27 July 2017
Stakeholders Discuss Migration Compact During First Hearing
Photo by IISD/ENB
story highlights

The UNGA President, Peter Thomson, convened the first of a series of multi-stakeholder hearings, as part of the preparatory process for the intergovernmental conference on international migration to adopt the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in the fall of 2018.

The hearing followed a two-day informal thematic session on the contributions of migrants and diasporas to all dimensions of sustainable development that convened on 24-25 July 2017 in New York.

The second informal interactive multi-stakeholder hearing is scheduled for 11 October 2017 in Geneva.

26 July 2017: The President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) convened the first of a series of multi-stakeholder hearings, as part of the preparatory process for the intergovernmental conference on international migration to adopt the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018. Several participants outlined the need to have a robust follow up and review process to ensure accountability, with Finland noting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development follow up and review mechanism should be clearly linked to the one of the global compact.

The preparatory process leading to the adoption of the global compact includes three phases: consultations (April to November 2017); stocktaking (November 2017 to January 2018); and intergovernmental negotiations (February to July 2018).

The hearing, which convened on 26 July at the UN Headquarters in New York, US, focused on issues considered by the UNGA in the first four informal thematic sessions for the global compact on migration, between May and July 2017, namely: protecting the human rights of all migrants; understanding the drivers of migration; recognizing the contributions of migrants; and advancing international cooperation and governance of migration. The hearing brought together representatives of non-governmental, civil society and migrant organizations, academic institutions, the private sector, UN Member States, parliamentarians, and other actors.

Opening the meeting, UNGA President, Peter Thomson, remarked that the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (A/RES/71/1), in which the UNGA committed to launch a process of intergovernmental negotiations leading to the adoption of the migration global compact, was the first ever comprehensive international agreement on migration overseen by the UN. He informed he will issue a summary of the hearing that will be available on the global compact’s website.

Referring to the 2030 Agenda, Louise Arbour, Secretary-General of the intergovernmental conference on international migration, remarked that this is the first time that migration is integrated in a global “development” framework. She called for: departing from reaffirming fundamental rights and principles, and shifting towards real and operational deliverables; bringing the voice of migrant women to highlight their leadership and contribution to sustainable development processes; and correcting the stereotypes and myths of migration and anchoring the political debate on facts and reality.

Participants noted the positive contributions of migration, adding that migrants face legal and practical barriers that make them proportionally vulnerable to discrimination. They called for, inter alia: social inclusion and providing social security to migrants; greater political will; protection mechanisms for those being deported; ensuring reception and integration programmes for migrants and special conditions for people, including women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities; stopping children detention; addressing human trafficking; ensuring responsibility sharing between UN Member States, civil society organizations and other actors; ratifying and implementing existing multilateral agreements; promoting better data and evidence and more collaborative approaches for data collection and analysis; and ensuring clear definitions to distinguish between, inter alia, economic migrants, human rights migrants, tourists, regular and irregular situations.

Civil society representatives also called for the compact to: include goals, timelines and means of implementation that are achievable and implementable; draw on UN Women recommendations regarding women’s rights; avoid deportation of children and separation from their families; and ensure access to justice. Following remarks by some participants, Bangladesh asked to not prejudge if the global compact will be legally binding or not since this decision will be made during the negotiation process that will precede the compact’s adoption.

Protecting the human rights of all migrants

Moderating the session, Craig Mokhiber, Director, New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that human rights are attached to the person and move with the person wherever he/she goes. He said stricter border protection policies, such as barbed wires, do not solve illegal migration issues. Mokhiber called for all human rights to be at the core of the global compact. Raísa Ortiz Cetra, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales Asociación Civil, stressed the importance of guaranteeing access to local documentation for migrants. She reported that several countries in South America, including Argentina, Guatemala and Peru, have good examples of rights-based focused migration policies.

Marc Schenker, Professor, University of California, Davis, said there is approximately one migrant death per day along the Mexico-US border and, with other speakers, stressed the need to include health in the global compact. A representative from the University College London (UCL) added that universal health coverage is a human right, access to healthcare should be non-discriminatory, and quality of health care services should be assured. Dennis Sinyolo, Education International, said education should be at the core of the global compact, in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 (quality education), noting, inter alia, that undocumented children continue to be excluded from education. Morocco and Germany, as co-chairmen of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) 2017-2018, said the Forum organized two dialogues on the contributions of migrants and diasporas to all dimensions of sustainable development.

