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UN Promotes Welcoming the Stranger Through Global Compact

by | May 11, 2017 | News, Vincentian Family at the U.N. | 2 comments

Last year, each branch of the Vincentian family was asked to work on the theme, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” to mark the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian charism.  At the United Nations, we are called to “leave no one behind.”  Both of these themes connect in a very powerful way with the issue of migration. I would like to share a little with you about the Global Compact on Migration.

Peter Thompson

On September 19, 2016, the UN adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, through which its member states committed themselves to developing a global compact for safe and orderly migration.   The UN hopes to create the Global Compact on Migration by the end of 2018.  Currently, it is conducting dialogues about migration in various parts of the world, to obtain input which would shape the compact.  The compact is vital, because as noted recently by UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson, there are more than a billion migrants across the world.

Mr. Thompson appointed Ambassador Juan Jose Gómez Camacho of Mexico, and Ambassador Jürg Lauber of Switzerland, as co-facilitators to lead the compact’s preparatory process, including consultations, and the intergovernmental conference in 2018 at which the global compact is expected to be adopted.

William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Migration Organization (IMO), opened an April 18-19 dialogue on the global compact.  The discussion took place at UN headquarters in New York.

“Too many lives and futures depend on us. We cannot fail.” – William Lacy Swing, Director General, IMO

“In IOM’s view, the Global Compact presents an historical opportunity to achieve a world in which migrants move as a matter of genuine choice rather than necessity; a world of opportunity to migrate through safe, orderly and regular channels; and a world in which migration is well governed and is able to act as a positive force for individuals, societies and States,” said Swing.

According to Swing, the development of the global compact on migration also presents the international community with a watershed opportunity to make a crucial contribution to global governance.  It is expected to provide a unifying framework of common principles, commitments, and understanding among member states on all aspects of international migration.  While states retain the sovereign discretion to determine which non-nationals may enter and stay in their territory, consistent with the requirements of international law, there is great scope for improving international cooperation on migration, Swing noted.

Central to this vision are four core elements:

  1. Protecting the rights of migrants
  2. Facilitating safe, orderly, and regular migration
  3. Reducing the incidences and impact of forced and irregular migration
  4. Addressing mobility consequences of natural and human-induced disasters

In response to the fourth element, the Daughters of Charity co-sponsored a side event at the UN on Monday which focused on the realities of climate-induced displacement, rights of various indigenous peoples affected by climate change, and responses to the issue. Speakers highlighted experiences on the island nation of Tuvalu, in the Amazon and Alaska, environmental concerns, and rights which must be protected.

Migration is a significant socio-economic issue that will only grow in importance. Regrettably, debates on migration are often heavily politicized and increasingly pervaded by xenophobia.  The UN is promoting efforts to combat xenophobia through its Together program.  Together is a global initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life.  Meanwhile, the common phrase heard in the conference rooms at the UN are, “Change the narrative,” meaning we must bring forward positive contributions that migrants bring to new locations.

One of the greatest challenges for those who seek to foster rational debate and the formulation of balanced policy on migration is the lack of an evidence-based platform from which to work.  Because we have reached the highest number of people on the move since World War II, it is very difficult to obtain accurate data about the realities in any one of our countries.

Another key challenge for the global compact on migration is balancing the migration policy and governance interests of both the countries of origin and destination.   To this end, there must be stronger partnerships on migration between member states in recognizing the premise that migration should be seen as potentially mutually beneficial to all parties involved.

Women, walking with what possesions they can carry, arrive in a steady trickle at an IDP camp erected next to an AMISOM military base near the town of Jowhar, Somalia, on November 12. Heavy rains in Somalia, coupled with recent disputes between clans, has resulted in over four thousand IDPs seeking shelter at an AMISOM military base near the town of Jowhar, with more arriving daily. AU UN IST Photo / Tobin Jones

The global compact has the potential to provide the international community with a fresh approach to governing migration. It must stress the importance of adopting a holistic methodology.

The contribution and participation of all relevant bodies is essential to the compact’s review process. The global compact could also assist

states in improving international cooperation on migration governance and could build on existing cooperation.

Strong partnerships are needed between states, civil society, the private sector, and other stakeholders.  In this regard, the Global Compact on Migration presents a valuable opportunity to the international community to move away from reactive approaches (all words and no action) towards a common future in which migration is safe, orderly, and regular and to determine the steps to be taken to realize the vision.

How can the Vincentian Family contribute?   In the spirit of the Founders, we are called to welcome the stranger.   

  1. Our direct service with people on the move is essential.
  2. We must be strong advocates by calling each one of our governments to implement the global compact on migration to which they have committed. Such advocacy is essential to the building of a world that is just and more equal, where no one is left behind.

Said Mr. Swing of the Global Compact on April 18, “Too many lives and futures depend on us. We cannot fail.”



  1. Dee Mansi

    Sr Catherine many thanks for this clear exposition of the background and foreground of the global compact on migration. In practical terms, is there a mechanism you can suggest for us to ‘call on our governments to implement the global compact..’ ?

  2. Sister Mary Walz, DC

    Thanks, Catherine, for this compelling explanation. I was particularly moved by the picture of the Somali women carrying what possessions they could in order to get to safety. Who of us would (or could) do that unless we were desperate?

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