December 2018 marked an incredibly active and pivotal month for advancing the dialogue on international migration policy, and it began with “Migration Week” in Marrakech, Morocco.
Migration week(s) commenced with the 11th meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), followed by the 5th Mayoral Forum on Human Mobility, Migration and Development, then the Peoples’ Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights, the Migration Youth Forum, side events of the Intergovernmental Conference to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (IGC), and finally the IGC itself.
The voice of MCC, its programs, and partners, spoke into the discussions of the GFMD, side events, and the IGC, through representation of MCC UN Office staff, Kati Garrison.
Global Forum on Migration and Development
From 4-6 December, Kati joined approximately 350 civil society representatives (nearly half of whom were migrants) for four days of intensive meetings to discuss effective methods for transforming the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) into action. Dialogues and conversations in breakout session centered on measures to ensure that the GCM serves as a living document that will bring about real change for migrants and their families at local, regional and national levels.
The principal outcomes of the gathering are articulated through the following commitments:
- Continuing to defend the human rights of all migrants
- Striving to change the negative narrative of migration through facts and data
- Upholding labor rights for all migrant workers
- Bridging the gap between regular and irregular migrants, to provide access to basic services to all
- Advocating for migration through the lens of human mobility and to ensure implementation of both the GCM and the Global Compact on Refugees
- Calling for a stronger climate displacement agenda, to respond to climate-induced migration
- Demanding that the best interest of the child be the primary consideration in all decision-making processes regarding children
- Supporting women as leaders
- Engaging in dialogue and partnerships
- Monitoring and holding governments accountable to the commitments of the GCM
Side Event: Protection for Migrants and Refugees
Over the weekend of 8-9 December, governments and civil society organized and hosted side events of the IGC, to create spaces for more intentional and practical conversations relating to all dimensions of migration. Member State representatives presented the initial stages of formulating national actions plans, and governments and civil society alike put forward notions of best practices and current challenges in the field of migration.
Recognizing MCC's practice of bringing practical, grassroots experience into international policy discussions, civil society partners invited Kati to share this expertise by serving as a panelist at an official side event titled “Implementing Protection in the Global Compacts: Fostering Innovative and Holistic Approaches.”
Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration
On 10 December, as the world commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Kati, along with Saulo Padilla of MCC, concurrently celebrated another crucial element in the ongoing campaign to defend and uphold human rights, as they represented MCC at the Intergovernmental Conference to adopt the GCM. This conference marked an historic moment in which the United Nations endorsed the first global framework on a shared approach to international migration.
Shortly thereafter, on Wednesday, December 19, the United Nations General Assembly officially adopted the GCM in a recorded vote of 152 Member States in favor to five against (Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland and the United States) and 12 abstentions (Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Italy, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Romania, Singapore and Switzerland). This victory culminated a two-year process of consultations and negotiations, in efforts to comprehensively address the dimensions of international migration, from root causes to protection in transit and sustainable reintegration in cases of return. The MCC United Nations Office actively engaged in this process, from the start, working alongside other faith-based organizations, civil society representatives, academics, and migrants themselves, to create a Compact with the potential to improve migration policy for all.
The adoption and implementation of this document will advance the imperative to ensure that the response to migration is a shared global responsibility, one in which the human rights of all migrants are respected, regardless of migration status. It strives to establish an international community in which migration is an act of choice, rather than an act of desperation (such as migration propelled by conflict or climate change). It emphasizes the acknowledgement that no one nation can address migration alone, nor should any one country be the lead decision-maker in determining the best course of action for addressing this phenomenon. Migration policy and its implementation must be a shared responsibility of countries of origin, transit and destination together, developed and determined in cooperation.
As stated by Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, the GCM “calls for greater solidarity with migrants.” Let us be reminded of the moral standard, established within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to protect all human beings and treat them with dignity and respect. The GCM is a solid first step in this direction, but the work is just beginning. We have the document, now it is up to us to bring it to life.
Kati Garrison is the Program and Advocacy Associate at Mennonite Central Committee's United Nations Office.