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Global Compact for Migration: Perspectives from the Tenth Diaspora Development Dialogue (DDD10) January 2019- By Samah Ahmed

‘Civil society and diaspora are stepping in where the state is failing - funding travel, supporting integration in host countries, and advising on legal rights.’

From the Netherlands, the United States, Belgium and Germany to Australia, the UN's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) has triggered infighting in ruling parties and governments. The political convulsion over the pact illuminates how migration remains a hot-button political issue in Western countries, three years after the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ dominated the news in 2015 and 2016, far-right parties in Europe, North America and Australia have ceased upon migration as a key campaign issue. Lack of coherent mainstream political parties policies, as well as negative media coverage about migrants and refugees, has created the perfect condition for nationalists parties and groups to seize on the GCM as an ‘attack on national sovereignty’ and a ‘backdoor to uncontrolled mass migration’. Throughout the GCM negotiations there has been negative media coverage in the Global North, with alarmist headlines such as “Sinister Blueprint for Globalist Migration Hell”, it's no surprise that several countries with prominent nationalist movements, such as U.S., Hungary, Poland, Austria, Italy, Israel, Bulgaria, and Australia, have opted not to sign up to the pact.

We should view the GCM as an opportunity towards ensuring the protection of persons who require shelter or who are seeking better life opportunities. Perhaps in the age of “fake news,” it is not all that unexpected that there have been those who have been able to seize on the compact and distort its purpose, after all, many governments and the media have arguably not adequately spent the necessary time and effort to inform the public what the pact means, why it's needed, and most crucially, highlighting all the ways that migration provides immense opportunity and benefits – for the migrants, host communities and communities of origin.

Reaching a more rights-based consensus on facilitating migration is not an easy task, and with the 23 agreed objectives adopted by 163 nations, the ambition of the pact now needs to be translated into concrete action. While ratification of the GCM is a significant step in the right direction, like most globally negotiated agreements, it is far from perfect. Firstly, it is a voluntary, non-binding agreement, unlike the 1951 Refugee Convention. In addition, the final wording of the agreement is the result of several compromises, and not all issues have been adequately addressed or resolved, for example, ending child migrant detention. In too many instances, there’s been a failure to cut through the noise of xenophobia and populism and adequately explain what the GCM actually is to the broader public. The UN's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) is a significant and first occasion where a multi-country group has agreed on a list of objectives to tackle the risks and challenges involved in migration for individual migrants, and at the same time, makes strides towards maximising the benefits of migration for receiving countries.

Green: Voted for - Red: Voted against - Yellow: Abstention from voting - Grey: Did not attend (Source: ThecentreCZGreen)

In December 2018, Shabaka’s team member Samah Ahmed joined other delegates from the African diaspora and the African continent in Marrakesh, Morocco, for discussions, debates and exchanges on a range of topics focused on African development and what is to comes next post GCM ratification.

‘The role of diasporas as development actors is finally getting due notice, so much so that the Global Compact for Migration will be implemented in cooperation and partnership with several groups including migrant and diaspora organisations'

On matters of migration and development, the GCM framework recognises that migration can help achieve development outcomes and as such, it is a cornerstone of the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030. Through sustained advocacy by diaspora organisations such as the African Foundation for Development (AFFORD), has lead to a commitment to “create conditions for migrants and diasporas to contribute to sustainable development in all countries fully”. This objective is critical in ensuring that migrants and diasporas are empowered, consulted, and heard and that the benefits of migration as a source of sustainable development are harnessed for countries and communities of origin, transit and destination.

The Tenth Diaspora Development Dialogue (DDD10) under the theme of 'The Role of the African Diaspora As A Catalyst For Sustainable Development' was held on the 8th and 9th of December 2018 in Marrakesh, Morocco to coincide with the Global Forum on Migration and Development Summit and the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Organised by Africa-Europe Diaspora Development Platform (ADEPT) in partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the conference brought together representatives from national and regional diaspora and migrants’ platforms, ambassadors, senior government officials, civil society organisations, as well as private sector and other development stakeholders to exchange learning on practical means of enhancing diaspora collaboration and cooperation. The two-day event concluded with participants producing a 10 point declaration on ‘The role of the African Diaspora as a catalyst for sustainable development in the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration.’

Many of the discussions during DDD10 focused on the core structural barriers to legal mobility and efforts to overcome them, as well as the drivers behind irregular migration. Its abundantly clear that growing movement to ‘securitise migration’ and outsource border policing to transit countries - Sudan, Libya and Morocco are just some examples of countries- has made migration a defensive endeavour. These increasingly militarised processes are grounded in the assumption that migrants constitute a ‘threat’ to the socio-economic, political, and cultural integrity of a state . In practice, the ‘securitisation of migration’ promotes programmes and policies that incentivise the use of detention centres to screen, monitor, and deport migrants and asylum-seekers. The threat of being apprehended by border forces, and the consequences that can result, are one of the main reasons why many remain at risk in countries of transit and destination.

By forcing people to risk their lives to seek better opportunities in another country and keep them in an irregular status for several years, if not decades denies them any possibility of effective integration and further fuels stigmatisation and intolerance.

