10 December 2018
International Conference on Global Compact for Migration, Dialogue 1 (AM & PM)

Global Compact an Achievement in Multilateralism, Says Keynote Speaker, Stressing Migrants Must Be Treated with Dignity, Respect, as Conference Holds Dialogue

MARRAKECH, Morocco, 10 December — Adopting the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the United Nations today held an interactive dialogue where Member States, civil society and regional organizations shared their views on how best to implement the objectives outlined in the new agreement.

Madeline Albright, Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group and former Secretary of State of the United States, delivering the keynote address in her personal capacity, said she was “embarrassed and saddened” that her country was not represented at the conference today.  A person who flees his or her home does not shed the right to be treated with dignity and respect, she added.

Migration can only be managed through international cooperation, she stressed, emphasizing that the Compact’s adoption is a significant achievement in multilateralism.  Its success ultimately depends on what concrete actions will follow.  She stressed that legal immigration must be available to all, traffickers must be prosecuted, and women and children must be shielded from abuse.  (For background on the adoption of the Compact, see Press Release DEV/3375.)

Recalling one of her earliest memories as a child, she remembered fleeing Czechoslovakia with her family during the Second World War.  “Although we were refugees, we were lucky ones,” she said, adding that the movement of people from their homes does not occur without good cause.  Most would prefer to live in their own homes, in places and with people they are familiar with.  Myriad crises cause global migration including poor governance, climate change and economic inequality.  She urged Governments to stop putting up barbwire and packing people into detention centres.

Throughout the day-long discussion, ministers and other high-level officials, members of civil society and international and regional organizations pledged commitment to the Compact.  The agreement includes both short- and long‑term actions including on how to prevent migrant deaths, strengthen measures to combat trafficking, and integrate migrants into their new societies.  Leaders also pledged to deepen their understanding of migration and improve migration strategy.

Panellist E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, called for the urgent development of legal and policy frameworks for how people move.  She said a small but vocal minority have attempted to legitimize their non-participation by claiming that the Compact violates national sovereignty.  “Nothing could be further from the truth,” she stressed.

David Fine, Global Head of Public and Social Sector Practice for McKinsey & Co., said that, from a business perspective, human mobility is essential for companies that rely on global talent.  Companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity are 33 per cent more likely to over perform than companies in the lower quartile.  “This is instrumental to driving innovation,” he stressed.

Stefano Scarpetta, Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), emphasized that adequate data could help identify particular vulnerabilities of migrant groups.  He added:  “Migration is not a threat.  Migration is hope.”

Introductory remarks were delivered by Negash Kebret Botora, Ambassador of Ethiopia to the United Nations in Geneva, and Ahmet Dogan, on behalf of Mehmet Samsar, Ambassador and Director General of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey.

The dialogue will continue at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 December.

Opening Remarks

NEGASH KEBRET BOTORA, Ambassador of Ethiopia to the United Nations in Geneva and Co-Chair of today’s dialogue, described the Global Compact adopted today as a milestone in strengthening migration governance.  Emphasizing that it signifies the international community’s resolve to uphold multilateralism over unilateral actions, he stated:  “The 18 months of intense negotiations […] epitomize our collective desire for international cooperation that is firmly rooted in cardinal principles of respect for State sovereignty, voluntary cooperation, human rights and dignity of migrants, rule of law, gender equality and realizing shared prosperity” in line with the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Indeed, he said, the greatest achievement in adopting the Global Compact lies in the fact that it strongly positions migration at the core of the global development agenda.  The Compact sets in motion an important process accelerating the migration-related Sustainable Development Goals, including target 10.7 ensuring that migration is safe, regular and orderly.  “Taking into consideration the intersectionality of migration with development, humanitarian and peace and security issues is important,” he said, underlining migration’s inherently cross-cutting nature.  In addition, he stressed, participants must not lose sight of the strong regional dimensions of migration, its diverse set of drivers and the capacity to respond to them.

AHMET DOGAN, speaking on behalf of the Co-Chair of today’s dialogue, Mehmet Samsar, Director General for Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said his country’s experience as a major migrant route has informed its negotiations at both the regional and global levels.  He expressed hope that today’s dialogue would shed light on how to implement the Compact’s 23 commitments.

Keynote Address

MADELINE ALBRIGHT, Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group and former Secretary of State of the United States, speaking in her personal capacity and not as a representative of her nation, said she is “embarrassed and saddened” that her country is not represented at the conference today.  Recalling one of her earliest memories as a child, she remembered fleeing Czechoslovakia with her family during the Second World War.  “Although we were refugees, we were lucky ones.  No one threatened to put us into shipping containers.”