Other participants called for the global compact to pay attention to the needs of migrant women and children and ensure their full protection from trafficking, sexual abuse and child labor, among other things, adding the compact should not only be rights-based but also responsibility-based. Some asked to ensure that migrants have the same rights as citizens, including the freedom of association and assembly, and to establish procedures for equal opportunity and treatment.

Understanding the drivers of migration

Gregory Maniatis, Open Society Foundations, who moderated the session, said the global compact process should be a platform for positive and forward looking conversation on migration to counter the “toxic” discussions heard at various decision-making levels. Maniatis and others called for the migration compact to be linked to the global compact on refugees, considering that both are part of a continuum. Alice Thomas, Refugees International, outlined the importance of climate change as a driver of migration, noting, for instance, that almost one million people have been displaced in Somalia in the last seven months due to severe droughts. She said a Task Force on Displacement has been established under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Jonathan Crush, CIGI, observed that migration is a cross-cutting issue across the SDGs.

Jonathan Crush, Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), said the international migration and development and the global food security and nutrition agendas need to be brought together, and the global compact should include recommendations on food remittances, in addition to cash remittances. He stressed the need for better data on the food security of migrants, and noted that the global compact should reflect that while there is no specific SDG on migration, the issue is cross-cutting all the other SDGs, except SDG 14 (life below water). A representative from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development observed there is a resurgence of “patriarchal governance” that leads to a higher tolerance of sexism; and militarism is a treat to peace and is one of the greatest drivers of migration.

Civil society representatives called on the compact to recognize statelessness and to include decent work creation in origin and destination countries. Finland noted that the 2030 Agenda addresses several issues that have an impact on migration. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recommended recognizing the positive drivers of migration.

Advancing international cooperation and the governance of migration

Michele Klein-Solomon, IOM, who moderated the session, outlined the need for a whole of UN approach, and a whole of society approach that brings together local governments, municipalities and mayors, who are at the front lines of migration issues, as well as civil society organizations (CSOs), migrants, diaspora organization who advocate for migrant protection, and the private sector, which can serve as a recruiter and a provider of key services. She highlighted the need to recognize the links among migration, labor rights, development, climate change, among other sectors, and to consider these issues in an integrated manner.

Alice Anderson-Gough, Mixed Migration Platform, said her organization had a dialogue with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on a programme GIZ is establishing on providing advice to migrants in Germany about their return options. Sophie Ogilvy, De La Rue, stressed the importance of legal identity in migration discussions, noting that one in five children and many adults do not have legal identity or are not officially registered.

A parliamentarian from Uganda noted that the African Union (AU) has been encouraged to develop a common position on the migration compact. Several participants outlined the need for the global compact to ensure a continuing dialogue with multi-stakeholders for accountability. Interpol called for efficient border controls to distinguish between smugglers and other migrants.

Recognizing the contributions of migrants

Bela Hovy, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and moderator, noted that UN Member States have been invited to organize national consultations around the migration compact, and encouraged stakeholders to think about how to organize these consultations. Kevin Appleby, Scalabrini International Migration Network, noted that the global compact should aim to increase legal avenues to migration, especially considering the aging population in countries such as the US.

Sringatin, Indonesian Migrant Workers Union, outlined the cultural contribution of migrants and the importance of remittances. Stéphanie Winet, International Organisation of Employers, 
highlighted ways to enhance the contribution of migrants in the global compact, including by: facilitating the immigration of entrepreneurs and investors and the access to capital and to social networks; and encouraging remittances to finance education.

Participants also supported looking at the good practices of regularizing migration, with one suggesting moving towards digital remittances to reduce transaction costs.

The hearing followed a two-day informal thematic session on the contributions of migrants and diasporas to all dimensions of sustainable development, which convened on 24-25 July 2017 in New York. The second informal interactive multi-stakeholder hearing is scheduled for 11 October 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. [Migration Compact Website] [Hearing Webpage] [UNGA President Opening Remarks] [UNGA President Closing Remarks] [UN Webcast] [IISD Sources]


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