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UN Global Compact for Migration

UN Global Compact for Migration

The real work starts now

On December 11, during a conference at Marrakech, Morocco, the member states of the United Nations adopted a global compact on migration entitled ‘The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration’. This non-binding accord was finalized in July after 18 months of talks and discussions. A total of 150 governments were represented at the UN conference at Heads of State level or by senior officials. The adoption of the compact is being seen as a victory for a progressive new framework of how the world views migrants and agrees to protect their basic human rights. It states that it is designed to “foster 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.”

With migration an increasingly divisive political issue in the United States and Europe, could global governance step in to address the problem? More than 100 countries met on Dec. 10-11 in Marrakech, Morocco, to formally adopt the first treaty on migration negotiated under the United Nations.

The Global Compact for Migration is the result of two years of hard negotiations led by Louise Arbour, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. At first glance, the compact seems a significant breakthrough in times of tough rhetoric and harsh policies for migrants. The draft text acknowledges the rights of migrants and the need to protect the vulnerable of them. However, the compact will not result in immediate changes in how countries treat migrants.

Why create a global agreement on migration?

The Global Compact was initiated in September 2016 when 193 countries met at the United Nations in New York for a high-level summit on migration and refugees. The summit followed a Northern Hemisphere summer that saw a substantial increase in migrants and asylum-seekers crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. Many in Europe viewed the deaths at sea and the increase in asylum-seekers as a “crisis.”

With 85 percent of the world’s refugees housed in developing countries, not in the West, there is a broader crisis that is not as widely acknowledged. The summit produced an agreement to establish two separate tracks of negotiations — one for migration, another for refugees. Refugees are treated differently under international law than migrants because they are fleeing a well-founded fear of persecution.

Many countries hoped to see new international frameworks for migrants and displaced peoples. The United States was strongly invested in global cooperation, and in September 2016, then-President Barack Obama hosted a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees at the White House, as a complement to the UN summit. The UN summit resulted in the “New York Declaration,” which called for the creation of a Global Compact for “Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.”

Read More: Toward A New Global Compact on Migration

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