Time for a Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration
2nd Preparatory Meetings in Geneva (17-19 May 2016)
There was a generally engaging tone when policy makers and diplomats from member states, prominent speakers and representatives from international organizations and from the civil society gathered for the 2nd round of preparatory meetings of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) 2016 in Geneva on May 17-19. In a period marked by pressing migrants and refugees’ issues, the Bangladesh GFMD Chair convened a series of meetings to bring member states up to speed with the latest developments and upcoming migration-related events, particularly the 9th GFMD Summit to be held in Dhaka on 10-12 December 2016.
Ambassador Shahidul Haque, Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh and GFMD 2016 Chair, led the successive discussions of the GFMD Troika (comprised of past GFMD Chair Turkey and incoming 2017-2018 Chairs Morocco and Germany), the Steering Group and the Friends of the Forum on May 17.
In his remarks, Ambassador Haque rallied governments and GFMD observers to focus and seize the opportunities that 2016 presents for the GFMD to play a crucial role in shaping the future of migration, amidst the current challenges in migration and development. He drew attention to the UN Secretary General’s report, “In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants,” which calls for a global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration, as well as responsibility-sharing on refugees. The report sets the backdrop for the High Level Meeting on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants scheduled for September 19 in New York. The High Level Meeting is one of the major important migration-related events in 2016, which also include the first World Humanitarian Summit (May 22-23, Istanbul) and the 9th GFMD Summit in Dhaka on 10-12 December.
The Steering Group and the Friends of the Forum welcomed the final concept paper and work plan of the GFMD 2016 Chairmanship of Bangladesh, under the overarching theme, “Migration that works for sustainable development of all – A transformative Migration Agenda.” The separate meetings of the two GFMD structures also considered some follow-up activities from the 8th GFMD, particularly the establishment of the ad hoc working group on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the new GFMD business interaction mechanism, and the ongoing GFMD communications survey.
At the second Friends of the Forum meeting attended by 120 delegates from 72 countries and 15 organizations Ms. Begum Shamsun Nahar, Secretary of the Bangladesh Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment reiterated the positive contribution of migration – “a transformative phenomenon” - towards cultural diversity and inclusive growth and sustainable development. Meanwhile, in a recorded video statement, the SRSG. Mr. Peter Sutherland, emphasized the urgency of migrants and refugees’ concerns, and stressed anew the relevance of the Global Forum in formulating and shaping policies that can ensure that migrants are not left behind in the implementation of the 2030 agenda and the discussions in international migration governance.
The world's failure to help its most vulnerable people, often migrants and refugees, is an appalling indictment where it occurs, and we're at risk of losing our collective understanding of why the multilateral system has a role to play in this. As politicians look more and more inwards, it is for those with a broader vision to ask them to broaden their horizons and to recognise the global significance and the global responsibility that this crisis brings to us all.
- Peter Sutherland
Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General
Towards the end of the meeting, Ambassador Haque gave a brief presentation on the concept of governance and its evolution, highlighting the gaps between the current migration management systems and the need of migrants and refugees on the ground.
(2nd GFMD 2016 Thematic Workshop, 18 May)
On 18 May, Ambassador Shameem Ahsan, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UNOG, opened the 2nd GFMD 2016 Thematic Workshop on “Migration for Harmonious Societies” by asking the question: “Is diversity meaning lack of harmony or cohesion in the society, or is it the seed that can germinate into harmony and contribute to creativity and thereby, enhance development?” Citing the positive story of her own country, Australia, and its successful multicultural policy, Ms. Romany Nanaykkara stressed the importance of having legal protection mechanisms, advocacy and education to eliminate discrimination against migrants. Ambassador Encyla Tina Chishiba Sinjela, on the other hand, highlighted the Zambian experience showing that with well-managed kind of migration, it is possible to have peoples co-exist and learn from each other despite diversity. Australia and Zambia co-convened thethematic workshop.
In addition, the workshop benefitted from expert presentations by the IOM, OHCHR, the ILO, and Terre des Hommes. IOM Director-General, Ambassador Swing underscored the twin challenge of demography and disasters that will continue to drive people to move across borders. The resulting diversity, he said, could be looked at as an opportunity rather than as a challenge, citing his own origins: “My own country, USA, was built on the backs of migrants, with their brains and with their talents and we'll continue to be so.”
We need to focus on building new narratives and, to change the discourse from the toxic narrative of migration to a more historical embedded one and a more positive and realistic one.
