On November 22nd, 2016, MCC United Nations Office had the unique opportunity to make an intervention at a consultation held by the United Nations.
The session was a part of the “Follow-up on the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.” The declaration was agreed upon this September during the High-Level Summit for Refugees and Migrants at the opening of the General Assembly. The theme of the High-Level Summit was crucial after a year of unprecedented global human movement. In 2015, migrant numbers reached over 244 million. There were 65 million forcibly displaced persons, including 21 million refugees, 3 million asylum seekers and over 40 million internally displaced persons. Mass migrant movement became an issue that could no longer afford to be overlooked.
The declaration created in September was reached by consensus of Member States. It expressed “the political will of world leaders to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale.” This expression served as the foundation of the subsequent commitments that were made. One commitment was to fortify global governance by bringing the International Organization for Migration into the UN system. Another important commitment was to condemn xenophobia against refugees and migrants and support a global campaign to end it. To build on these commitments the NY Declaration also has set out concrete plans of action, including starting negotiations leading to an international conference and the adoption of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in 2018. To read more about the NY Declaration, click here.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration intends to create a comprehensive framework for global cooperation on international migration. The New York Declaration outlines that the compact will address all aspects of migration, including “humanitarian, developmental, human rights-related and other aspects of migration.” It also details that the compact will be guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), click here.
To begin the efforts for the global compact, the Member States first needed to agree upon modalities for the global compact negotiations. For the previous four months, countries had been negotiating the modalities, or the procedural decisions and framework for the compact negotiations. In November, Member States decided that they would like to have a consultation on the modalities with civil society. This consultation was historic—it marked the first modalities discussion at the United Nations where civil society from all over the world was able to contribute. This meant that non-governmental organizations (NGOs), diasporas, private sector, and representative populations of refugees and migrants were all included in the discussion and suggestion of modalities. Members of civil society who were not able to be present were allowed to submit written input and/or video statements. The questions of discussion for the session were as follows:
Question 1: What best practices exist to ensure that migrant voices are heard in the context of international negotiations?
Question 2: What are the migration related civil society, private sector, diaspora communities or migrants organizations processes taking place in 2017 or 2018 that Member States should be aware of, that could be relevant for the intergovernmental process that will lead to the adoption of a global compact on safe, regular and orderly migration to be adopted in 2018?
Question 3: What kind of expertise could civil society, the private sector, diaspora communities and migrants organizations provide to the intergovernmental negotiation process which would be relevant for the process?
The questions alone felt like an exciting opportunity for civil society members. They provided a forum for civil society to discuss valuable efforts and even to explain why they should be included in intergovernmental negotiations. Twenty representative members of civil society were able to present their views. I was able to speak on behalf of MCC to discuss the value that NGO’s could provide to intergovernmental negotiations.
Following this briefing, the co-facilitators released a ‘Zero Draft for Modalities’ (Find full draft here), the document that set out the official draft modalities that will be finalized by the end of January. The draft presented the United Nations intentions to include civil society in the Global Compact process. A request was made for four days of “informal interactive multi-stakeholder hearings” during April 2017-June 2018, and this multi-stakeholders plea allowed for inclusion of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, academic institutions, parliaments, diaspora communities, migrants, migrant organizations, and the private sector. The intent is for the President of the General Assembly to make a summary of hearings to be presented at the intergovernmental negotiations in 2018. Additionally, the zero draft outlines the decision to establish a voluntary fund that would allow multi-stakeholders from around the world, no matter their economic status, to attend the hearings. These decisions legitimize the Global Compact negotiations. The world needs to hear the experiences and insight of migrants. There needs to be consideration of on the ground workers, of researchers and academics. There cannot be discussions of international cooperation on migration without including all those who are stakeholders.
MCC will continue to participate in migration advocacy and we look forward to being present at the upcoming Global Compact hearings for civil society.
Please see the below statement that was presented as an intervention during the civil society consultation.
Informal Briefing by Civil Society on the Modalities for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration
Trusteeship Council, United Nations Headquarters
Thank you to the Ambassadors of Mexico and Switzerland for co-facilitating this important consultation. We appreciate your initiative, inclusivity, and transparency in this matter.
Mennonite Central Committee would like to answer the question regarding what kind of expertise civil society and migrant organizations could provide in the intergovernmental negotiation process for the Global Compact.
Our organization connects with people who are working on the ground in various countries around the world. We partner with local, grassroots NGO’s and work together to find best practices for the communities.
In Iraq, MCC is supporting the return of Yazidi communities in Sinjar through cash-for-work and poultry production. In Lebanon, MCC is providing monthly food assistance to 5,800 Palestinian refugees from Syria, through its account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. In Democratic Republic of Congo, MCC provides shelter assistance, emergency healthcare services, and hygiene kits to Internally Displaced Peoples. In response to the conflict in Colombia, MCC has been providing ongoing food assistance, non-food items, psychosocial care, housing assistance, and livelihoods support for internally displaced people and refugees in Ecuador. We also work with migrants in various programs around the world, including but not limited to, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi, The Northern Triangle, Syria, and Jordan.
Furthermore, MCC actively engages in dialogue with governments in our program countries. We are especially active in refugee resettlement negotiations within Canada and the US. The United States regularly consults with Volunteer Agencies that administer refugee resettlement in the US. In Canada, we consult with the Sponsorship Agreement Holder Association— which resettles thousands of refugees every year. This is an important role and the government relies on these relationships to share the responsibility of refugee resettlement.
Therefore, we as civil society are constantly engaged in international migration negotiations. Our relationship with our grassroots partners, and our previous involvement in negotiations, shows that we have a strong capability to deliver knowledge and programming that is trusted by governments and most importantly, informed by locals.
An inclusion of civil society in the intergovernmental global compact negotiations would provide the opportunity to have voices heard from grassroots partners involved in migration programs from every corner of the world. If the Global Compact wishes to find a solution for safe, orderly, and regular migration, they should seek to include those international organizations whose efforts through grassroots partnerships aim to do the same. The civil society community here at the United Nations could be the liaison for this partnership.
Thank you for your attention.