UN Prepares for Migration, Refugee Negotiations
UN Photo/Mark Garten
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Consultations are scheduled to begin on modalities for negotiations on a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Izumi Nakamitsu of Japan as Special Adviser Ad Interim on follow-up to the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants.

1 November 2016: Consultations are scheduled to begin on modalities for negotiations on a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. The negotiated compact will be presented at an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018. A refugee response compact, meanwhile, is expected to be developed through a process guided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The consultations, to be led by co-facilitators Jurg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland, and Juan Jose Gomez Camacho, Permanent Representative of Mexico, will address “practicalities” of the intergovernmental negotiations, including modalities, timeline and the possible holding of preparatory conferences. The Government of Mexico has offered to host a preparatory conference, according to UN Special Adviser Karen AbuZayd. The modalities process should be finalized by 31 January 2017, the co-facilitators note, allowing for negotiations to begin in early 2017.

The practicalities of negotiations on the migration compact should be finalized by 31 January 2017.

The decision to negotiate the global compact was part of the outcome document of the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants (high-level plenary meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants), held in New York, US, on 19 September 2016. By the outcome document, also called the New York Declaration, governments set out steps towards the achievement of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018. The document outlines that: the intergovernmental negotiation process will be launched in 2016; the compact will include principles, commitments and understandings regarding international migration in all its dimensions, and address the humanitarian, developmental, and human rights-related aspects of migration; the compact will provide a framework for comprehensive international cooperation on migrants and human mobility; and the compact will be guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) on Financing for Development (FFD).

In addition to the migration compact, the New York Declaration also contains commitments on refugees, including a “comprehensive refugee response framework” and steps towards a global compact on refugees, also to be adopted in 2018. This process is expected to be guided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). They will develop the provisional compact, in consultation with Member States, host countries and resending countries, according to Karen AbuZayd, outgoing UN Special Adviser for the Summit.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Izumi Nakamitsu of Japan as Special Adviser Ad Interim on follow-up to the Summit. She will coordinate the engagement of UN entities, in particular on the implementation of the New York Declaration, and support Member States in fulfilling their commitments. Nakamitsu also serves as Assistant Administrator for Crisis Response at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

In October, two committees of the UNGA addressed migrant issues during their discussion of annual agenda items. In the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), delegations highlighted the importance of well-managed migration policies and governance, amid increasing international migratory flows, in the discussion on globalization and interdependence, on 18 October.

In the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), speakers heard reports from special mandate holders on the rights of migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs), during the discussion on promotion and protection of human rights, on 24 October. One expert highlighted that the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families has been ratified by only 48 States, with several governments sharing the concern and seeking advice on increasing compliance.

François Crépeau, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, underscored the need to govern migration, rather than restrict it, which he indicated is not the most effective use of resources. José Brillantes, Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, said States’ interests in securing their borders should not override their obligations to respect internationally guaranteed human rights of all persons. Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, called for a productive, rather than reactive model of action, focusing on early warning, preparedness, mitigation and adaptation.

These discussions and developments took place during a month when UNHCR announced that refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe have a one-in-47 likelihood of death, on the Central Mediterranean route (from Libya to Italy), and a one-in-88 likelihood overall. This is a three-fold increase from 2015, even with two months left in the year. The increases have been attributed to the use of “lower-quality vessels,” smugglers’ new tactic of embarking thousands of people at a time, which makes rescues much more difficult, and other factors. UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler called the 2016 totals “the worst we have seen.”

On assistance to refugees, UNHCR also announced a plan to double cash-based assistance by 2020. Filippo Grandi, the High Commissioner, said cash-based assistance enables refugees to decide how to manage their family’s budget, it can support those seeking alternatives to camps, and it benefits local businesses and economies, allowing for stronger relationships between host communities and refugees. Cash-based assistance will be expanded by 15 countries in 2017, the agency said.

[Letter from Co-Facilitators for Modalities] [Nakamitsu Biographical Note] [UN Press Release, Nakamitsu Appointment] [New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (A/RES/71/1)] [AbuZayd Interview] [Second Committee Meeting Summary] [Third Committee Meeting Summary] [UN Press Release on Death Toll] [UNHCR Press Release] [UNHCR Spokesperson Remarks] [UN Refugees and Migrants Website] [UN Press Release on Cash-Based Assistance]


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