- Jyoti Sanghera
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Ms. Jyoti Sanghera of OHCHR stressed that in order to achieve genuinely harmonious societies, there is a need for comprehensive, evidence-based and migrant-centered policy-making, as well as greater political leadership and courage in countering the increasingly prejudiced and negative narratives on migration. Mr. Ryszard Cholewinski of the ILO, on the other hand, underlined the role of the principal ‘world of work’ actors -- employers and workers -- in fostering harmonious workplaces that can, in turn, contribute to more cohesive societies. Migrant workers have a 72.7% share in total migrant population of working age, 15 years and over, he reported.
Harmonious workplaces contribute to more cohesive societies. But this cannot occur when migrant workers experience unequal treatment, where some jobs are perceived to be only "migrant jobs" and when local workers feel, rightly or wrongly, that their own jobs, wages and working conditions are being undercut by the arrival of migrants.
- Ryszard Cholewinski
International Labour Organization
For his part, Mr. Ignacio Packer of Terre des Hommes denounced the metaphor embedded in the discussion of migrants and refugees, particularly the image of refugees and migrants as water, as in “waves of refugees” or “the flow of migrants.” Such dehumanizing language, he lamented, carry a racist and xenophobic baggage and represent fixed ideas that are just one way of looking at the world. He called for migration discourses to be steered in a more humanized direction and urged everyone to be more self-critical and aware of own use of language and metaphors. He mentioned many initiatives aimed at rejecting political rhetoric that stigmatizes refugees and migrants and combatting xenophobia, such as “Words Matter.”
The nature of human mobility is far too complex to attribute a single status to a person on the move. So, apart from legally determining whether someone does have a well-founded fear of persecution, what are we gaining from categorizing people by their movements in the first place?
- Ignacio Packer
Terre des Hommes
During the open discussion in plenary, there was a palpable consensus around the urgency and importance of the topic of migration for harmonious societies. Delegates highlighted other key points – a) all migrants have the same rights, regardless of their status; b) the media and the public can help reframe the debate especially regarding the “good” (the refugee) and the “bad” (the economic) migrant; c) promote equal treatment and protection of migrant workers.
To deepen the discussions, an important part of the day was dedicated to the breakout sessions – one on “Creation of common values and norms within the rubric of cultural specificities” and another on “Creating Harmony in the midst of diversity.” Participants were invited to discuss and share the issues and challenges they have encountered, their practical experiences and policies implemented to face these issues, as well as their recommendations. Thought-provoking ideas and policies were then reported back during the closing plenary.
As a conclusion for the day, Ambassador Haque reminded the delegates of how social dynamism, the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of diverse societies, and integration helped make these societies more harmonious and peaceful, where people from different origins can live and work together.
The three-day marathon of meetings continued with the preparatory meetings of the six GFMD 2016 government-led Roundtable sessions on May 19. These 6 RT sessions are focused on topics that evoke the increasing difficulties affecting migrants and the challenges to governments and other migration and development actors: namely, reducing the cost of migration; connectivity and migration; migration, diversity and harmonious societies; protection of migrants in all situations; migrants in situation of crises; governance of migration. The respective RT members discussed the content of the draft background papers, introduced pertinent country initiatives and experiences linked to the topic and agreed on some of the practicalities and modalities of the final Summit in Dhaka.
The day ended with the joint GFMD-GMG Side Event on Migrants, a panel discussion on the rights and welfare of migrants, challenges faced by women and children in the context of international migration, labour exploitation, and the importance of the international normative human rights framework. In his opening address, Ambassador Jose Brillantes, Chair of the CMW highlighted the relevance and importance of the Convention of the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and insisted on the need of a wider ratification.
During the interactive panel discussion that followed, Ms. Mariette Grange, Senior Researcher at the Global Detention Project warned the audience of the distorting reality often perceived and heard and put the whole migration trends into perspective by providing pertinent data. Mr. Patrick Taran, President of Global Migration Policy Associates, insisted on the priority for a rights-based governance of migration that would favor dignity, ensure basic wellbeing for all, in a context where migrant workforce is and will be much more needed in the near future.
As in previous occasions, words of wisdom were offered by Ambassador Haque to conclude the first ever GFMD-CMW side event and the series of meetings. Summing up the pragmatic efforts of the Bangladesh Chairmanship to take migrants’ rights to a higher level, he expressed his conviction that the Global Forum on Migration and Development is the best platform for global discourse, cooperation and partnership-building on migration and development. He also reiterated his view that now is the time to forge a Global Compact for facilitating Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.