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▲ U.S.-Mexico border at Anapra, outside Ciudad Juárez [Dicklyon].
ANALYSIS / Túlio Dias de Assis and Elena López-Doriga
With a vote of 152 countries in favor, five against and twelve abstentions (1), the United Nations General Assembly approved last December 19 the project resolution ratifying the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, agreement signed a few days earlier in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. This is the first international pact, under the auspices of the UN, aimed at addressing migration at the global level. While it is not a binding agreement , it is intended to reiterate important principles on the protection of the human rights of migrants in a universal and unified manner, as it is implemented by the UN General Assembly.
Despite the positive aspect of reaching a broad consensus, many countries abstained from voting or positioned themselves directly against the pact, generating uncertainty as to its effectiveness. Although the long-awaited signature was eventually carried out in Marrakech, in the end there were far fewer signatories than expected during the negotiations. Why this rejection by some countries? And the neutrality or indifference of others? Why the multiple debates that have taken place in various parliamentary chambers around the world in relation to the pact? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this analysis.
Before addressing the covenant itself, it is important to differentiate between the concepts of "migrant" and "refugee". A migrant is defined as a person who arrives in a country or region other than his or her place of origin to settle there temporarily or permanently, often for economic reasons and generally with the goal aim of improving his or her standard of living. While the concept of refugee makes reference letter to people fleeing armed conflict, violence or persecution and are therefore forced to leave their home country to ensure their own safety. The reasons for persecution can be of many different types: ethnic, religious, gender, sexual orientation, among others. In all of them, these causes have given rise to well-founded fears for their lives, which, after due process, make them "refugees" in the eyes of the international community.
It should be noted that this covenant deals only with the rights of migrants, since for refugees there is already the binding historical reference of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 amendmentprotocol , both signed and ratified by a large majority of UN member states. In addition, it should be mentioned that, simultaneously with the elaboration of the migration pact, a similar non-binding pact on refugee issues was also drawn up. This pact was supported by a large majority of States, with only two votes against (USA and Hungary) and three abstentions (Dominican Republic, Libya and Eritrea). Therefore, it could be concluded that at least in subject of refugees most countries do not seem to have any problem; as far as migrants are concerned, the opinion seems to change quite a lot.
The origins of the text date back to the 2016 New York Declaration on the Rights of Migrants and Refugees, which proposed the elaboration of both covenants - on the one hand the one concerning refugees, and on the other hand, the one on migration - as a further initiative of the implementation of the diary 2030. Since then, both documents were gradually elaborated until the text of the one that concerns us was finalized in July 2018.
The document, of a non-binding nature, consists of several parts. The first, commonly referred to as the "Chapeau", is simply a statement of shared values that all States in the international community are supposed to possess. It is followed by a list of 23 objectives, mainly at subject of international cooperation, largely through the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a subsidiary body of the United Nations. Finally, the text explains how the periodic review of the progress of the signatory States with regard to the 23 objectives is to be carried out.
The most controversial part throughout and after the negotiations is the Chapeau, especially for equating the rights of migrants and refugees. The document as a whole is also criticized for not clearly distinguishing the rights of regular migrants from those of irregular migrants. Finally, another highly controversial measure was the call for signatory countries to facilitate a greater issue of visas.
Other important points of the text attracted substantial support agreement, although they were not spared the criticism of the more conservative governments: among them the guarantee of good conditions and care for migrants in cases of deportation, the principle of non-refoulement applied to migrant deportations (the non-refoulement of migrants to conflict zones), the granting of social rights to migrants in the countries where they are, the creation of a better network of international cooperation in subject of migrants under the administration of the IOM, as well as the creation of measures to combat discrimination against migrants.
During the negotiations only two countries explicitly showed an aversion to treaty-making. Sharing the position of Orbán's Hungary was Trump's USA, which did not even bother to participate in the negotiations. The then US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, took a strong stand against the agreement. "The U.S. prides itself on its migratory origins, but it will be the Americans themselves who will decide how to control their borders and who can enter," Haley declared, emphasizing the U.S. interest in making its national sovereignty prevail. The US ended up not signing the document.
In addition to the reasons provided by the Trump Administration, the loss of IOM leadership by the US to Portugal's António Vitorino candidate - and thus the loss of control over the implementation of the pact - may also have played a role. Perhaps not so much in the primary decision not to participate in the negotiations of the pact, as in the final attitude of not signing it. Likewise, it is striking that several countries that at first seemed to support the pact ended up withdrawing, as in the case of Brazil after Jair Bolsonaro's inauguration, or not signing, such as Chile or the Dominican Republic, which had not initially opposed the proposal. This lack of adhesion would be justified, according to some of the negotiators, by the persuasion attempts of US diplomats, although this US effort does not seem to have been limited to the Latin American sphere. Similarly, it is worth mentioning that the decision of the Dominican delegation was also largely influenced by internal pressures from some groups in the legislature.
