Online, 1 September 2021 – The first continental review Conference of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in Africa ends with a call for greater collaboration among countries in Africa to implement this global framework and reap the benefits of migration for all.
The review, organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the UN Network on Migration, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as coordinator of the UN Network on Migration, in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC) and hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco from 31 August to 1 September, brought together over 18 government representatives and stakeholders who discussed concrete steps in pursuit of GCM implementation.
“Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc around the globe and ravaged our communities, with particular impacts for the most vulnerable, including migrants and people on the move,” said António Vitorino, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Coordinator of the UN Network on Migration.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted trade and travel on, to and from the continent, leading to a spike in unemployment. This threatens to undo much of the progress that has been achieved in recent years with increasing numbers of migrants facing food insecurity and compromised access to health-care services.
“The GCM continental review for Africa is a prime opportunity for governments and stakeholders to work together and learn from each other to address migration in all its dimensions,” Vitorino concluded.
Migrants in Africa account for 9.8 per cent of the total number of migrants worldwide (2019). Intra-African migration remains a dominant trend: In 2019, 79 percent (about 26.5 million) African migrants had moved within the African continent (ECA), with just 17 million Africans living outside the continent (IOM).
“As we discuss the progress made towards the implementation of the GCM in Africa, we need to take into account the significant linkages this will have with the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which marks a significant milestone towards the realization of the free movement of people, goods, and capital on the continent, and progress towards enhanced availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration” said Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of the ECA Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division in a speech read on behalf of ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe.
Ruzvidzo warned that the slow progress of COVID-19 vaccinations in Africa is currently having a direct impact on the movement of people and is slowing down migration, with huge implications the flow of remittances.
“This forum provides a unique opportunity for the continent to reflect on how best we can implement the Compact, despite numerous challenges we are facing, including the COVID-19 pandemic,” said AUC Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development Amira Elfadil. “There is a need for all stakeholders to join efforts with Member States and Regional Economic Commissions in mobilizing necessary resources to build the capacity of relevant national institutions to effectively implement the GCM in the continent. Member States should also ensure that they leave no one behind in the planning and implementation process of the Compact. The AU Commission will continue prioritizing the implementation of the GCM in Africa in all its migration governance initiatives and programs,” she added.
One observation from the Regional Reviews to date is that not all GCM objectives have received the same level of attention. Areas that few African Member States have reported on include the plight of missing migrants and saving lives; the high costs of transfer of remittances and the financial inclusion of migrants; predictability in migration procedures; and portability of social benefits. Ensuring that these, too, receive equal attention must be a priority moving forward.
We need to be careful not to fall into the pitfalls of treating migration exclusively as a security policy issue, warned Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans Abroad Nasser Bourita. H.E Bourita called for policymakers to put migrants at the center of migration policies, in alignment with the 23 GCM objectives.
Migration is not a crisis, but a structural, lasting phenomenon. The pandemic will end, but migration will remain. This is why migration governance does not - and should not - respond to emergency management. Nor can it be externalized or outsourced. It is a shared responsibility, said Nasser Bourita.
Among the key recommendations made at the two-day review were the need to:
Empower local communities to respond to growing migrant needs in Africa.
Support and empower migrants and their families, by informing them on their rights and invest in e.g. migrant skills training, entrepreneurship, and sensitisation on financial literacy;
Ratify and implement key policy frameworks and protocols that relate to the rights of migrants;
Strengthen national and regional information systems and databases to support planning and policy strengthening on migration related issues; and
Ensure that all migrants, regardless of their status, are able to exercise their human rights, particularly access to basic services, access to information on services and their rights.
This review meeting is the last of a series of regional discussions that feed into the first International Migration Review Forum, to be held in 2022.