Update on Global Compact for Migration February 2019
The symposium on Migration and the Future of Emerging Markets convened fifteen months after 194 countries approved the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants at the General Assembly in September 2016 and eleven months before the Global Compact for Migration was to be adopted in Marrakesh in December 2018.
The symposium applauded the Declaration, recognized the formidable difficulties of creating a collaborative framework for managing global migration and endorsed the broad objectives of the Compact. But after US withdrawal in December 2017, waning support for the Compact was confirmed at Marrakesh and at the General Assembly where it was endorsed by 152 countries and opposed by five (12 abstaining and 24 not voting).
This downhill trajectory invites questions about why, after a promising start, so many countries wavered between 2016 and 2018. There are no generic answers but there are threads of genuine and deliberate misunderstandings. Although the Compact reaffirmed “the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy” some countries decided its treatment of sovereignty was ambiguous. Some objected to a perceived call to sanction media criticism of migration policies and practices. Some were uncomfortable with blurred distinctions between refugees and migrants. Others questioned the perceived implication that migration is a human right.
Wicked problems are rarely solved in one pass and although the outcome was less than successful it was a step forward on a longer than expected road.