Global Compact on Migration: UN consensus under threat on 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Global Compact on Migration: UN consensus under threat on 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

10 December 2018

Wall to wall coverage on Brexit has meant there has been little coverage in our media of the important UN meeting today in Marrakesh on the new Global Compact on Migration or the controversy surrounding its signature. The Compact was the brainchild of the Obama administration and the idea was that the global community should work together to manage migration by agreeing a series of objectives for managing migration flows. A parallel process was set up for a Global Compact on Refugees.

Two years in negotiation, these frameworks for cooperation seemed uncontroversial until the Trump administration announced it would pull out of the Migration Compact, making it another victim of the US trend to block multilateral initiatives like the Paris Climate Agreement. That decision started a domino effect with several other countries - including a number of EU Member States like Austria (current EU Presidency) and Hungary - as well as Australia, to pull back from attending today’s launch conference in Marrakesh and refusing to endorse the Compact. In Belgium, the ruling Liberal party has lost its coalition Flemish nationalist partner over the issue and this could lead to early elections.

So what is it the US and the countries find so unpalatable about the UN Compact? Sadly, fake news has generated a series of myths about the compact: that it is legally binding, forcing governments to change their laws, that it creates a human right to migrate, that it undermines national sovereignty. None of this is true. As the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this morning, the Compact is a non-binding framework for cooperation urging governments to share good practice and to make sure that the human rights of migrants are respected. But in the right-wing media, including U.K. tabloids, headlines tell a different - untrue - story and populist political parties have jumped on the bandwagon.

Linda with Commissioner Avramopolous who is leading the EU delegation 

I’m in Marrakesh leading an MEP delegation to give the message that migration is a phenomenon of all times and in all continents, that many of our countries need migrants to support our economies (a representative of global employers just told us that the world has a shortage of 85m skilled workers) and that only by working together will we manage migration flows in a fair and orderly way. It is shameful that on today of all days, the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some EU governments are pulling out of this important UN process and undermining international solidarity.

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