people-centered perspective to migration. Most countries welcomed the compact, saying while the text is not perfect, it is as good as it gets based on consensus, and some noted that it is “the best possible compromise one could hope.” Many UN Member States said the final draft balances the competing ideas of complying with international obligations and respecting sovereignty, welcomed the compact’s focus on all aspects of migration. Many said the text could have used stronger language on the elimination of child migrant detention.

Delegates stressed that the success of the compact depends on implementation and a robust follow-up mechanism. Some observed that the compact and its adoption in Marrakesh are only the beginning of a longer process that involves translating its content into practice.

Comoros for the African Group thanked the co-facilitators for incorporating its proposals into the final draft, including on the clearer distinction between migrants and refugees, and on the need to combat racism and all forms of discrimination among migrants. Stressing the importance of follow-up and review, she said the group plans to organize senior meetings every two years to inform the International Migration Review Forum, which will take place every four years beginning in 2022. The African Group also will establish a voluntary implementation matrix to help implement the compact at the national and other levels.

Morocco called for: ensuring that the text of the compact is preserved until its adoption in Marrakesh; promoting it in countries to ensure ownership and its full acceptance by all actors concerned; and preparing for action and implementation immediately after its adoption. Egypt said it hosts millions of migrants and refugees, and welcomed the section of the text on international cooperation (objective 23), on expanding legal and safe migration pathways, and on references to more agile and less costly corridors for the transfer of remittances. Egypt noted its disappointment, however, that there is not a stronger commitment to protecting migrants from hate crimes. Turkey said the central motivation for the compact should be human dignity, noting that the need to migrate could happen “to anyone of us.”

Austria for 27 EU States said the positive impacts of migration can be harnessed only if migration is well managed, adding that the compact will help in protecting human rights, and in facilitating return and reintegration. The Philippines said the compact is “long overdue,” adding that it integrates development perspectives, is anchored in human rights and “promotes the welfare of migrants.”

Switzerland said the compact shows that despite the “noise” of populist rhetoric mushrooming in various parts of the world, there is a sincere attempt to find solutions for migrants. He noted that unilateral measures will lead to a downward spiral, and that while the compact is technically the result of intergovernmental negotiations, it is, in reality, the product of all the actors that joined the process.

Hungary said that after the US decided to withdraw from the compact in December 2017, his country considered this option as well, but decided to not withdraw since it believes in multilateralism. He expressed his country’s disagreement with some parts of the compact, including portraying migration as a fundamental human right, and called for putting more emphasis on tackling the root causes of migration. Poland said the compact will be expensive to implement, and stressed the need for a text that can be easily implemented. Pakistan called for better defining the resources and tools that will help to implement the global compact.

Canada said it will review and reflect on the document, and expressed support for Arbour’s leadership. Australia indicated that a national review of the final draft will be necessary, and the country’s decision on whether it will join the compact will be conveyed before the meeting in Morocco. The Russian Federation said his country will study the compact closely and give its interpretation in Morocco. Norway emphasized the clear distinction between regular and irregular migration, and remarked that irregular migration causes instability and can “force us” to restrict legal pathways to migration.

Brazil for a Group of Like-Minded Countries welcomed the text, saying it recognizes the importance of human rights law, child- and gender-sensitive approaches, access to justice, the protection of labor rights for migrants, the promotion of decent work, the centrality of the best interests of the child, and a safe and dignified return. He said the Group will continue to work on follow-up, including on the establishment of the capacity-building mechanism outlined in the compact.

El Salvador also welcomed the compact and its inclusion of: the right to privacy; the protection of migrants’ personal data; access to justice; recognizing the vulnerability of children; addressing challenges faced by migrant workers; and preserving the high interests of the child. Mexico announced that it will launch a national implementation strategy in line with the objectives of the compact. He noted that the compact’s implementation is in the interests of all, and asked to ensure that hope prevails over fear, and evidence over prejudice. Indonesia emphasized the need to place the protection of migrant workers high on the agenda.

Singapore placed on record that the compact is a non-legally binding cooperative framework, and does not impose obligations on states beyond existing law, but rather sets out policy options that states can draw from. He regretted that the final text still contains elements that conflate regular and irregular migrants. He stressed that no country can address the global phenomenon of migration alone, and all countries need to manage migration. China said countries should implement the compact in line with national conditions and international law. Ethiopia highlighted that, while the African Group preferred additional elements, such as a section on climate change induced migration, it had compromised and would accept this draft.

Reacting to the agreement, stakeholders expressed appreciation for references to working to end the practice of child detention, emphasizing community-based detention, safeguarding the rights of children at all times, and strengthening the collection of data on migration. On shortcomings, they highlighted a lack of strong language on non-criminalization of migrants and those who provide support to them, and on freedom of association for migrants. They also emphasized the need to recognize labor rights and agreements. Julie Bolcer, New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, underscored the role of cities in creating inclusive, safe home for their residents regardless of how they arrived, and said cities are ready to help.

At 5:20 pm, Lauber and Camacho jointly gaveled the meeting to a close, declaring to delegates “we will see you in Morocco.”

Arbour’s office will provide a briefing on organizational matters related to the conference, on 19 July. [SDG Knowledge Hub story on final draft] [UNGA President’s remarks] [Statement of Special Representative] [UN Deputy Secretary-General’s statement] [UN Secretary-General’s written statement] [UN press release on compact’s agreement] [IOM press release]


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