In European countries, such as Netherlands, UK, and Italy, diaspora organisations and individuals, besides influencing how states implement their commitments to migrants, also play a key role in achieving real integration, supporting migrants access legal rights and quality and fair work, as well as promoting the wellbeing of both migrant and host communities in addition to providing peer support to vulnerable people. These organisations hold a wealth of knowledge about what works on integration and are often at the frontline of support and advocacy. Diasporas are also key stakeholders in building trust between migrant and host communities. In this context, there were several points of discussion raised during DDD10 that we believe should be explored in greater depth.

There are some African countries which have made considerable advances in addressing or fulfilling Objective 19, which concerns the creation of conditions for migrants and members of diasporas “to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries”. Some of the notable actions presented by countries like Senegal, Morocco, and Mali, included examples of action to expand government reach-out or liaison initiatives, such as “targeted support programmes and financial products that facilitate migrant and diaspora investments and entrepreneurship”, building of “partnerships between local authorities, local communities, the private sector, diasporas, hometown associations and migrant organizations to promote knowledge and skills transfer between their countries of origin and countries of destination, enhancement of migrants’ political participation in, and engagement with, countries of origin and reviewing and revising visa, residency and citizenship regulations” as means to maintain the link between diasporas and their country of origin. However, there remains significant rhetoric and reliance on international aid-funded development policies and programs as primary tools to address the “adverse drivers” of migration, when there is little evidence that development aid has stemmed regular and irregular movement.

A significant additional impediment in operationalising the mechanisms to deliver of Objective 19 constitutes institutional capacity, both at government level and also at civil society levels, meaning that the necessary outreach to migrants and diasporas tends to be patchy and policies not consistent across countries of destination and groups of migrants.

Finally, it is worth noting a topic not touched upon in detail and that requires further unpacking by all stakeholders is the need to for policies that take into account all types of migration corridors- South-North AND South-South, which accounts for 36% or 82 million people, of the total number of migrants. South-South migration is an increasingly significant factor in the economic and social development of many developing countries, and policies need to take into account that this corridor requires different approaches than South-North migration.

What’s Next? Effective and Fair Operationalisation of the GCM

The signing of the GCM is the beginning of the journey, and there should not be any illusion that it will be an easy one, nonetheless it is also a significant step for the global community. Experience with international treaties, such as that The Paris Agreement to combat climate change, tells us that internationally negotiated agreements cannot resolve all the challenges or make the most of all the opportunities of global migration, but for us, there are key gaps that we must start addressing collective so that we can build on the GCM’s ambitious objectives;

  • Skills, knowledge, expertise sharing: The importance of partnerships for impact is vital. The sharing of information and knowledge about practices, what works and what does not, between diaspora organisation, governments, and policymakers will help us to coordinate our actions to reach impact, and scale up best practices.
  • Advocacy: Freedom of movement as a human right, as the Compact currently stands, the monitoring mechanisms will primarily be undertaken during the International Migration Review Forum, which only happens every four years. Without rigorous monitoring, advocacy will be an essential tool in ensuring signatories are developing and implementing policies aligned with their commitment to the GCM objectives. Funding should be made available to support rights and migration organisations to enable them to report on the human rights of migrants, not just achievements in migration policies or outcomes
  • Disaggregated and Perception Data: While vast qualitative data on migration has been collated, most commonly this data is derived from national administrative sources measuring enforcement of migration legislation, and even so, this is often not desegregated sufficiently to understand drivers of irregular migration at the local level, and often does not take into account perception data. Furthermore, while civil society and national governments may have collated data, having data and having the analytical rigour to analyse and adopt the data for resource provision and policy-making remains a challenge.
  • Media: The Media is a crucial resource and channel of information about migration, migrants and Refugees. However, there are often gaps between actual migration flows and what people perceive—either in terms of how many migrants there are, or where and why they are arriving. In Europe in particular, the media has played a role in stigmatising migrants and migration by scapegoating and blaming migrants for state underfunded social support system. Because people are often poorly informed about migrants and easily manipulated by the alarmist narratives of far-right politicians and media alike, there is an urgent need to work towards changing the narrative to one that demonstrates and acknowledges that migrants enrich societies. The media, as the fourth pillar, should be held to account when it does not tell the full story and represent multiple viewpoints fairly.

Annex: The 23 objectives are the core element of the cooperative framework are:

  1. Collect and utilize accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies
  2. Minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin
  3. Provide accurate and timely information at all stages of migration
  4. Ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation
  5. Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration
  6. Facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work
  7. Address and reduce vulnerabilities in migration
  8. Save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants
  9. Strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants
  10. Prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration
  11. Manage borders in an integrated, secure and coordinated manner
  12. Strengthen certainty and predictability in migration procedures for appropriate screening, assessment and referral
  13. Use migration detention only as a measure of last resort and work towards alternatives
  14. Enhance consular protection, assistance and cooperation throughout the migration cycle
  15. Provide access to basic services for migrants
  16. Empower migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion
  17. Eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration
  18. Invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences
  19. Create conditions for migrants and diasporas to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries
  20. Promote faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and foster financial inclusion of migrants
  21. Cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration
  22. Establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits
  23. Strengthen international cooperation and global partnerships for safe, orderly and regular migration

Shabaka is a platform for diaspora collaboration towards development in Africa and the Middle East. At Shabaka we aim to promote and support diaspora engagement in development for greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems. We are self-sustaining our operation by providing consultancy services to corporate, NGO, community and government sectors working to address development and humanitarian challenges.

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