Governments adopt UN global migration pact to help ‘prevent suffering and chaos’

UN Photo/Mark Garten UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UN Special Representative for International Migration, Louise Arbour, hold a stakeout after the opening of Global Compact for Migration Conference in Marrakech, Morocco. 10 December 2018.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

The Global Compact for Migration was adopted on Monday by leading representatives from 164 Governments at an international conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in an historic move described by UN Chief António Guterres as the creation of a “roadmap to prevent suffering and chaos”.

Speaking at the opening intergovernmental session, Mr. Guterres, said that the Compact provides a platform for “humane, sensible, mutually beneficial action” resting on two “simple ideas”.

“Firstly, that migration has always been with us, but should be managed and safe; second, that national policies are far more likely to succeed with international cooperation.”

The UN chief said that in recent months there had been “many falsehoods” uttered about the agreement and “the overall issue of migration”. In order to dispel the “myths”, he said that the Compact did not allow the UN to impose migration policies on Member States, and neither was the pact a formal treaty.

“Moreover, it is not legally-binding. It is a framework for international cooperation, rooted in an inter-governmental process of negotiation in good faith,” he told delegates in Marrakech.

The pact would not give migrants rights to go anywhere, reaffirming only the fundamental human rights, he said. Mr. Guterres also challenged the myth that developed countries no longer need migrant labour, saying it was clear that “most need migrants across a broad spectrum of vital roles.”

Acknowledging that some States decided not to take part in the conference, or adopt the Compact, the UN Chief expressed his wish that they will come to recognize its value for their societies and join in “this common venture.”

The United States did not endorse the Compact, and more than a dozen other countries either chose not to sign the accord or are still undecided.

Marrakech Compact, reality vs myth

The Moroccan minister of foreign affairs, Nasser Bourita, banged his gavel announcing the adoption of the Compact, while outlining the various efforts his country has made to bring about global consensus on international migration.

Along with Climate Change, unregulated migration has become a pressing issue in recent years. Every year, thousands of migrants lose their lives or go missing on perilous routes, often fallen victim to smugglers and traffickers.

Mr. Guterres welcomed the overwhelming global support for the pact, saying that for people on the move, “voluntary or forced; and whether or not they have been able to obtain formal authorization for movement, all human beings must have their human rights respected and their dignity upheld.”

The adoption of the pact, now known as Marrakech Compact, coincides with the 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document which is central to the pact. Mr. Guterres said “it would be ironic if, on the day we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we would consider that migrants are to be excluded from the scope of the Declaration.”

After the adoption, the UN chief told journalists that “it was a very emotional moment” for him when he saw “the members of the conference unanimously in acclamation” adopt the Compact.

It was fitting that the conference is taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, a major migration route for centuries. UN data shows that globally more than 60,000 migrants have died on the move since the year 2000, prompting the Secretary-General to call it “a source of collective shame.”

‘Great achievement’ for multilaterlalism

UN senior migration official Ms. Louise Arbour, tasked with overseeing the process, applauded the adoption, calling it “wonderful occasion, really a historic moment and a really great achievement for multilateralism.”

She congratulated Member States for working “very hard to resolve differences, to understand the complexities of all questions related to human mobility for the last 18 months.”

Ms. Arbour, who is the UN Special Representative for International Migration, said the Compact “will make an enormous positive impact in the lives of millions of people – migrants themselves, the people they leave behind and the communities that will then host them.” She revealed that this will depend on the implementation of the Global Compact’s initiatives.

Representing civil society and youth at the conference opening, children right’s activist Cheryl Perera, spoke of her volunteer work against child trafficking. She urged the delegates to make full use of the opportunity the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) provides.

“The GCM offers a historic opportunity now for you to deliver on your existing obligations to protect children and invest in young people all around the world. But it doesn’t end here. You need to address the underlying risks of forced and unsafe migration, like climate change, social political exclusion, disasters and inequality, and you need once and for all to end immigration detention,” she said, adding that everyone needed to do more “to prevent trafficking and protect victims. You need to stop criminalizing migrants.”

‘Go it alone approach’ doesn’t work: Merkel

The longstanding German Chancellor Angela Merkel, welcomed the adoption saying that it was high time the international community came to a more realistic understanding over global migration.

Ms. Merkel warned that the “go it alone approach will not solve the issue,” stressing that multilateralism is the only possible way forward. She admitted that her country – which has already welcomed more than a million migrants and refugees in recent years from countries such as Syria – will need more skilled labour from outside the European Union and has a vested interested in legal migration. But she also reaffirmed that Member States must tackle illegal migration and clearly commit to effective border protection to prevent human trafficking, as put forward in the Compact.

“States cannot accept that traffickers are the ones deciding who crosses into countries. We must settle such matters among us”, Ms. Merkel said.

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