Speakers Call for Robust Implementation of Landmark Global Compact to Protect Migrants Worldwide, as Intergovernmental Conference Concludes in Marrakech

Published date11 December 2018
Publication titleASEAN Tribune

11 December 2018 (United Nations) The two-day Intergovernmental Conference that adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration concluded today with robust appeals for the achievement of its 23 sweeping objectives in ways that can better the lives of the world's 258 million people on the move.

'For the first time in the history of the United Nations, we have been able to tackle an issue that was long seen as out of bounds for a truly concerted global effort,' said Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Migration, in closing remarks.

As the many initiatives proposed in the 31-page Global Compact start to take root, the world will see lives saved, living conditions improved, and communities integrate and flourish through increased development and prosperity in many parts of the world, the Special Representative stated.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the General Assembly, said: 'We came here with a clear goal and we have achieved it.' A long and promising road remains for the agreement, she noted, calling attention to a General Assembly plenary to be held on 19 December at which the Global Compact will be formally adopted.

Nasser Bourita, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Morocco and President of the Intergovernmental Conference, said Marrakech has seen goodwill over the two days of the Conference. 'New York set the tone, Marrakech breathed new life into it and was a rallying point,' he said, observing that the commitments of the Global Compact remain to be implemented.

Over nine hours, Government ministers, senior officials and representatives of nearly 60 Member States took the floor during today's general debate. Joining them were representatives from a raft of United Nations entities, intergovernmental organizations and civil society.

Putting a human face on migration, the representative of Costa Rica recalled a report about Tiya, a small girl who was left in 2016 in the hands of Costa Rican authorities by the group she was traveling with. She was moved to a hostel for minors and only ate bread, not knowing where her mother was, and in her limited vocabulary, told a tale of horror. With stories like this in mind, migration must be addressed at the global level, she said, adding that the Global Compact will facilitate action and lead to the protection of migrants.

France's representative said his country is driven by the belief that multilateralism is the only response to global challenges and that human mobility will likely increase in the coming decades. 'It is illusory to think we can build walls,' he said, noting nonetheless that there is no absolute right to migration and that the Global Compact does not create one.

Appealing to the international community to distinguish between refugees and migrants, the representative of Jordan - host to some 1.3 million Syrian refugees - said his Government has made it clear that displacement is a matter for the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Voicing a range of concerns, Libya's representative said the Global Compact should have given more attention to the drivers of irregular migration.

Highlighting legal migration as an engine of economic development and growth, the Vice-Minister for External Affairs of India pointed to the major financial contributions migrants make in the form of remittances, contributing nearly 10 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP), even as they form only 3.4 per cent of the global population. Among those countries relying on remittances, the Secretary of State for Internal Affairs of the Republic of Moldova said 20 per cent of his country's GDP comes from that source.

Eritrea's representative said it is unfortunate that, despite advances in the cross-border movement of commodities and services, a non-binding agreement on migration is still firmly resisted by some. 'We cannot continue to turn our eyes away from an issue of immense consequence for public policy and hope for it to go away,' he said.

The representative of the Russian Federation stressed the need for a solid basis to ensure the peaceful return of people to States experiencing a mass exodus. Causes of migration must also be addressed by achieving political settlements in the States of origin. Every effort must be made to rule out the possibility of terrorists and other criminals infiltrating States hosting migrants. He urged the international community to work together to eradicate xenophobia and social, racial and religious hatred, and repudiated the 'shared responsibility' concept that implies sharing the burden of hosting migrants among the States that frequently have nothing to do with the causes of a mass exodus.

The representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that with the Global Compact, the international community has drawn a line between the abusive, chaotic and ultimately failed approaches to migration of the past and a new human rights-based vision for safe, orderly migration. 'It has chartered a course away from a failed paradigm of migration that in recent years has left migrants to drown at sea or die in the desert, destabilized Governments, fed self-destructive securitization, wasted resources, and violated the human rights of millions of migrants,' he said.

The Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), echoing opening remarks from the United Nations Secretary-General on Monday, said the Global Compact does not encourage migration - nor does it aim to stop it. It respects the sovereignty of States and it is not legally binding. It is self-evident, however, that Member States will play the leading role in its implementation, with each State determining its own priorities.

From civil society, the representative of Education International regretted that some countries opted out of the Global Compact. Noting that most migration is employment-related, he said the ultimate measure of success will be whether it makes a difference in migrant workers' lives. 'Migration is not a crisis,' he stated. 'It is the governance of migration - or lack of it - that has become a crisis.'

Wrapping up its work, and without a vote, the Intergovernmental Conference adopted its draft report (document A/CONF.231/3), introduced by its Rapporteur-General, Winston Felix, Minister for Citizenship of Guyana; the report of its Credentials Committee (document A/CONF.231/5); and a draft resolution titled 'Expression of thanks to the people and Government of Morocco' (document A/CONF.231/2).

Alongside the plenary, the Intergovernmental Conference held dialogues under the themes 'Promoting action on the commitments of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration' and 'Partnerships and innovative initiatives for the way forward'. (For more information, see Press Releases DEV/3377 and DEV/3379.)

The Global Compact, contained in document A/CONF.231/3, establishes shared principles and a unity of purpose to guide Member States and others in addressing the needs of the largest number of migrants since the Second World War. Along with the Global Compact on Refugees, it fulfils commitments laid out in the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The General Assembly will consider adopting both global compacts in the coming weeks. (For more information, see Press Release DEV/3375).

Also speaking today were Government ministers, senior officials and representatives of Mauritania, Liberia, Ecuador, Gambia, Norway, Japan, Viet Nam, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ethiopia, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Cambodia, Tuvalu, Jamaica, Lesotho, Cuba, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Peru, Iceland, China, Iran, Liechtenstein, Marshall Islands, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Argentina, Republic of Korea, Gabon, Uruguay, Georgia, United Republic of Tanzania, Bahamas, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bahrain, Grenada, Singapore, Madagascar, Pakistan, Uganda, Benin, Ghana, Bolivia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Syria, Afghanistan and Namibia.

Representatives of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, International Centre for Migration Policy Development, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), International Organization of La Francophonie, League of Arab States, Council of Europe, Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (speaking on behalf of the five United Nations regional economic and social commissions) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also spoke.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), University College London-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health, Academic Council of the United Nations System, Maryknoll Sisters of Saint Dominic and German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik).


AHMEDOU OULD ABDALLA, Minister for the Interior and Decentralization of Mauritania, said the journey that culminated in the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration started with the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants in 2016. Mauritania has actively participated in the different stages of negotiations on the historic agreement, adopted at a time where the political discourse on migration has become increasingly extreme. The Global Compact highlights priority...

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