Ceipa report on the Intergovernmental Conference to adopt the Global Compact on Migration

Ceipa report on the Intergovernmental Conference

to adopt the Global Compact on Migration

in Marrakech

10 – 11 December 2018


Under the auspices of the UN General Assembly and hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco, 164 states adopted the Global Compact for safe orderly and regular Migration (GCM). During the two-day conference, which was opened by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, more than 150 state representatives as well as representatives of UN agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental civil society organisations, delivered statements in support of the GCM, and outlined implementation priorities with respect to the GMC 23 objectives.

As adopted by the General Assembly in September 2016 (A/RES/71/1) in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the GCM is set to help the global community tackle the challenges and leveraging the positive potentials related to migration. While acknowledging its non-legally binding nature, respecting the sovereign right of states to determine its migration governance, it is clearly bound to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 70th anniversary of which has been celebrated in the same event.

CEIPA, alongside other international non-governmental organisations, think tanks and other civil society as well as private sector stakeholders participated and contributed to the 18 months preparatory process, particularly in the course of thematic sessions (more info here). Outcome of the preparatory consultative process is – under the caption of full respect for human rights – the inclusion of 23 diverse objectives, reflecting the multifarious aspects of migration, including, inter alia:

  • creating more pathways to regular migration, including labour migration,

  • combating trafficking and smuggling in human beings,

  • collecting and providing migration-relevant data and information,

  • support migrants and host societies to integrate as well as to encourage diaspora engagement, facilitating remittances flows

  • minimizing drivers for and developing responses to compelled migration, such as climate change induced displacement, and promoting equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from sustainable development

  • to strengthening international cooperation and global partnerships for safe, orderly and regular migration,

(full list of objectives can be found in the GCM at http://undocs.org/en/A/CONF.231/3).

The draft GCM document having been agreed upon by almost all UN states in July 2018, just weeks before its adoption at the intergovernmental conference in Marrakech, criticism mainly from polemic and nationalistic voices spread myths of a GCM-based loss of state sovereignty. As a result, several governments, notably of Austria, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, opted out from adopting the GCM. The connected debate, the UN Secretary General Guterres stated, was built on a number of deliberately spread myths, the decomposition of which formed the introductory part of his opening remarks to the intergovernmental conference.

Even the more so, presence and speech of German Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined the importance of the Global Compact of Migration. Her clear stance for multilateralism in addressing the global phenomenon of migration at UN level yielded standing ovation by the audience. In the same vein, the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, stating the non-deviation form initial backing of the GCM was highly appreciated and applauded by the representatives of the international community. Just the week preceding the conference, his government had lost majority in the Belgium coalition over this very adoption of the compact.

Worthwhile mentioning, not all sceptics of the GCM decided to turn their back to UN multilateralism. Using the platform of the intergovernmental conference, Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Rasmussen, in alliance with Norway, the Netherlands and Lithuania, declared that the respective governments would issue a joint declaration stating that their states would not allow the GCM to impede on sovereign right of the state to determine its migration and border management. Other states, among them Iceland, Bosnia, Niger, had their adoption or provisional adoption of the GCM announced as late as at the conclusion of the intergovernmental conference.

The GCM resolution having been unanimously agreed on by the represented states, the president of the UN General Assembly, Maria Espinosa Garcés, announced its submission for formal endorsement at the occasion of the upcoming General Assembly, to take place 19 December 2018.

Not an end in itself

Throughout the conference, reflected in many statements by state representatives and non-state and civil society actors alike, core message was that the GCM was not an end by itself.

Two dialogues accompanying the governmental plenary session gave floor to governmental and non-governmental representatives alike to share their vision of the priorities for the GCM implementation.

Dialogue #1: Promoting action on the commitments of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, was supported by keynote speaker Madeleine Albright who shared her own migration story of 70 years ago. Embarrassed by absence of US from the multilateral GCM scene, she highlighted the need to commit to maximising the benefits and number of beneficiaries of globalisation by ensuring equal access to development.

According to the statement of the EU-representative delivered in the frame of this dialogue, GCM is to form integral part of EU cooperation with partner countries. CEIPA acknowledges particularly that addressing the root causes of migration and breaking the business model of smugglers and traffickers was highlighted by EU-representatives. At the same time, no mention was made of the failure to align EU Member States in favour of viewing the GCM as providing the relevant building blocks for a common and accorded approach to migration governance.

Dialogue #2: Partnerships and innovative initiatives for the way forward, was supported by keynote speaker Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She reminded the audience of the benefits that arise out of migration, particularly when an area of open-border movement created an area of safety as achieved in some African countries which she underlined have a major role in shaping partnerships on migration governance.

Acknowledging the fears and uncertainty that existed among Europeans with regard to migration, the EU-representative declared the adoption of the GCM as victory of multilateralism in spite of post-facts-times. Again, CEIPA is supportive to the declared priority on observing a gender perspective in addressing migration governance, on combating trafficking, and on upholding a child perspective that prevails regardless of the respective migration status. The EU representative declared commitment to go from words to action, together with the international community, the European parliament and involving civil society, the observance of which CEIPA is ready to follow-up on.

During the two-days plenary and dialogue intervention, the clear and strong commitment to multilateralism with respect to addressing migration in a coherent and human-rights-based manner was voiced by state and non-state representatives alike. At the same time, not all states seem equally ready for full GCM implementation, due to political constraints, prevalent pressing issues or post-fact public polemics. The pressing and challenging task hence appears to be to localise and, simultaneously, to join forces at the regional policy level to diligently pursue and follow-up on efforts to achieving GCM objectives.

As president of the UN General Assembly took up in her concluding remarks, the implementation phase is now to be considered crucial, not least to improving the situation of migrants worldwide. CEIPA commends the formation of the global migration network and stands ready as civil society actor to contribute as well as to involve in the IOM stakeholder consultation initiative as planned for 2019.

CEIPA, as stated in its GCM declaration, clearly backs the understanding that the GCM represents a momentum, conducive to a multilateral approach to migration governance, while its value is determined subject to its meaningful implementation. Aiming at fostering political will, determination and political coherence, CEIPA will – particularly focussing on the context of the European Union and its Member States – lend its expertise, experience and resources as laid out in its GCM-declaration, in support of this ambitious endeavour.

Anna Goos, Senior Migration Policy Advisor

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