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More than 150 countries to adopt UN migration accord

Today marks the opening of the intergovernmental conference in Marrakech, Morocco, centered around the United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The document is a wide-ranging framework for co-operation and sets out 23 objectives aimed at making global migration safer and more dignified for millions on the move. Canada and Germany are among more than 150 countries that will adopt the Compact.

The extent to which the agreement leads to better migration governance in practice will have far-reaching implications—not just for the more than 250 million people worldwide who are on the move outside of their countries of origin, but also for the communities that host them.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the accord as a “roadmap to prevent suffering and chaos.”

He urged world leaders to “breathe life” into what has been agreed on, and “demonstrate the Compact’s utility: to Governments as they establish and implement their own migration policies,” as well as “to communities of origin, transit and destination; and to migrants themselves.”

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

The Compact, which was finalised in July after 18 months of talks, aims to manage the growing global migration and impetus for the document followed the refugee crisis of 2015.

The 23 objectives set out in the agreement include collecting and utilising accurate data to develop evidence-based policies and minimising the factors that drive people from their country of origin.

It asks backers to facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and to promote decent work conditions. The success of the agreement will depend mainly on how it is implemented at the local level. Municipal authorities have an essential role in that process.

Furthermore, the pact aims at strengthening the response to migrant smuggling and end human trafficking. Countries who sign the agreement are asked to use detention only as a last resort and to provide access to basic services for migrants.

Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said that the agreement “works to enable countries to foster inclusive and cohesive societies by empowering migrants, for example, to become active members of the community.”

“These are things we’re already doing in Canada if you look at our immigration program, if you look at our integration program. This is aligned with our approaches.”

Global response

In July all 193 UN members agreed on the draft except the United States but has since then come under fire and has faced criticism of compromising state sovereignty. Yet, it is not legally binding and explicitly affirms the sovereign right of states to set their own migration policies.

The United States dropped out of talks on the pact last year and a number of countries including Italy, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Australia have rejected it.

The Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, is fighting for his political survival after the Flemish nationalist party quit the ruling coalition over his support for the agreement, leaving him in charge of a minority government.

In a speech in the Bundestag defending the Compact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared:

“There are people who say they can solve everything themselves and don’t have to think about anyone else, that is nationalism in its purest form.”

The UN asserted at the conference that the agreement is not a legally binding document and that its text is an agreed outcome from several years of intergovernmental negotiations and it is for each state to determine its own next steps.

The United Nations Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour emphasised that

“the adoption of the Migration Compact is a re-affirmation of the values and principles embodied in the UN Charter and in international law.”

She stressed that what comes next is the crucial phase. It is the implementation – expected to take place in the UN Headquarters in December – of the Compact

“that will forever change the way the International Community manages human mobility,” she said.

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