"Hungary could never accept such a partisan, biased and pro-migration document. Migration is a dangerous phenomenon". So began the speech of Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjaártó during the celebration of the end of the pact negotiations on July 13. Hungary, together with the USA, was one of the few countries that opposed the proposal from the beginning, but the Magyar representation, in contrast to the US, did take part in the negotiations. The fact that the Magyar representation took such a different position from the outset compared to the other EU member states meant that the seat assigned to the European diplomatic corps was empty during the entire negotiations.
However, Hungary was not the only European country to take such a radical position on agreement. It is worth noting that, once the negotiations were over, along with Hungary there were four other countries in the General Assembly opposed to the pact: Poland, the USA, the Czech Republic and Israel. In addition, twelve more abstained, including several EU members, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia and Romania, while Slovakia absented itself from the vote.
In several of these countries there was a bitter parliamentary discussion . In Belgium, which eventually accepted the text, Prime Minister Charles Michel lost his coalition government for having signed the pact, as the New Flemish Alliance, his main ally in the Executive, refused to ratify the document. In the Bundestag there was also some controversy caused by Alternative für Deutschland and some CDU members, although the adoption was finally approved after a vote in which a majority of 372 in favor, against 153 votes against and 141 abstentions, ended up approving the measure. In Latvia, the Riga parliament clearly rejected the agreement, as did the governments of Bulgaria, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Italy and Switzerland did not accept the pact at first, but the Executives of both states have referred the decision to their respective parliaments for final say. In the rest of Europe, the pact was accepted without major problems, despite the fact that in almost all national parliaments, far-right or right-wing conservative parliamentary groups raised objections.
China, Russia and others
The positions of other countries should also be highlighted. Australia was the first to withdraw its support for the pact after the negotiations; it justified its exit by stating that its current system of border protection is totally incompatible with some parts of the pact, a security invocation also used by Israel. China and Russia ended up signing the pact, but reiterated their refusal to comply with several of the objectives. Finally, practically all the countries of Africa and the Middle East supported the initiative, without raising any particular resistance, probably due to the fact that these are regions where the most significant migratory flows originate.
BAD FOR THE EU AND FOR THE UN
At final, the difficulty of a global migration pact lies in the concern with which many migrant-receiving countries view these movements of people. The reluctance of European countries is largely due to the migratory crisis in the Mediterranean, caused by the various conflicts in the Maghreb and the Middle East; in the case of the United States, it would be motivated by the migratory flows to its border with Mexico from Central and South America. In general, all the countries that resisted the adoption of agreement have in recent years been destination points for massive immigration, against which they have established strict border controls; in these societies the civil service examination to such an open-minded proposal as the one promoted by the United Nations, despite not being binding, has been seen as normal.
On the European scene, the different positions taken by the EU member states could be a bad sign for European integration, as once again the European External Action Service seems to have failed to create a common position for the EU. The fact that European representation was not present from the outset, due to Hungary's initial unwillingness to change its position, calls into question the common diplomatic service. Moreover, the initial common position that the other 27 EU states seemed to have, apart from the Magyar position, completely vanished at the end of the process, as several of them ended up dissociating themselves from agreement. This marked a clear division within the EU on migration, an issue on which there are already quite a few open debates in the European institutions.
In general, despite the large issue of signatory countries, taking into account all the civil service examination created and the political crises that occurred in some countries, the initiative on migration could be classified as of doubtful effectiveness, and in some aspects even as a failure on the part of the UN. It is evident that the United Nations seems to have lost some of its ability to promote its global diary , as it used to do until a decade ago. Probably ten years ago, the West would have unanimously accepted the migration proposals of University Secretary; today, however, there is a greater division among Western countries, as well as within their own societies, among which there is skepticism towards the organization itself.
After all, it is clear that among the countries that have opposed a global migration pact, a certain alignment against the idealistic approach is beginning to be noticed at International Office, while at the same time we see an enhancement of the attitude known as realist: just look at Trump's USA, Salvini's Italy, Orbán's Hungary, Bolsonaro's Brazil and Netanyahu's Israel, to cite the most emblematic cases.
In the future, the UN will probably have to adapt its projects to the new international political reality if it hopes to maintain its influence among its member states. Will the UN be able to adapt to this new wave of realist conservatism? Undoubtedly, interesting times await us for the next decade on the international scene...
(1) Against: Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Poland, United States. Abstaining: Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Chile, Italy, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Romania, Singapore and Switzerland.