MMN Participates in the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the
Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration
6-8 November 2017, Bangkok
On 19 September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly hosted a high-level summit in New York, which brought heads of state and government together to address large movements of refugees and migrants.[i] At the UN Summit, 193 Member States adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which, according to the UN, expresses “the political will of world leaders to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale.”[ii] In adopting the Declaration, Member States committed to negotiating two Global Compacts – a “Global Compact on Refugees” and a “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.”
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration – hereinafter referred to as the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) – will be a non-binding intergovernmental agreement that sets out a framework for international cooperation on all aspects of migration, including humanitarian, developmental, and human rights-related aspects.[iii] The GCM is framed to be consistent with target 10.7[iv] of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to supplement existing international-level conventions, such as the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions. States have committed to finalising and formally adopting the agreement at a UN conference in New York in September 2018.
The preparatory processes involved in the development of the GCM included a number of global, regional, sub-regional, and national consultations,[v] which spanned April to November 2017 and offered a degree of civil society and other stakeholder participation.[vi] From 6-8 November 2017, Mekong Migration Network (MMN) Secretariat members observed the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the GCM hosted by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok.
The objective of the 3-day meeting was to “provide a forum to identify key migration issues, challenges and priorities for the Asia-Pacific region; to identify existing national, bilateral, subregional and regional arrangements in place to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration; and to arrive at a set of conclusions that can serve as a regional input into the global stocktaking meeting due to be held in Mexico in December 2017.”[vii] The meeting was attended by 35 UN member states, 2 associate members, 4 permanent observers, United Nations Secretariat, bodies and relevant specialised agencies, intergovernmental organisations, and other entities, including international NGOs, regional and sub-regional networks, and national civil society organisations.[viii]
There were more than 62 million cross-border migrants in the Asia-Pacific region as of 2017, representing a growth of more than 10 million migrants since 1990. The majority of these migrants move within the same sub-region, specifically to neighbouring countries, for the purpose of employment.[ix] Panel discussions, presentations, and side meetings during the Preparatory Meeting[x] expounded the situations faced by governments and international migrants of the Asia-Pacific region in hopes that this context will be addressed in future global stocktaking processes and within the pages of the final document.
Throughout the 3 days, side events hosted by governments, UN agencies, and civil society were carried out in adjacent meeting rooms and, in some cases, carved a space for migrants’ rights advocates and migrants themselves to shed light on the situation facing international migrants in the Asia-Pacific region. On Tuesday 7 November, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), ILO, and UNACT (UN Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons) hosted a side event entitled: “Women migrant workers, barriers to mobility and the Global Compact for Migration.” On Wednesday 8 November, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), and International Migrants Alliance (IMA) hosted a side event entitled: “The Global Compact for Migration and the international human rights protection system: Addressing the root causes of migration.”[xi]
Although migration policy is a priority for many states and some states are showing a newfound willingness to negotiate on such a policy, it remains unclear how governments will carry out commitments to protect the rights of all migrants, regardless of their status, particularly in an era of increased racism and xenophobia. It also remains to be seen whether the global compact is en route to supporting the provision of more options for mobility with greater respect for human rights and access to justice, or the expansion of highly restrictive circular migration programs.
[iii] New York Declaration on R, Annex II, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/71/1, p. 21.
[iv] Target 10.7 is to “[f]acilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies,” http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E, p. 21.
[v] For more information on these consultations, please visit the International Organization for Migration’s GCM website, https://www.iom.int/global-compact-migration, and the Modalities for the Intergovernmental Negotiations of the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, https://www.iom.int/sites/default/files/our_work/ODG/GCM/A-71_280-E.pdf.
[vii] For an overview of the meeting, please visit: http://www.unescap.org/events/asia-pacific-regional-preparatory-meeting-global-compact-safe-orderly-and-regular-migration.
[viii] For a complete list of participants, please visit: http://www.unescap.org/events/asia-pacific-regional-preparatory-meeting-global-compact-safe-orderly-and-regular-migration.
[ix] UN ESCAP, 2017, “Towards Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in the Asia-Pacific Region: Challenges and Opportunities,” http://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/publications/SIS%20Safe%20Regular%20Migration%20report%20FINAL%20WEB%20version.pdf, p. 5.
[x] To view the programme for the meeting, please visit: http://www.unescap.org/events/asia-pacific-regional-preparatory-meeting-global-compact-safe-orderly-and-regular-migration.
[xi] For a full list of side events, please view the programme available at: http://www.unescap.org/events/asia-pacific-regional-preparatory-meeting-global-compact-safe-orderly-and-regular-migration.