It is simply not possible to be coldly analytical on migration, she continued.  The movement of people from their homes does not occur without good cause.  Most would prefer to live in their own homes, in places and with people they are familiar with.  The exodus of people across borders and in search of security has raised difficult questions of social cohesion, safety and law.  The causes of the global migration crisis are poor governance, climate change and basic economic equalities.  Extreme nationalists, meanwhile, are poisoning the dialogue around migration.

Migration could only be managed through international cooperation, she stressed, adding that the Compact’s adoption is a significant achievement in multilateralism.  Its success ultimately depends on what concrete actions will follow.  She commended all the key stakeholders participating to lend their expertise.  The most important thing to do over the long term is to help more people earn a living in the places where they flee from.

Countries should cease putting up barbwire and packing people into detention centres, she continued.  “The knowledge that we could be in the shoes of the other should prompt us to ask what we can do to assist those in need,” she added.  The opportunity of legal immigration must be available, and traffickers must be prosecuted.  Women and children must be shielded from abuse.  A person who flees his or her home does not shed the right to be treated with dignity and respect.  Societies have been enriched deeply by the contribution of migrants, including the United States.

Some 35 years ago, when the United States was besieged by people fleeing from Cuba and Haiti, President Ronald Reagan welcomed them, she recalled.  Over the next few days, she said she looked forward to convening with former foreign ministers to engage in dialogue on myriad issues.  She looked forward to helping build political support for the objectives outlined in the Compact.  The people assembled in the room are all beneficiaries of globalization, she added, but globalization could be scary for us.  “Globalization is faceless and that causes more people to cling to their identities,” she said.  Technology, while its benefits are immense, threatens sectors and many jobs.  Meanwhile, social media has helped spread hate and false information.  The global architecture built after the Second World War is being challenged.  New agreements are crucially needed, she said, welcoming the Compact’s implementation.

Panellist Remarks

A panel discussion on the theme “Promoting action on the commitments of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”, included the following speakers:  Stefano Scarpetta, Director, Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination; and David Fine, Global Head of Public and Social Sector Practice, McKinsey & Co.

Mr. SCARPETTA said there is no denying that migration has always been a complex and divisive issue.  Despite its challenges, it has been an integral part of human history.  Migration has proven positive in terms of fiscal impact, he added, noting that migrants contribute more in taxes than they receive in benefits.  Studies have also shown that migrant integration and assimilation into the host country generally improves with time and from one generation to the next.  However, too much potential still remains lost.  Migrants face unique and compounded vulnerabilities, including higher levels of unemployment than other populations.

“We must do better,” he stressed, adding that more must be done to integrate migrants into their new neighbourhoods, schools and jobs.  He also called for innovative approaches to improve language training programmes and deliver essential services.  Involving employers, countries of origins and training institutions could help meet the unique needs of different migrant groups.  Developing countries need more coherent policies, as well, he continued, noting that remittances are in danger of having a limited impact if a host country lacks an adequate banking sector.  “We need to develop our information systems,” he added, emphasizing that adequate data could help identify particularly vulnerable migrant groups.  “Migration is not a threat.  Migration is hope,” he said.  Only the right policies will help unlock migration’s full potential.

Ms. ACHIUME said today’s interconnected world results from many of the same forces that have driven people to migrate from the start of humankind.  Today, however, technology, global markets and other forms of interconnection are increasingly forcing people to confront the reality that “we are sharing a single planet and its resources”.  In that context, she called for the urgent development of legal and policy frameworks for how people move.  Emphasizing the need to take a human rights-based approach to migration governance, she underlined the importance of equality and non‑discrimination, noting that a small but vocal minority have attempted to legitimize their non-participation by claiming that the Global Compact introduces new legal obligations or violates national sovereignty.  “Nothing could be further from the truth,” she stressed.

Indeed, she continued, the Global Compact rests on existing human rights commitments, such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which has almost 180 States parties.  Member States must reject “backdoor attempts” to cloak rejections of migration or disrespect for migrants’ human rights under the cover of sovereignty, she stressed, adding that a human rights-based approach means institutionalizing concerted efforts to protect and promote those rights at the national, regional and global levels.  A network of United Nations and related organizations, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM), should help guide those efforts by developing strong human rights frameworks in the specific context of migration.  That network should also institutionalize meaningful avenues of participation for civil society groups, local actors and migrants themselves.  Against the backdrop of a resurgence of ethno-nationalism, she cautioned States against sitting idly by as migrants are scapegoated and xenophobia continues to rises.  Border militarization, the criminalization of migration and the denial of human rights “will not solve the challenges we face”, she stressed, calling upon States to demonstrate leadership now.

Mr. FINE said he is the grandson of a refugee from Lithuania who left home to seek a better life in 1930.  Adding that his wife is a Taiwanese immigrant, he said his family’s experiences are the lens through which he travels and carries out his work.  The adoption of the Global Compact today is an important turning point, he said, stressing that because migration is mostly predictable it can therefore be managed and that “migration managed well is good for prosperity”.  Migration is a major feature of today’s world, as significant disequilibrium exists between regions.  For example, he said, 48 per cent of Africans will have a secondary or tertiary degree by 2020, while, across the Mediterranean, there exists a largely ageing population.

