Western perspectives and the Global Compact on Migration

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The Global Compact on Migration and National Populism – Side event from the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council (2019).

Believing that understanding and appreciating cultural diversity and migration is essential to have sustainable and inclusive societies, CD4Peace was pleased to attend this fascinating side event from the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council about the global Compact on Migration and National Populism. This event was hosted by La Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme et moderated by Ibrahima Guissé, doctor in sociology from the University of Geneva.

The first panelist, Ambassador Kadra Ahmed Hassan from Djibouti, celebrated the conversation as intervening at a crucial time in the combat against racism. She highlighted the links between migration and racism and poignantly reminded the audience members that conversations around migration should be based on facts and not on prejudice. Indeed, migration offered opportunities for all parties involved, with migrants contributing 6 to 7 trillion dollars of global GDP.

But the important point of this event was also to discuss the critics and challenges facing by the Global Compact for Migration. First, Marie-Thérèse Pictet-Althann, Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta to the United Nations, argued that this agreement was indeed a compromise, and that it would not perfectly capture the interests of every individual actor involved. Moreover, many of the states involved will face difficulties implementing it. However, facing an increase in the number of vulnerable migrants flowing across borders, it is our ultimate duty to defend the dignity of each human being, by allowing migrants to travel safely and to integrate them into host communities.

Furthermore, Stephan Jaquemet from the ICRC, criticized the European states for missing an opportunity to show to their peoples that they were fighting for a just cause. Moreover, scepticism is explained by the fact that instead of including their populations into the process the negotiations for the Global Compact on Migration took place behind closed doors, inciting mistrust in the agreement.
Patrick Taran, from Global Migration Policy Associates, however took a very different tack. He saw the Global Compact on Migration as an attempt to force regime change, by introducing non-binding guidance for executive migration management and incorporating for the first time in a UN document notions of repressive controls on freedom of movement. This expands the space for the already weakened rule of law to be further deconstructed and criminalises irregular migration, tolerating the imprisonment of migrants as a potential alternative. The Global Compact on Migration has a lot of ambiguity, and the only way to reinforce the document to be legally binding is to turn it into a treaty.

Finally, Emmanuel Deonna, a municipal councillor from the Canton of Geneva, offered a Swiss and Genevan perspective. Indeed, in Switzerland, migrants represent 20% of the population and contribute immensely to the society. Unfortunately, there is still a large politcal party which use the perceived fear people have of migrants as the basis for the electoral success. Switzerland retreat from the Global Compact on Migration goes against the humanitarian tradition of Geneva.

This event was of particular interest to CD4Peace because it started on conversation on the increasingly prescient questions about migration in Western societies.
However, CD4Peace believes that while this side event focused on actual flows of migration, more conversations need to be held regarding the conditions in which immigrants live in their host societies. Politicians in host nations must understand that cultures shouldn’t become homogenous or be integrated into a greater norm. They need to remain open and diverse, while respecting the human rights of all mankind.