UN Launches the second report on Global Compact for Migration, but what has been achieved?

Adopted in 2018, the Global Compact for Migration is regarded as a milestone in the history of the global dialogue and international cooperation on migration. It is rooted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and informed by the Declaration of the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development adopted in October 2013. The United Nations Global Compact for Migration expresses the collective commitment to improving cooperation on international migration. Throughout history, migration has been part of human experience and it is recognized as a source of prosperity, innovation, and sustainable development in our globalized world, these positive impacts can be optimized by improving migration governance, according to the Compact. Now that several years have passed, the UN has launched its second report on the Compact, pointing to achievements, but also ongoing challenges. 

On Wednesday 16 February, the United Nations chief  Antonio Guterres launched the second report on the Global Compact for safe, orderly, and regular migration. He told the UN General Assembly that migration is a “defining feature of humanity and our world.’’ Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “Migration is a fact of life’’ and a “positive phenomenon’’ that enriches societies and economies. He added, however, that if migration is poorly managed, it generates huge challenges, ‘’from the tragic loss of life to rights abuses and social tensions’’, which is why constructively managing overseeing migration and protecting migrant rights requires ‘’strengthened international cooperation’’. Guterres outlined the UN’s priorities on this.

Inclusive Societies
The outlined report by Mr. Guterres had recommendations that encompassed four priorities, beginning with promoting inclusive societies and including migrants in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. In spite of playing an ‘’outsized heroic role’’ in the frontline and providing a ‘’vital lifeline’’ for families with scarce resources through their remittances, migrants are often excluded from recovery measures and denied access to basic services. Mr. Guterres stated that it is imperative that all governments better protect migrants’ human rights, break down barriers for access to essential services, expand migration pathways and suspend forced returns. This is essential because women and children face higher risks of trafficking along with gender-based violence, abuse, and exploitation, others are forcibly returned,’’ with insufficient regard to health risks, due process or procedural safeguards.’’

Safe Migration
He went on to stress the need for safe and regular migration, he says it is unacceptable that “[l]arge migration flows are essentially managed by smugglers and human traffickers’’. According to the United Nation chief, the only way we could break the stranglehold of smugglers and traffickers is to establish pathways for regular migration in close cooperation between countries of origin and destination. He went on to add that all migrants in vulnerable situations must be protected that is including those affected by disaster and the climate crisis, expanding and diversifying rights-based pathways for regular migration to address labor market shortages, and advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Building Capacity through Collaboration and Cooperation
Mr. Guterres final priority focused on building capacity, which he described as “collaboration and cooperation’’ across all States as ‘’the cornerstones’’ of the Global Compact, he went to draw attention to the UN Network for Migration which has inaugurated a Capacity Building Mechanism- with a Migration Network Hub and Multi-Partner Trust Fund- to help achieve this. 

Hosting the briefing around the launch of the second report, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid called on the Member States to take ‘’concrete actions’’ as this will enable them to foster bilateral and regional cooperation,  accelerate the implementation of selected programs in the Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund and contribute to the dedicated funding window. He went on to call on Member States to maintain strong momentum going forward by “harnessing the power of multilateralism’’, in regards to the progress already made to be able to achieve the Global compact’s goals and address the needs of ‘’all migrants and host- communities alike’’.

Ongoing need for cooperation says UNICEF
Several other organizations responded to the launch of the second report. 
Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director, gave her remarks on 16 February 2022 at the high-level briefing on the Secretary General’s report on the Global Compact for Migration. She pointed out that “[a]s the Secretary-General and others have made clear, our work is by no means over.  Around the world, far too many children are still being stranded and pushed back at borders. They are still being separated from their families – exposing them to greater risk of exploitation and harm.” 

But she also noted that “[t]he report makes clear that the Compact is working — thanks in large part to the sustained commitment of Member States, our partners in every sector, and the support of the UN Network for Migration, which UNICEF is proud to be part of. Together, we are mobilizing global, national, and local action.  More governments are adopting a cooperative approach, coordinating across borders.  More member states are embracing the Compact’s guiding principles.  And we are all working towards the Compact’s vision of a world where migration is safe for all — and all migrants can contribute fully wherever they are. […] Many Member States are also leveraging the moment to expand access to health care, including COVID-19 vaccines and treatment, regardless of a person’s migration status.’’

Migration Policy Institute cautions more is needed
Ahead of the launch of the second report of the Global Compact on Migration, a report Migration Policy Institute by Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan, and Kate Hooper looked at the state of affairs. They state that GCM’s contributions have been felt most keenly in three areas; It helped to provide a common language to address challenges; It has inspired coordination among states through a common infrastructure, and it created a more level playing field. However, the authors are critical about what the Compact has and has not been able to do, amidst a myriad of new crises. “The GCM provides guidance on specific themes but less on an overall path forward in a crisis. With some exceptions, governments that adopted the GCM have largely opted for a “pick-and-choose” model (implementing the lower-hanging fruit, including things they would have done anyway) or the “quiet implementation” model, choosing to align themselves with GCM objectives without naming it as such for fear of backlash.”

The authors note that there is a need to bring the public on board, and not through promises of quick fixes, but through enhanced engagement and compromise.

Despite the criticism, the Global Compact for Migration is regarded as important because it presents a non-legally binding, cooperative framework that builds on the commitments agreed upon by the Member States in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It fosters international cooperation among all relevant actors on migration, acknowledging that no State can address migration alone, and upholds the sovereignty of States and their obligations under international law. However, the lessons learned from the implementation of the Global Compact on Migration, including its flaws, are key to look at going forwards, according to the critics.