You may well ask what is the ‘Marrakech Compact’? It is the new name for the Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco on 10 and 11 December, 2018 and again adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 19 December, 2018 following a vote.
The Congregation was represented by Cecilie Kern, (right) from the GSIJP Office in New York, and myself Donatus Lili, the NGO Regional Designate for RIMOA.
The conference was preceded by side events organized by Civil Society Organizations and Member States in conjunction with the United Nations. I attended 3 side events at Palmeraie Golf Palace in Marrakech, the official venue for the adoption of the Global Compact on Migration. (GCM)
In the open discussion following one of the panels, I asked the representative of the government of Sri Lanka, what recommendations he would make to governments in the Middle East on developing effective policies and measures to protect migrants’ rights with regard to religious tolerance as persons of African origin have been denied right to practice religion and obliged to wear the Muslim attire. Further some women domestic workers are subjected to sexual exploitation by employers, endure harsh working conditions, and only receive minimal salaries.
The response indicated that countries of origin need to teach migrants about their rights, in particular with regard to salaries and ensure that they know how to get help if needed during transits, or in the destination country.
The two days intergovernmental conference consisted of statements by countries in support of the Global Compact on Migration and two dialogues (i) Promoting action on the commitments of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and (ii) Partnerships and innovative initiatives for the way forward.
Of the 193 UN Member States, 164 were present in Marakesh for the adoption the Compact. Members expressed dissatisfaction and stated that while the compact is non- binding it highlights the obligation of every member state to formulate strategies and policies towards facilitating safe, orderly and regular migration. The compact is a framework, a blueprint.
His Excellency, Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, in his opening statement challenged some myths and false information concerning the Global Compact for Migration and highlighted the need for everyone on the move to obtain formal authorization and that human dignity and human rights must be respected and upheld irrespective of status To deny this – to vilify any group of people – is the road to dehumanization and horror. Societies are stronger, more resilient and enriched, not threatened, by diversity. Every member, every group, must feel valued as such and simultaneously feel they belong to the society as a whole. This is the way to counter the current groundswell of racism and xenophobia.
Ms Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the former president of Liberia and Chair of the High-Level Panel on International Migration in Africa delivered a key note on December 11, 2018. I had the honor of meeting her after the session.
Some personal reflections on the experience:
The Global Compact for Migration (GCM) is extremely new to me. While I had done reading I found it difficult to understand. Through my participation in the side events and presence at the official adoption by UN Members states I have some more clarity. I was confused when the Secretary General stated, “GCM is non –binding” meaning every state is free to adopt or not. I would have preferred a binding treaty agreement. On the same note, a non-abiding agreement leaves each state free to develop measures and policies to fulfil the 23 objectives.
Attendance at the conference provided me with the opportunity to meet various NGO’s who are engaged in migration policy and grassroots efforts. Among these was Maria Pia Belloni, Chair, NGO Committee on Migration, in New York and UN Representative, World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP) See the NGO Committee Website for more information
My view on migration has changed. I previously discouraged people from migrating but now I will ensure they have the correction information and migrate in a safe way using legal channels. Statements that I heard indicated that a holistic approach to migration is necessary. If there are well established frameworks it follows that the process works for all – including the migrant and the host country.