Civil Society Ready Partner to Make Global Compact for Migration a Reality

Geneva, 11 December 2018 - The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) and other civil society actors have underlined their commitment to work with UN Member States to put the newly adopted international agreement on migration into action.

In a collective message to the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) held in Marrakesh, Morocco on 10-11 December, over 90 civil society actors commend governments on adopting the agreement — a “historic achievement.”

Civil Society Days Co-Chair Roula Hamati Civil Society Days Co-Chair Roula Hamati says organizations pledge to build a bridge between the Global Compacts for Migration and on Refugees to ensure joint implementation of the two international agreements on human mobility. Adopted by 164 UN Member States, the GCM “has the real potential to make a positive impact on the lives of millions of our fellow human beings who move in search of a life of dignity and security for themselves and their families,” the message notes.

The civil society organizations urge states to focus on “robustly” implementing some priority GCM policy goals: protect vulnerable migrants, especially children; limit the use of detention; increase safe, regular pathways of migration; facilitate decent living conditions and safe access to services; respect human rights, including during return procedures; guarantee labor rights; and ensure gender-responsive policies. Priority should also be given to investing in sustainable development and tackling the drivers of forced migration.

“We are disappointed that some member states have chosen to withdraw from the Compact,” the message reads, since “multilateral cooperation is the best approach for humanely managing international migration in today’s world.”

The civil society message affirms a strong commitment to partnering with governments so as to implement the GCM in a way that would make migration work for all.

“As actors who work directly with migrants on the ground, we look forward to working with member states and other stakeholders to implement the Compact in a manner that guarantees the human rights of all migrants and upholds the rule of law,” it reads.

In a separate statement delivered at the Intergovernmental Conference on 10 December, some 300 NGOs present at the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society Days directly preceding the conference outlined a number of concrete commitments.

These include using data, facts and examples of how migrants contribute to society to help change negative narratives; working to bridge the gap between regular and irregular migrants at both local and national levels; and creating multi-level monitoring systems and civil society action plans.

Civil Society Days Co-Chair Roula Hamati said the organizations also pledge to build a bridge between the GCM and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) to ensure joint implementation of the two international agreements on human mobility. Both agreements are slated for endorsement by UN Member States by the end of the year.


The hard work of implementation

The time has come to do the hard work of moving from negotiation to implementation, said Stephane Jaquemet, ICMC Director of Policy, at the Civil Society Days closing session.

He used an analogy from the world of sport. Negotiation is like winning a sporting competition – a brief moment of success built on hours and hours of sweaty training. “Now we need to go back to training” and to put in the hours of effort every day, he said.

The GFMD is an informal, government-led process open to UN Member States and civil society organizations, whose aim is to advance cooperation around issues of migration and development, as well as to foster action-oriented outcomes.

The ICMC’s Migration and Development (MADE) network facilitated the GFMD Civil Society Days on 4-7 December to explore ways to transform the agreement into a living document. Delegates from more than 300 NGOs participated as a part of the Marrakesh “Migration Week” that culminated in the adoption of the GCM.


An honest approach to complex issues

Dr. Anne Gallagher, ICMC President, stressed that ensuring a safe, dignified and rights-based migration journey means engaging honestly with its complexity and contradictions. Dr. Gallagher made this point at a side event during the GFMD Common Space attended by government officials and civil society representatives.

While migration is generally good news, Gallagher noted, it does not always represent a net win for everyone involved. Because many of its costs are more immediate, it is thus important to work harder to lift up its long-term benefits. “The question of how these upfront costs can be absorbed and fairly apportioned must be openly and honestly addressed,” she said.Participants at the Global Forum on Migration and Development Civil Society Days in Marrakesh explored ways to transfer the words of the Global Compact for Migration into action.

Gallagher pointed out that while it is in everyone’s interest to eliminate unsafe, clandestine migration, some irregular migration is inevitable. Given common values of human dignity and rights, “we need to reject the criminalization – the demonization – of those who are unable to access legal ways to move – be they refugees or migrants.”
She added that countries of preferred destination cannot take in all those who wish to move there without serious economic, social and political risks. This is a “simple truth” that needs to be acknowledged in the search for practical solutions.

At the same time, Gallagher urged governments in countries of destination to proactively promote migrants’ rights and dignity by shaping public opinion. “Another simple truth is that [governments] are not hostages to negative community sentiment around migration.” They have a moral and legal responsibility to counter hatred and discrimination, she stated.

In this regard, the GCM brings a shift in perspective, according to Jaquemet. The landmark agreement “offers a responsible narrative, that takes both opportunities and challenges into account, but also presents migrants in all their humanity.” This is a key to returning to the “basics of human decency” and rejecting “the poison of xenophobia” as an integral part of society.

For the GCM to truly improve the lives of migrants, Jaquemet said, a fast implementation pace is required, as well as regular sharing of good practices; the GFMD could provide a platform for such exchanges.

For the implementation phase, Jaquemet concluded, civil society organizations should “refine the balance” between their advocacy and operational work to increase their credibility as partners to governments. In this way, civil society advocacy will be the “voice for what grassroots organizations are doing at the national and local level.”