Such imbalances in populations will lead to increased migration over time, he said, agreeing with other speakers that the policies designed to guide the phenomenon must be based soundly on existing human rights and humanitarian principles.  Calling for the creation of more economic and employment opportunities, he said a recent McKinsey study found that migrants make up about 3.4 per cent of the world’s population, but contribute some 9.4 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).  Meanwhile, helping migrants integrate into host countries could bring an additional $1.7 trillion in global GDP and better organized migration can boost global development through the repatriation of wages.  From a business perspective, he said human mobility is essential for companies that rely on global talent.  Companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity are 33 per cent more likely to overperform than companies in the lower quartile.  “This is instrumental to driving innovation” and bringing about new solutions, he stressed.  Warning against generalizing across countries — each of which is unique — he said each State should incorporate the Global Compact into its own context in ways that make sense.

Interactive Dialogue

In the ensuing interactive discussion, delegations highlighted the need for a holistic approach to deal with migration.  They called for bolstered dialogue among countries, civil society and regional institutions.  Member States stressed the need to engage with different stakeholders and noted the important contributions of migrants.  They said it is essential to tackle illegal migration, particularly human trafficking, and address crises that cause mass movements of people, including conflict, poverty and inequality.

The foreign minister of the Congo said that mobility is “absolutely crucial” for human development, calling for increased international cooperation among Member States to ensure a more realistic and humane approach to migration.  Combating the illicit trafficking of human beings is a significant focus of his Government, he added, reaffirming Congo’s full commitment to effectively implement the Compact.

A minister of the Philippines said her country refined its migration data collection, aligning it with various international standards.  It has also entered into partnerships with countries that host Filipino migrants, including Bahrain.  She stressed the need to avoid paralysis and inaction on migration.

The Vice-President of Panama said her country has a long history of hosting migrants, pledging commitment to implementing the Compact.  It is important to understand why people leave their countries and ensure that they have access to jobs and education without any discrimination whatsoever.  She also urged countries to align their policies to ensure migrants are safe no matter where they are.

No one country alone can tackle migration issues resulting from war and poverty, said China’s representative as he urged delegations to work together to incorporate the spirit of the Compact.  Global governance on migration must fully respect the national sovereignty of each country.  Putting the people at the centre of policy is critical.  Countries of origin, destination and transit must improve coordination.

The representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that the Compact demonstrates that multilateralism is “alive and well”.  Noting that the Compact places particular emphasis on protecting migrants with vulnerabilities, he said the Office has made it a priority to assist States in implementing the agreement.  “We will do our part to support you,” he added.

The representative of Belarus said that his country has been actively involved in working on the Compact by preparing proposals and consulting with specialized agencies and civil society, as well as its diaspora.  Dealing with mass migration requires dealing with the crises that cause them, he added.

The representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said the Compact, for the first time, provides a robust collective implementation mechanism.  Estimates show that there are 164 million migrant workers in the world.   “More often than not, migration is about work,” he said, adding that migration is not merely a concept.  It is lived by individuals and their families.  Labour is not a commodity and should not be treated as such.

A minister of Thailand said the Compact’s effective implementation requires coordinated efforts at the national and regional levels.  In terms of assessing regional progress, he said a regular forum would help foster the sharing of best practices and knowledge.

The representative of Nigeria said this dialogue comes at the most auspicious time.  “We might be ultimately judged […] on whether we could promote the human rights of our citizens and migrants alike,” he said.  Nigeria has implemented migrant training programmes to ensure the effective running of migration centres, criminalized human trafficking and enhanced the country’s data collection mechanism.

The representative of United Cities and Local Governments said the mayors of towns and cities are at the front line of dealing with migrants.  Hence, the Compact is crucial for them because migrants are their neighbours, colleagues, friends and family, she added.

The representative of Germany said dispelling misconceptions about migrants is essential.  Migration is as old as humankind.  Tackling the challenge of migration requires international vision.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the aims of the Compact are targeted, as it seeks to deal with the economic and geographic aspects, while promoting interethnic understanding.  He noted that there are groups of people that do not wish to integrate and adapt within their host country but still wish to live, study and work there.

The observer for the Holy See said the international community must address the root causes of migratory flows including violence, inhumane living conditions and natural disasters.  All migrants, regardless of status, must be afforded due process.

The representative of the League of Arab States said that the Arab world is the subject of an increasing wave of migration, hosting 11 per cent of international migrants.  She stressed the need to settle conflicts, combat racism, xenophobia and human trafficking, and boost cooperation between origin and host countries.

