An intergovernmental conference to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration took place beginning of this week in Marrakesh, Morocco. Despite growing skepticism and the fact that 33 states did not participate in the conference, the migration compact was adopted as expected by most UN member states without a vote. It is expected to be endorsed by the U.N. General Assembly on December 19.
Meanwhile, a related but separate agreement, the Global Compact for Refugees, is set to be adopted on this coming Monday, December 17, by the UN General Assembly plenary. Will those countries that chose not to commit to the migration compact do the same with the refugee one?
On November 13, the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural (Third) Committee of the UN General Assembly approved the resolution that affirms the refugee compact with overwhelming majority. The Committee approved the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 176 in favor to one against (United States), with three abstentions (Eritrea, Liberia, Libya). Thirteen countries did not vote: Barbados, Bhutan, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominica, Grenada, Kyrgyzstan, Nauru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Switzerland, Tonga and Turkmenistan.
Will those 17 countries change their stand and vote in favor of the text this coming Monday or will they decide to remain out of the refugee compact? Will other countries join the opposing group, especially those (at least 33) that chose not to participate in the Marrakesh conference where the migration compact was adopted? We'll find out early next week.
Logically, opposing one should mean opposing the other. Both compacts are based on the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants; both are nesting dolls of international commitments; and, a key problem with both is the misleading nature of their so-called non-legally-binding character. I am missing the logic behind avoiding one quicksand to plunge into another.
The list of countries that participated in the intergovernmental conference to adopt the Global Compact for Migration and those who did not can be found in a UN Report of the Credential Committee. The report details the formal participation of 162 states; in line with the rules of procedure of the conference:
formal credentials of representatives to the Conference...had been submitted to the Secretary-General, as at the time of the meeting of the Committee, by the European Union and the following 52 States: Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Belarus, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, China, Croatia, Cuba, Dominica, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Greece, Guatemala, Holy See, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.
...information concerning the appointment of representatives of States to the Conference had been communicated to the Secretary-General, as at the time of the meeting of the Committee, by means of a facsimile communication from the Head of State or Government or the Minister for Foreign Affairs, or by means of a letter or note verbale from the ministry, embassy or mission concerned, by the following 110 States: Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea -Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Yemen and Zambia.
Thirty-three states did not participate in the conference to adopt the migration compact:
the Secretary-General had not received formal credentials or the information referred to...above from the following 33 States invited to participate in the Conference: Australia, Austria, Barbados, Bulgaria, Czechia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malawi, Maldives, Mauritania, Namibia, Nauru, Poland, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Slovakia, State of Palestine, Switzerland, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, United States of America, Uzbekistan and Vanuatu.
Countries that did not participate in the conference have either decided to opt out from the migration compact (like Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Israel, Slovakia, the United States etc.) or are still undecided (like Switzerland and Poland).
In his remarks at the Marrakesh conference, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reminded governments of the supposed need for migrants:
It is clear that most developed countries need migrants across a broad spectrum of vital roles, from caring for elderly people to preventing the collapse of health services, just to mention two of them…Societies are stronger, more resilient and enriched, not threatened, by diversity. [Emphasis added.]
Guterres pushed for the adoption of the global compact for migration that rests on two simple ideas:
First, migration has always been with us – but in a world where it is ever more inevitable and necessary, it should be well managed and safe, not irregular and dangerous. Second, national policies are far more likely to succeed with international cooperation. [Emphasis added.]
On the final day of the conference, Louise Arbour, UN Special Representative for International Migration, applauded the adoption of the compact, calling it "wonderful occasion, really a historic moment and a really great achievement for multilateralism." Arbour told skeptical nations that did not come to Marrakesh that "under international human rights law citizens of a country have the right to enter, stay and leave their country but they don't have a right to go anywhere else unless they seek asylum, or are authorized by another country to enter its territory." [Emphasis added.] Arbour delivered the closing statement of the conference. Excerpts are below, with emphases added:
The Marrakesh Compact – as I believe the Global Compact may begin to be called - will remain THE reference for all future initiatives dealing with cross-border human mobility… [T]he drawings of lines on maps have never sufficed to confine people whose needs, ambitions, dreams and opportunities expanded their horizons. Rather than ignore the impetus of some to relocate, or worse, attempt to crush it at unconscionable costs, we are now committed to safer and fairer ways of managing borders…Our efforts will, over time, contribute to reducing the profound inequities that the lottery of birth would otherwise continue to aggravate.
These official UN statements might have confirmed countries in their decision to opt out of the migration compact. Others undecided could choose to stay out as well. Countries that are voting Monday on the refugee compact should also pay close attention to the UN's global take on human mobility (whether forced refugee movements or voluntary labor migration).