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Global Compact for Migration: A Necessary First Step

Global Compact for Migration: A Necessary First Step
by Rene Wadlow


On 12 July 2018, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to the text of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after more than a year of discussions among Member States, non-governmental organizations, academic specialists on migration issues as well as interviews with migrants and refugees.

imm01_400The discussion had gained visibility in September 2016 at the U.N. General Assembly which set out the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. As a result, the International Organization for Migration, created in 1951 largely to deal with displaced people after the Second World War was more formally integrated into the U.N. "family".

The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the Global Compact saying it reflected "the shared understanding by Governments that cross-border migration is, by its very nature, an international phenomenon and that effective management of this global reality requires international cooperation to enhance its positive impact for all. It also recognizes that every individual has the right to safety, dignity and protection."

However, the General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak also indicated the limitations of the agreement saying "It does not encourage migration, nor does it aim to stop it. It is not legally binding. It does not dictate. It will not impose. And it fully respects the sovereignty of States." The Global Compact will be formally adopted by Member States at an intergovernmental conference in Marrakesh, Morocco on 10-11 December. Thus it is useful to see what the Compact does do and what non-governmental organizations concerned need to do between now and early December.

Citizens of the world have stressed that the global aspects of migration flows have an impact on all countries. The changing nature of the world's economies modify migration patterns, and there is a need to plan for migration as the result of possible environmental-climate changes.

The current flow of migrants and refugees to Europe has become a high profile political issue. Many migrants come from areas caught up in armed conflict: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia. The leaders of the European Union (EU) have been divided and unsure in their responses. Local solidarity networks that offer food, shelter, and medical care are overwhelmed. Political debates over how to deal with the refugees have become heated, usually with more heat than light. The immediacy of the refugee exodus requires our attention, our compassion, and our sense of organization.

EU officials have met frequently to discuss how to deal with the migrant-refugee flow, but a common policy has so far been impossible to establish. At a popular level, there have been expressions of fear of migrants, of possible terrorists among them, and a rejection of their cultures. These popular currents, often increased by right-wing political parties make decisions all the more difficult to take. An exaggerated sense of threat fuels anti-immigration sentiments and creases a climate of intolerance and xenophobia.

wc00Therefore, the Association of World Citizens, which is in consultative status with the UN, is stressing the need for cooperative efforts carried out in good faith to meet the challenges of worldwide migration and continuing refugee flows. There is a need to look at both short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns, especially at potential climate.

We know that there are governments whose view is that "Yes, there are migrants and refugees, but we do not want them here. Our first and last line of defense is SOVEREIGNTY." In addition to these governments, there are political parties and groups with a less legalistic line of defense. There are shades of racism and religious prejudice that go from pale to very strongly colored. We can expect these groups to be very active between now and early December to push government to indicate that the Global Compact is not a treaty, is not binding, and will not influence national decision making.

Thus it is up to those holding World Citizen Values of equality, respect, cooperation and living in harmony with Nature to be even more active before December so that the Global Compact will serve as a framework for governmental and civil society action.

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Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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