Governments Hold First Negotiations on Migration Compact
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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Considering the zero draft of the global compact on migration, some countries stressed that each country is a country of origin, transit and destination, thus states need to share responsibility for migration, while others noted that the concept of shared responsibility is an unknown term and the text should not include it.

In another key difference, many welcomed strong references to human rights, but others stressed that the Compact is not a human rights instrument and should focus on development.

The next round of consultations will convene in March 2018.

23 February 2018: Governments have exchanged views on the zero draft of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Preferences differed with regards to whether: responsibility for managing migration should be placed at the national or international level; options to legalize the status of irregular migrants should be broadened; references to human rights should be emphasized or reduced; or the follow-up should have concrete indicators, mechanisms and timelines, or be “light.”

The zero draft for the negotiations was presented by the co-facilitators, Juan Jose Gomez Camacho, Permanent Representative of Mexico, and Jurg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland, on 5 February 2018. The first session of intergovernmental negotiations on the draft compact took place on 20, 22 and 23 February 2018, in New York, US.

Opening the meeting, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Miroslav Lajcak cautioned that the negotiations should not be seen as an opportunity to strengthen governments’ positions but to find consensus. Lauber invited delegates to only give indications where the text is lacking, but not to make textual proposals.

Liberia, for the African Group, identified as areas that need to be strengthened: international cooperation assistance and capacity building; combating irregular migration through a more comprehensive approach to migration management anchored in human rights and the rule of law; effective management of labor migration and brain drain; addressing racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance; and addressing the health rights of all migrants.

Several States, including the African Group and New Zealand, stressed the need to address the root causes and drivers of migration, such as high levels of unemployment, inequality, poverty and lack of opportunities for development. Ethiopia proposed creating a mechanism for developing projects in countries of origin to address the root causes of migration.

The EU, Australia, Japan and others called for the text to clearly distinguish between regular and irregular migration, so that it does not imply that irregular migration is justified or encouraged. A few states, such as the EU, India and South Africa, called for clearly distinguishing between migrants and refugees. Many Member States, including the EU, Canada, Australia, Indonesia, Belarus, Russia, Turkey and South Africa, stressed the need to reinforce the sovereign rights of states to manage their borders. The EU also proposed emphasizing the responsibility of states towards their own citizens, by addressing the causes of irregular migration through creating opportunities for youth. Norway mentioned the need address the issue of return and to restate the obligation of all states under international law to readmit their nationals.

El Salvador, on behalf of several Latin American countries, said the draft should present more ways for migrants to become legal residents irrespective of their migration status and, supported by Brazil, to broaden options to legalize the status of irregular migrants. Supported by Burkina Faso, he underscored that human mobility is a human right. He also emphasized the need to capture the empowerment of women migrants. Canada identified the need to address irregular migration and its dangers, as well as new and expanded opportunities for regular migration. Brazil said the principle of non-criminalization of migration needs to be a guiding principle for the Compact.

Each country is a country of origin, transit and destination, thus States need to share responsibility for migration.

Switzerland, supported by the Philippines and Turkey, stressed that each country is a country of origin, transit and destination, thus states need to share responsibility for migration. Belarus and Russia said the concept of shared responsibility is an unknown term, and the text should not include it, and migration should be tackled on a bilateral or regional basis.

Tuvalu for the Pacific Small Island States (P-SIDS) called for encouraging the creation of legal pathways for climate change migration and for recognizing the link between development, climate resilience and climate displacement. New Zealand added that the text should acknowledge the need to prepare for the movement of people related to climate change, and Papua New Guinea proposed strengthening the references to climate change as driver for migration. Several states, including El Salvador and Japan, proposed adding a reference to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Mexico called for reflecting the link with the Global Compact on Refugees, although they are different. He added that the migration compact represents an opportunity to rethink the UN’s architecture in order to facilitate coherence and effectiveness on migration issues.

Australia welcomed references to regional mechanisms and to addressing human trafficking. She said the text does not sufficiently address states’ responsibility to manage the drivers of migration. Supported by New Zealand and Belarus, she cautioned against expanding on existing international law obligations or making new commitments.

India said the language on actionable commitments and follow-up and review needs to reflect the non-binding nature of the document. He expressed concern about language that portrays migration as caused by the states’ failure to manage and ensure development, disregarding the historical causes of the differences in the development levels of regions, such as colonialism.

Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Jamaica, for the Group of Friends of Children and the SDGs, welcomed the references to the rights of children. They proposed including references to institutional and legal support for children. Nepal welcomed the “firm” anchoring of the Compact in the 2030 Agenda. Pakistan called for strengthening the link between migration and development. South Africa requested including in the text references to debt relief, market access, intensifying efforts to achieving the official development assistance (ODA) targets, and foreign direct investment (FDI). Kenya identified as problematic the actionable commitment related to the International Labor Organization (ILO), explaining that Kenya is not a member of the organization.

While many states welcomed the strong references to human rights, China and Russia stressed that the compact is not a human rights instrument and it should not be built to sound like one, but should focus on development. China added that the human rights of the citizens of destination countries need also to be recognized.

During the discussions on implementation and follow-up and review on 23 February, many governments, including the EU, the Philippines, Turkey, Norway, Japan, Bangladesh, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Honduras and India, voiced support for strengthening the role of for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in both the implementation and follow up process. EU and Japan opposed the involvement of Regional Economic Commissions (REC) as currently described in the text, while Indonesia supported the participation of RECs, “provided countries are consulted.”

While several countries, such as Indonesia, Brazil, Bangladesh, and Switzerland, supported references to multi-stakeholder participation, Cuba and others called for deleting such references. Liechtenstein mentioned that small states are “well served” by such light approaches to follow-up, and Australia reinforced that the follow-up should be “light.” While Bangladesh stressed the need to add timelines for objectives, China said it would not support any quantitative indicators or any mechanisms that would increase the reporting by Member States.

Lichtenstein and Indonesia underscored that the follow-up process must ensure substantive coherence with 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Lichtenstein, Mexico and Switzerland invited consideration of the role of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in the follow-up.

Several countries, including Brazil, Switzerland and Comoros for the African Countries, supported the reference to a capacity-building mechanism for countries. Japan asked for clarifications on the financial implications of such a capacity building mechanism, while Norway noted that contributions should be on voluntary basis.

The next draft of the compact will be circulated by 5 March, in the form of a “zero draft plus.” The second round of the intergovernmental negotiations will take place from 12-15 March 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, and will allow participants to explore four key issues on which further discussion is needed, in the view of the co-facilitators: differentiation between irregular and regular; differentiation between migrants and refugees; implementation and capacity building; follow-up and review.

On 21 February Lajcak chaired a half-day informal, interactive, multi-stakeholder hearing. It was the fourth in a series of six taking place as part of preparations for the compact and intergovernmental conference. [Schedule of Negotiations] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on zero draft] [Zero Draft] [Negotiations Webpage] [IISD Sources]

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