Despite Tensions, UN Envoy ‘Very Confident’ About UN Migration Pact

Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita and UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour.

Rabat – More than 100 state leaders and representatives will gather at the UN Intergovernmental Conference to adopt the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” in Marrakech on December 10 and 11.

UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour said she is “very confident” on the future of an international pact on migration, although a number of countries have chosen not to adopt it, reported AFP.

UN member states divided

In July, the UN member states approved the global migration pact, which aims “to better manage  international migration, address its challenges, and strengthen migrants’ rights while contributing to sustainable development.”

However, some countries, including the US, Italy, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Israel, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Switzerland, have declined to join the UN pact or are still in the consideration phase.

“I am very confident: a large number of states continue to keep their word, they reached agreement on July 13 in New York after very serious and very intense negotiations,” Arbour told AFP.

“The countries dropping out of the process today had, after all, obtained concessions during the negotiations, and I must admit that I find it a little surprising.”

The UN migration accord contains 23 objectives including the facilitation of legal migration process, strengthening coordinated international efforts to save migrants’ lives, and reducing environmental and other factors that force people to leave their countries of origin.

The document also includes proposed measures and actions regarding improving border management, providing  basic services for migrants, eliminating all forms of discrimination against migrants, and sustainable reintegration.

Read also: Europe Divided as Governments Oppose Global Compact on Migration
Controversy regarding the migration pact

Since some countries have refrained from being part of the migration pact, Arbour believes that their move will affect their foreign policy.

“I think that their foreign policy and the spirit of multilateralism is pretty seriously affected if they, in a sense, disengage from a document that they’ve agreed to just a few months ago. So, I think it reflects very poorly on those who participated in what were actual negotiations,” Arbour told UN News.

For Gotz Schmidt-Bremme, German co-chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), the UN compact is a “controversial text,” but “migration requires an international approach.”

“Perhaps the benefits of legal migration have been over-exposed by forgetting the challenges. We have underestimated the needs of communities who especially want to see migrants integrate” and “are worried about illegal migration,” Schmidt-Bremme told AFP this week in Marrakech ahead of the GMFD conference.

Human rights defenders find the pact insufficient, especially on migrants’ access to humanitarian aid and basic services or the rights of migrant workers, AFP reported.

Does criticism stem from a lack of understanding?

While some critics see the UN migration pact as an encouragement to uncontrolled migration or an attack on national sovereignty, Arbour attributed criticism of the agreement to a “very bad understanding of the text.”

“It must be read after all, it’s a very long and detailed text—or based on ignorance or bad faith because when we hear constantly that this pact is damaging to the sovereignty of states, we must really ask ourselves what document have they been reading!” Arbour stressed.

Read also: ‘Nothing About Us Without Us:’ Making Migrants Part of Global Debates

The pact, according to Arbour, explicitly expresses that “the sovereignty of states is the cornerstone of migration policy. How can we imagine that almost 190 states gathered in New York inadvertently abandoned their sovereignty and their national interests?”

It clearly “acknowledges that no State can address migration alone, and upholds its sovereignty and its obligations under international law,” according to the UN. The approval of the global migration compact is not legally binding for countries.

The most recent former president of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak, made similar statements about the UN accord. The compact “does not encourage migration, nor does it aim to stop it,” Lajcak said in July. “It does not dictate. It will not impose. And it fully respects the sovereignty of States.”

Optimism surrounding Marrakech conference

While people around the world have been migrating throughout history, the world has seen a major upsurge in migration in the recent years.

According to the UN, there are over 258 million migrants around the world living outside their home countries, representing 3.4 percent of the world’s population, up 2.7 percent since 2000.

Read also: Germany’s Angela Merkel to Attend UN Migration Compact in Morocco

As migration is expected to increase in the future, the world hopes for a better life and dignity for all migrants.

The intergovernmental conference in Marrakech for the adoption of the UN migration compact represents a platform for cooperation and a positive change in the way that migration policies and challenges are approached.