As the discussion continued into the afternoon session — which was chaired by Mehmet Samsar, Ambassador/Director General of Consular Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Turkey — many speakers detailed concrete projects aimed at improving the lives of migrants in origin, transit and destination countries alike.  A discussion also emerged about the needs of the world’s most vulnerable migrants, including children and those threatened by criminal smugglers.

In that regard, the observer for the Sovereign Order of Malta described his organization’s extensive provision of medical assistance to migrants on the waters of the Mediterranean, as well as efforts to counter the horrors of human smuggling and trafficking.  Robust measures to combat those phenomena are needed “now, and right now”, he stressed.

The Minister for the Interior of Finland, outlining his Government’s support in countries including Iraq and Somalia, said one aim is to collect data on individual migrants’ experiences and provide a voice to the many men, women and children choosing to leave their homes around the world.

The representative of the European Union, noting that the Compact adopted today dovetails with the bloc’s existing foreign policy, described its life-saving support to vulnerable migrants, its rescues of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and its efforts to fight human trafficking and smuggling in Africa’s Sahel region.  In addition, he said, the Union recently launched a border management programme in the Western Balkans.

Other speakers, including Turkey’s delegate, hailed the Compact’s inclusion of specific language on children and other highly vulnerable groups.  “Implementation is everything”, he stressed, welcoming the fact that the agreement’s implementation will be guided by a new network of United Nations agencies with critical relevant experience.

The representative of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) — pointing out that females make up half of the world’s migrant population — said that, while women are not inherently vulnerable, they nonetheless face specific risks from discrimination and gender-based violence.  Policy responses to migration challenges must be gender-responsive and fully ensure respect for the rights of women and girls, she said.

Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice, echoed calls to action on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable people.  Noting that the vast majority of people who will be forced to migrate due to climate change will be those least responsible for the phenomenon, she stressed that, at its core, “migration resulting from climate change is a question of justice”.

The representative of Libya was among several speakers who highlighted the need to raise awareness of the risks posed by human smuggling among people who may be considering leaving their homes.  In Libya, he said, work continues towards solidifying security, uniting national institutions and better managing migration.

The representative of Morocco called upon his fellow leaders to address migration not as a constraint or a threat, but as a positive, driving force for global solidarity.  In that regard, he outlined plans to establish an African monitoring centre for migration under the auspices of the African Union, tasked with collecting and analysing data, bridging gaps and promoting best practices among the continent’s States.

While many speakers welcomed the Compact’s broad, far-reaching scope, some also hailed its flexibility and the fact that it leaves room for States to make their own decisions about migration.

In that vein, the United Kingdom’s representative — warning that uncontrolled migration can erode public confidence and put migrants at risk — said the Compact respects national sovereignty and leaves many matters up to States.  Outlining measures already taken in the United Kingdom, she spotlighted efforts to enhance border management, provide assistance to migrants and offer voluntary, supported returns to those who desire them.  She also asked the panellists how best to prioritize the Compact’s most urgent elements and “remain realistic”, all against the backdrop of much-needed ambition on this critical issue.

The representative of Sudan, noting that his country has long been both an origin and transit country, said it is now also receiving migrants fleeing conflicts in Yemen, Syria and other nations.  Underscoring Sudan’s lack of resources and limited capacity, he added that unilateral sanctions only serve to exacerbate those challenges.

Ms. ALBRIGHT, in brief closing remarks, welcomed the strong engagement of stakeholder organizations in today’s discussion.  She also expressed hope that more national cooperation will follow, including on the part of her own country, the United States.

Mr. SCAPRPETTA joined others in describing today’s adoption as a “historic moment” representing two decades of hard work.  Beginning tomorrow, however, “we should move into the implementation” phase, with Governments, civil society groups and many other partners playing a collaborative role.

Ms. ACHIUME agreed with speakers who pledged to bolster education around migration.  More awareness-raising and education — as well as better data and evidence-based policies — are also needed to address today’s rising tide of ethno‑nationalism and xenophobia.  In addition, she welcomed calls to end the human rights violations that can drive migration and cautioned against the use of the term “migration management” — which implies that migration is a type of pathology — advocating instead for a “migration governance” framework.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were the representatives of France, Peru, Ethiopia, Nepal, Timor-Leste, Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Niger, Eritrea and Cameroon.

Representatives from the following organizations also delivered statements:  Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), International Catholic Migration Commission, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Germany Institute for Human Rights, Africa-Europe Diaspora Development Platform, Council of Europe, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Scalabrini International Migration Network, Open Society Foundation, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Centre for Global Development, AFFORD UK, Cross-Regional Centre for Refugees and Migrants, Terre des Hommes, Soul Sustainable Progress and the International Federation of Medical Students Association.

Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, also delivered remarks.

For information media. Not an official record.