When the GCM was adopted in 2018, it stipulated that a high-level meeting take place every four years to discuss progress made, new challenges, and the road ahead. This meeting took place for the first time since the adoption of the GCM from May 16-20, at United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York. The forum brought together member states, stakeholders, civil society, local governments, and migrants and concluded with the adoption of the IMRF Progress Declaration, which documents progress made on the implementation of the GCM and pledges future international cooperation to ensure that the human rights, dignity, and safety of migrants are upheld.
The forum began with an informal interactive multi-stakeholder hearing that gave all stakeholders an opportunity to share recommendations and best practices for the future. Donald Kerwin, Executive Director of the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS), made an intervention stressing the importance of CMS’s initiative to estimate the US undocumented population for past and future implementation of the GCM. The hearing included thematic sessions to assess the progress and challenges in implementing the GCM, commitments to advance it, and group reflection to summarize the key recommendations and pledges.
The rest of the forum consisted of four round table discussions that each focused on specific GCM objectives, a policy debate, and a general debate between member states followed by the adoption of the IMRF Progress Declaration. Round Table 1 discussed GCM objectives 2 (minimize adverse drivers), 5 (regular pathways), 6 (recruitment and decent work), 12 (screening and referral), and 18 (skills development and recognition). The panel co-chaired by Germany and Egypt included remarks from representatives of the South Pacific Islander Organization; UN Development Programme (UNDP); Migration Policy Institute; Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the US Department of State; Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines; International Labour Organization; International Trade Union Confederation; and International Organization of Employers. They stressed the importance of accessible legal pathways for migrants to prevent deaths and violence experienced along irregular migration routes and identification of root causes of migration, especially due to climate crises. They called for fair labor recruitment as well as policies and pathways that benefit both employers and migrant employees and incorporation of worker protections for labor pathways. The speakers also called for greater recognition of migrant contributions to countries of destination through their skills, services, and cultural enrichment, and to countries of origin through remittances and uplifting their communities.
Round Table 2 focused on GCM objectives 4 (legal identity and documentation), 8 (saving lives), 9 (counter smuggling), 10 (eradicating trafficking); 11 (managing borders); and 13 (alternatives to detention). Co-Chaired by Ecuador and Tajikistan, this panel included a keynote speech from Felipe Gonzalez Morales, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, and remarks from representatives from the International Detention Coalition; National Committee for Counter Trafficking of the Government of Cambodia; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent; the European Union; and Siobhan Mullally, Special Rapporteur of Trafficking in Persons and Erias Lukwago, Mayor of Kampala, Uganda. The speakers noted that conflicts, poverty, and climate change were directly related to an increase in migration worldwide and that there is an important link between increased, broad legal pathways and the effective return and readmission of migrants to their home countries. This session also highlighted the need to prevent human trafficking, acknowledge particularly vulnerable groups including women and children, and employ more root-based approaches where humanitarian actors and local governments can intercept migrants who are about to or have already embarked on dangerous journeys. The speakers also suggested that Member States become familiar with best practices of countries that have successful approaches to providing identity documents and temporary visa programs for migrants and employing proper screenings and reception at borders to protect the most vulnerable migrants.
Round Table 3 examined GCM objectives 14 (consular protection), 15 (access to basic services), 16 (inclusion and social cohesion), 19 (migrant and diaspora contributions), 20 (remittances), and 22 (social protection). The panel discussion, co-chaired by Portugal and Thailand, included a keynote speech from Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and Member of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) 2030 Political Advisory Board. It also included remarks from representatives from Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP; the Strategic Program Policy Sector, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship of Canada; Inter-Parliamentary Union; African Foundation for Development; World Health Organization; and Hon. Elizabeth Naa Kwatsoe Tawiah Sackey, Mayor of Accra, Ghana. These speakers stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the central role of migrants as service providers and called for them to have access to healthcare services going forward. They pointed out that multilateralism is essential in migration management and bilateral agreements should be avoided in order to maintain equality among migrants and not favor some over others. They encouraged recognition of diasporas and their innovations and contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals, including development of the COVID-19 vaccine. The speakers also emphasized that cities and local authorities should be included in international and national discourse on migration as they are some of the first people to receive migrants and provide them with social services.
Round Table 4 discussed GCM objectives 1 (data), 3 (information provision), 7 (reducing vulnerabilities), 17 (eliminating discrimination), and 23 (international cooperation). Co-chaired by Azerbaijan and Morocco, this panel included representatives from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Centro de Estudios de Población, NHRI Morocco, Mixed Migration Centre, Women in Migration Network, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The speakers stressed the need for data-driven policy and how access to data on migration is an instrument for ensuring the safety and protection of migrants from exploitation. They emphasized when people feel compelled to migrate and lack access to pathways, their vulnerability to human rights violations increases. The speakers also suggested Member States should allow migrants access to justice without fear of detention or retaliation and use technology to combat discrimination and xenophobia.
The Policy Debate focused on the challenges in the implementation of the GCM and discussed capacity-building mechanisms and emerging issues related to the future of migration. This session included remarks from António Vitorino, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration and Coordinator of the UN Network on Migration; Ronald Skeldon, Professor at the University of Sussex; Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown; Florencio Venté, Latin America Focal Point of the Migration Youth & Children Platform; and Catherine M. Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF. The speakers explained that the world is facing multiple and overlapping crises that are causing global ripple effects that we do not yet understand, and in these times of uncertainty, migrants are usually singled out and scapegoated. They highlighted that internal and rural-to-urban migration is just as important as international migration. As more and more migrants move to cities (70 percent of the world’s population is expected to do so by 2050), urban communities should be prepared to accept them. The speakers also emphasized how the pandemic accelerated a retreat of globalization and an increase in nationalism. Nevertheless, migration will not cease; it will just evolve.
May 24, 2022