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The age of migration

  • Published at 12:03 am December 8th, 2016
The age of migration

Next week, the world gathers for the Ninth Summit of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Dhaka. As the incumbent GFMD chair, Bangladesh hosts over 120 countries from all over the world along with a large body of United Nations agencies, and individuals from civil society and private sector.

The Dhaka Summit peaks this year-round consultation. It comes at a time when the world’s eyes are finally on migration.

In a long time, 2016 stands out as a most eventful year for migration. People from all walks of life have been debating on migration in corridors, cafes, or theatres.

Less than three months back, at the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York, the world leaders adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.

It spells out a range of commitments, particularly an agreement to develop two global Compacts: One on responsibility sharing for refugees; and the other to promote safe, orderly, and regular migration.

They will be negotiated over a two-year process beginning 2017 and adopted at an inter-governmental conference on migration in 2018.

This April, weighing the fast evolving context, it was Bangladesh which mooted the concept of a Global Compact for safe, regular, and orderly migration.

The world finally agreed to sit on drawing an ambitious outcome -- that can make a pragmatic change in the lives of migrants and their families.

Since its inception in 2007, GFMD has continued to demonstrate its worth as a platform for generating trust, confidence, and cooperation on international migration among the global community.

GFMD has been encouraging and supporting the UN, which has avoided for too long to address migration issues comprehensively, to add migration in its priorities.

In 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world leaders also acknowledged the contribution of migrants to inclusive growth and committed to cooperate internationally to ensure and facilitate safe, orderly, regular, and responsible migration. Following a long debate, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) joined the United Nations system.

Adoption of the Global Migration Compact and its subsequent implementation will transform the way we cooperate to govern migration. And, it will make migration safer, societies more cohesive, economies more prosperous

When Bangladesh decided to chair the GFMD, we took up the onerous responsibility to use its chairmanship to galvanise international action leading to more effective international migration governance.

Finally, states have recognised their legal obligation to protect the human rights of migrants regardless of their migratory status. But, the challenge lies in ensuring application of those human rights.

During the Ninth GFMD in Dhaka, a range of policy orientations will be discussed to promote their application, for instance, adoption of a rights-based approach to migration governance; inclusion of protection measures in all migration policy domains; and deliberation on specific protection measures for migrants with particular vulnerabilities.

Particular attention will be given to migrants in situations of crisis, whether natural or man-made.

This has the potential of generating valuable input to the state-led process envisaged in the New York Declaration for the development of guiding principles and guidelines for migrants in vulnerable situations.

The Dhaka Summit will also explore the kinds of partnerships needed to reduce the overall social and economic costs of migration -- costs that are disproportionately borne by low-skilled migrants. The summit will discuss how to minimise worker-paid recruitment costs by promoting fair and ethical recruitment practices.

Today, there is no society which can prosper ignoring an ever-increasing diversity of people. The Dhaka Summit will explore the broad policy approaches that are needed to achieve social cohesion and harmony in a diverse world.

They will consider the contribution that practical measures like adherence to human rights principles, access to labour market and how paths to citizenship can lead to successful migrant integration.

All these considerations should help us to begin defining the content of the Migration Compact.

We can envisage some broad parameters: At a minimum, that should be included in the protection of the rights of all migrants, regardless of migratory status; ensuring their inclusion in the societies that host them; enabling people to move from one country to another with safety and dignity; ensuring that migration is orderly, by maintaining integrity of national borders; combating migrant smuggling and trafficking and facilitating return; providing effective protection for refugee migrants in vulnerable situations; and enhancing the development impacts of migration.

At the same time, the format of the compact will attract separate attention.

A number of outcome options can be envisaged: i) A legally binding convention or treaty regulating the conduct of states; ii) a political declaration with guiding principles and guidelines for the behaviour by states; iii) concrete operational commitments with clear goals, targets, and indicators of success as well as a robust monitoring framework; and iv) a combination of the three, possibly including a framework agreement with legally binding elements on issues ripe for this, political commitments on areas where there is a consensus of a more general nature; and commitments to concrete action with a follow-up mechanism where governments are ready to take action now.

We believe adoption of the Global Migration Compact and its subsequent implementation will transform the way we cooperate to govern migration.

And it will make migration safer, societies more cohesive, economies more prosperous.

No country can any longer afford inaction on migration in the evolving international system.

Md Shahidul Haque is Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh.