A Critical Time for the Future of Migrant Rights

How the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights strengthens Migrant Rights Movements from the Local to the Global

Image: People's Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights of Global Coalition on Migration

On July 3rd-4th, migrant-rights organizations along with social movement allies from around the world will convene in Berlin for the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights (PGA). They will meet for two days to reflect on the state of migrant rights around the world, share organizing experiences, and strategize for a collective platform at the global level as governments plan to negotiate a Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and regular Migration in 2018. This year the PGA will take place after governments have met in Berlin from June 28-30 at the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) and the Civil Society Days (CSD). The PGA creates a parallel and independent space for centering the leadership of organized migrant networks themselves in shaping policies and building a broader movement rooted in human rights.

What is the Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration?

This year and next mark a critical turning point for migrant rights policies and migrant communities globally. The UN Summit addressing refugees and migrants last September launched plans for governments to develop two Global Compacts, one on refugees and the other on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration. Across all three processes – GFMD, CSD and PGA – the Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration will be the primary focus as global and regional consultations are already underway in 2017 leading to inter-governmental negotiations in 2018 in New York. Therefore, the PGA will focus on the big picture and the intersectionality of issues – looking at sustainable development and migrant organizing, as well as campaigns to counter racism and xenophobia that are rooted in institutional change and accountability.

The Context of Border Controls and Xenophobia

This moment poses great opportunities as well as many challenges towards advancing the rights of migrants. Existing national policies and regional agreements that focus on border controls and the criminalization of migrants are fueled by populist xenophobia and racism around the world. It is a difficult moment to negotiate an agreement that protects migrants’ rights rather than further criminalizing them simply for using irregular pathways, even though adequate regular pathways do not exist. While the perception of a refugee and migrant ‘crisis’ Europe in 2015-16 created an impetus for this initiative, the interests of governments and stakeholders driving the process are complex. Depending on what forms cooperation takes, states’ cooperation could be good for migrants, or bad. The compact could establish a framework and mechanisms for greater and better options for regular and safe migration, respect for human rights, and provide access to justice when rights are violated. Or states could set standards on returns/deportations that would make it easier to deport, to separate migrants from their families and return people to countries where they have few opportunities and may face significant risks. The compact could also end up supporting the expansion of highly restrictive circular labor migration programs that require migrants to give up fundamental rights and freedoms for the opportunity to work in another country.

Building Migrant-Centered Power and Strategy

For more than 10 years, since the 2006 UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, the PGA has been organized across various cities and regions during the GFMD to raise migrant and allied civil society voices. A growing network of organizations convene every year at the PGA to share their work, perspectives from the ground and recommendations for rights-respecting policies at the national, regional and global levels. In previous years, the PGA has done so immediately prior to the CSD and GFMD; this year, it will do so immediately afterwards – assessing the current situation and strategizing how to engage effectively in the regional consultations on the Global Compact that will be held in the coming months as well as thematic consultations and opportunities for advocacy with national governments.

As migrant rights advocates, allies and migrant communities themselves – this is a critical time for collective and strong advocacy to shape a Global Compact that will affect the lives of millions around the globe for decades to come. The PGA will provide a space for migrant communities and civil society groups to identify strategies to center the human rights of migrants in the Compact and beyond, increase safe mobility options, and raise the importance of migrant organizing for years to come.

For more information on the program and registration, please visit www.peoplesglobalaction.org

Written by:
Monami Maulik, International Coordinator, Global Coalition on Migration
Evalyn Tennant, Project Development Coordinator, Global Coalition on Migration


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