A picture of a young refugee riding a bicycle, in a vast Syrian refugee camp
  Life in limbo at the Azraq Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Photo credit: Jamal Nasrallah/EPA

World leaders lack the political courage to agree a fair global share of migration

Article in The Conversation by Rosa Freedman
25 September, 2016

“On September 19 the UN General Assembly held a summit at which top UN staff in the field on refugees, human rights, migration and human trafficking emphasised the need for a better and more coordinated response to global migration. Discussions were planned during roundtable sessions focused on issues such as the causes and consequences of large movements of refugees and migrants, as well as sharing responsibility and protection for those people.

These are all crucial matters, but the UN is already known for providing a forum for discussions of key issues. The real test is whether these discussions produce any concrete changes. Judging by the negotiations on the draft declaration on migrants and refugees since it was published in early August, few real changes are likely to be implemented.

The draft declaration affirms humanitarian principles, but does little to go beyond existing words and phrases. There are legitimate concerns that the declaration may undermine countries’ existing human rights obligations towards migrants and refugees. By highlighting some obligations regarding water, sanitation, housing, food and health, and by stressing the need to protect vulnerable groups such as women and children, the text may be used by states as a tool for avoiding other human rights commitments to individuals within their countries. And by emphasising the role of non-state actors and the private sector, some countries may use the declaration as a method to shirk or pass on their human rights obligations.”

A realistic assessment. There’s an uphill battle raging and it’ll take time before societies and States become more open and welcoming to refugees and migrants, may be a generation. Despite a somewhat disappointing immediate result, it is good that, for the first time, States at the General Assembly pledged to enter a two year political process leading hopefully to commitments. Whether the later will materialise after two years remains to be seen, but several States are keen to obtain results. It was also heartwarming to see the level of mobilisation and preparation of civil society. And it was moving to hear the voice of two migrant workers at the podium of the General Assembly, a rare occurrence indeed.

To read the full article, please click here. 

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