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Global Compact for better managing migration
December 15, 2018, 4:40 pm

Today, more than 3.4 percent of the global population of 7.7 billion live outside their country of birth. As a demographic cohort the 260 million global migrants are nearly equal to the entire population of Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world. In coming years, migrant numbers are expected to increase significantly due to various factors, including population growth, geopolitical crises, rising inequality, demographic imbalances, climate change, globalization and connectivity.

Effectively coping with this increase in numbers has made the regulation and management of migration an issue of critical social, political and economic importance to the global community. Unregulated migration in recent years has led to thousands of migrants losing their lives or going missing on perilous routes, or falling victim to people smugglers and human traffickers. Latest UN data shows that since the year 2000, more than 60,000 migrants have lost their lives while on the move.

The huge flow of migrants mainly from Middle East and Africa to Europe that was witnessed in 2015 also created significant challenges for governments in en route countries and host nations, by overwhelming available social infrastructure and posing potential security risks.

Collective shame and soul-searching by the international community over the handling of migrants — the unwarranted deaths, as well as treatment of migrants on way to, and in, destination countries — was probably behind the United Nations General Assembly adopting in September 2016, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. The UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regulated Migration, shortened to Global Compact on Migration (GCM), was finalized in July 2018 and adopted by representatives of 164 countries on 10 December at the intergovernmental conference on migration held in Marrakech, Morocco.

The UN General Assembly is now set to adopt a resolution formally endorsing the deal on 19 December in New York. It is quite coincidental that the GCM was adopted on the day marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The Compact reiterates that refugees and migrants do not leave behind their rights when they leave their country of origin; they are entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the UDHR and which must be respected, protected and fulfilled by all, at all times. Until now, only refugees were entitled to the specific international protection as defined by the international refugee law. With the adoption of the GCM, migrants now have a similar cooperative framework that addresses migration in all its dimensions, in a holistic and in-depth manner.

The non-binding Compact is grounded in values of state sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination, and human rights. Comprising of 23 objectives, the Compact is aimed at better managing migration at local, national and global levels. It recognizes that a negotiated and cooperative approach is needed to optimize the overall benefits of migration, while addressing its risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination.

Among others, the compact aims to: Mitigate the adverse drivers and structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin Intends to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration by respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights and providing them with care and assistance Seeks to address the legitimate concerns of states and communities, while recognizing that societies are undergoing demographic, economic, social and environmental changes at different scales that may have implications for and result from migration Strives to create conducive conditions that enable all migrants to enrich our societies through their human, economic and social capacities, and thus facilitate their contributions to sustainable development at the local, national, regional and global levels.

The Global Compact, which is rooted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, builds upon the recognition that migration is a multidimensional reality of major relevance for the positive and sustainable development of countries of origin, transit and destination, which requires coherent and comprehensive responses. The Compact fosters international cooperation among all relevant actors on migration, acknowledging that no State can address migration alone, and upholds the sovereignty of States and their obligations under international law.

Speaking at the opening of the intergovernmental session in Marrakech, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said that the Compact provides a platform for “humane, sensible, mutually beneficial action” resting on two ‘simple ideas’. “Firstly, that migration has always been with us, but should be managed and safe; second, that national policies are far more likely to succeed with international cooperation.”

The UN chief said that in recent months there had been “many falsehoods” uttered about the agreement and “the overall issue of migration”. In order to dispel the “myths”, he said that the Compact did not allow the UN to impose migration policies on Member States, and neither was the pact a formal treaty. “It is a framework for international cooperation, rooted in an inter-governmental process of negotiation in good faith,” he told delegates in Marrakech.

The pact would not give migrants rights to go anywhere, reaffirming only their fundamental human rights, he said. Mr. Guterres also challenged the myth that developed countries no longer need migrant labor, saying it was clear that “most need migrants across a broad spectrum of vital roles.” Empirical evidence shows that when properly regulated and effectively managed, migration over time provides immense opportunity and benefits — for the migrants, host communities and communities of origin.

Despite this evidence, the debate on migration has been clouded by xenophobic and nativist responses based on the economic and social repercussions of hosting large migrant communities. Acknowledging that some countries, including the United States and Australia, decided not to take part in the conference, or adopt the Compact, the UN Chief expressed his wish that they will come to recognize its value for their societies and join in “this common venture.”

- Staff Report

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