• ATN

A Turning Point or a Divisive Disarray? The Compact for Migration Be Back to the UN


United Nations: The UN Global Compact for Migration has been adopted during the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakesh, but the side-effects are carrying it to risk to be dead on arrival.

Next Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly will gather to adopt the resolution that will formally endorse the agreement, signed by 164 States.

In fact, on December 11 in Morocco, 29 of the 193 UN member nations did not attend the conference. And now, the criticism of these countries is going to be tested again.

The Global Compact, which path began more than two years ago with the unanimous adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrant on September 19, 2016, declares that "no country can address the challenges and opportunities of this global phenomenon on its own." The agreement recognizes the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and cooperation at the global level. And it does not make the distinction between illegal and legal migrants.

Among its 23 commitments, the Compact aims to "ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation," and to enhance "flexibility of pathways for regular migration."

Also, it proposes to "prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration," and to "manage borders in an integrated, secure and coordinated manner."

The progressive forces across the world consider its adoption, the first global document on migration approved by the international community in history, as a big win for the multilateralism.

“For the first time, United Nations is handling this issue with courage, flexibility, and realism,” Omar Hilale, Ambassador Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations, told American Television News last July after the draft was signed at the UN.

"This draft and the final adoption in Morocco are the beginning of a new process, not the end of it," he has added.

Six months later his words, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, dispelled what he referred to as "a few myths" and "many falsehoods about the agreement and the overall issue of migration" in his final remarks in Marrakesh.

"Along with the Global Compact on Refugees, the Global Compact for Migration provides a platform for humane, sensible, mutually beneficial action," Guterres pointed out.

But right-wing movements across Europe and the US have heavily condemned the Compact and the conference. And used both official statements and the social media to highlight their resolute position.

Although the agreement does not compel states to take concrete action, a higher number of countries showed off skepticism.

Above all, US administration led by President Donald Trump quit negotiations over the Compact in December 2017, and increasingly criticized the final draft of the document, signed by all UN member states except the US, last July.

"We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter our country. The global approach in the New York Declaration is simply not compatible with U.S. sovereignty," Ambassador Nikki Haley, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations stated last year.

Along with the US, Hungary expressed main concerns since the beginning.

Interviewed by American Television News last July at the United Nations, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary Péter Szijjártó has harshly examined the Compact saying that "we need to protect our external borders in EU," adding, "Hungary must exit from the Global Compact for Migration."

And it did.

The United States and Hungary opened a pathway eventually followed by many other countries across the world.

Australia's Prime Minister announced that the agreement could "undermine Australia's strong border protection laws and practices."

The Dominican Republic reset its position on December 4, announcing during a press conference held by the legal consultant of the Executive Branch, Flavio Darío Espinal, that the Dominican State would not sign the agreement.

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu stated instead that "we have a duty to protect our borders against illegal infiltrators. That's what we've done, and that's what we will continue to do."

And the Compact also split an already divided European Union.

Although the European Parliament welcomed the agreement, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Poland, and Slovakia followed Hungary's lead, by not attending the conference.

Austria's right-wing government, which holds the EU presidency, said it would also withdraw.

Switzerland, rather, did not sign the pact since the Parliament has to clarify its position yet.

But the two most surprising political turmoils came from Belgium and Italy.

In Belgium, Prime Minister Charles Michel paid the vote over the Global Compact by losing his majority in Parliament after the right-wing party, N-VA, pulled its ministers and Michel refused its demand that he does not agree to the pact.

If Michel was forced to relaunch a new government as a minority administration, there is a majority government victim of divisions and afterthoughts: Italy.

The Italian government, led by the populistic 5 Star Movement and backed by the far-right party, The League, decided to not attend the Marrakesh conference.

“Italy reserves the right to adhere to this document or not only after the parliament has decided,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, denying himself.

During the UN General Assembly, last September Giuseppe Conte has stated that "the migratory phenomena we are facing require a structured, multilevel response from the international community," adding, "on this basis we support the Global Compact on migration and refugees."

And his Minister of Foreign Affairs Moavero Milanesi, during a speech to the Parliament on November 21, reiterated the "positive orientation" of the Italian government "on the Global Compact for Migration."

The decision to not attend the Marrakesh conference arrived a few days later of Milanesi's speech. It was unexpected. And it represents a disoriented position, consequence of the growing tensions inside the majority.

Interior minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right party The League, has always denied his support to the Global Compact.

And backed by Fratelli d'Italia, another Italian far-right party which is not supporting the government, he explained the reason why Italy should "do like the Swiss are doing."

"The Italian government won’t go to Marrakech, it won’t sign anything, parliament will,” Salvini said.

Although those defections across the globe, the agreement is going to be back to New York on Wednesday with a load of divisions for the formal endorsement by the United Nations General Assembly.

"Undeniably, this Intergovernmental Conference has improved the global dialogue on migrations and leaves us an even more strong Compact," María Fernanda Espinosa, President of the UN General Assembly said in a statement.

"All the eyes of the world have been on Marrakesh and its interventions."

And on December 19, she remarked, "we will bring the Compact to life. That will be the best tribute that we can pay to the 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

But doubts over its effective usefulness remain.

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