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Update on the UN Network on Migration by the Coordinator

Palais des Nations, Geneva,

It is a great pleasure to meet with you today, at the end of a long, busy – and productive – year.

I propose to take this opportunity to bring you up to date with the activities of the United Nations Network on Migration in this, its first year of existence.

This will include an overview of where we are in terms of setting up this new way of working.  I will talk about the global workplan we presented in the middle of the year and where we stand on beginning its implementation.  And I will brief on the progress made in the establishment of the Start-up Fund.  

Today is also an opportunity to inform you of the outcome of two meetings earlier this week: the inaugural meeting of the Fund Steering Committee; and the first annual meeting of the Network.  

And I propose also to look ahead to 2020 and what I see the major milestones and collective challenges to be.

One year ago exactly, many of us were leaving Marrakech heading home after a truly historic meeting in which the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was adopted.

We must pause to celebrate its anniversary even as we are conscious of the immense work that lies ahead in bringing this text fully to life.

Much has been said about the Compact’s rich substantive content; of its comprehensive approach to migration in all its dimensions.

Here, I would like to draw attention to three other features which I believe are just as important and which are guiding us in the Network, as we move forward.

First, is the GCM’s multi-dimensional notion of cooperation. Of our appreciation that no state can develop its approaches to migration in isolation. Hence, the emphasis in the text on whole-of-government and whole-of society approaches and of the importance of stakeholders and migrants themselves as vital partners. 

This emphasis we can see, of course, in Objective 23.  We see it, too, in the very concept of the Start-up Fund. And we see it, of course, in the Secretary-General’s decision to establish the Network as the system’s commitment to ensure it is as effective and coherent as possible in the support it is able to provide in this field.

We see it also in the notion in the Compact that cooperation can take place at all levels – local, country, regional and global.  And that, going forward, we should build on expertise already garnered, and on those institutions and fora, which have been built up in past years dedicated to furthering the pursuit of migration that is safe, orderly and regular.

We have sought to be true to that ethos throughout our work: in the design of the Fund and its Steering Committee, which privileges broad participation; and in the transparency with which the Network is committed to undertaking its work; its determination to ensure that this work is focused on the country level, where needs are most prevalent, not simply in Geneva and New York; and its commitment to working alongside, not duplicating, the efforts of others.

Secondly, the GCM is a principled text.  It is grounded both in a respect for national sovereignty and a commitment to upholding the existing international legal framework you have collectively established.  

In this regard, the Compact’s Guiding Principles are truly that in that they present a collective checklist to help steer the actions of each and every one of us in moving forward with the GCM agenda in a manner which is respectful of state prerogatives, inclusive, compliant with our obligations, and which places a premium on focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable.

It is no surprise, therefore, that both the Network and the modus operandi of the Fund have embraced these principles in the way they work.  

And, finally, the Compact presents a framework both for the present and the future.  It is a document at once both sufficiently detailed to assist now and also one which rightly anticipates its utility in years ahead and the need for us to continue to learn from each other.

This is clear in the call for a Global Knowledge Platform and Connection Hub, for example.  And it is central to the farsighted commitment of Member States to review progress in implementing the Compact – both regionally and globally – on a quadrennial basis. The regional review, of course, will be upon us next year.

This vision we, too, have sought to borrow for both the Network and the Fund.  That is why for each we have built into their ways of working opportunities to reflect on how we are doing, what needs to be done better and how we may adjust our approaches accordingly.

Excellencies,

I turn now to the Network and its activities this past year.

Much effort has gone into establishing this new way of working.  I am grateful to all members of the Network, and in particular those on its Executive Committee at both principals and working levels, for their hard work and commitment to this endeavour.

Here, I would highlight three particular developments. The global workplan; the increase in the number of UN regional and country-level migration coordination mechanisms; and moves to strengthen the UN’s collective voice on migration.

Many of you will now be broadly familiar with the workplan.

It seeks to be both substantive, country-focused, and adaptable, while focusing on the broad range of issues covered by the Compact.

Substantive in that it presents a number of thematic areas on which the United Nations system believes it can contribute.  These are six in number:

  • Developing and implementing a programme to build and enhance national capacities in data collection, analysis and dissemination;
  • The promotion and utilization of alternatives to detention;
  • Strengthening state capacity to expand regular migration pathways, including admission and stay, and to address and reduce vulnerabilities faced by migrants;
  • Developing guidance on bilateral labour migration agreements, tested in migration corridors;
  • Ensuring returns are safe and dignified, and reintegration is sustainable; and,
  • Improving our common understanding of safe and inclusive services for migrants.

Work is now underway on developing benchmarks for implementation in each of these areas. Working groups are being set up, driven by Network members – both in the Executive Committee as well as more broadly – and by diverse stakeholders.

These working groups are developing the tools and guidance that will support the operational roll-out of the GCM from a thematic perspective.  Through the provision of best practices and concrete illustrations, thematic working groups will help clarify what implementation of the GCM looks like.

Here our commitment will be on timebound deliverables with the Network Executive Committee reviewing progress on a regular basis. Our commitment, too, is to ensure you have regular updates on work in these areas.

The workplan is also focused on country level, recognizing that it is for Member States, principally, to drive implementation of the Compact.

Thus, much of our focus will be on working to enhance UN system-wide capacity to support States in this regard, as well as directly to States in developing GCM implementation plans.

It has been extremely gratifying to see during the course of this year the strengthening, revitalization or creation of Network coordination mechanisms in a growing number of UN regional hubs and at the country level. These, supported globally, will be in the vanguard of our efforts to support States and other partners in moving forward.

An early priority in 2020 will be working within the system and with you to identify a small number of priority – or pilot – countries who can help lead the way. Given the scope and ambition of the Compact, through this focus we hope to be able to build up quickly a body of best practices and concrete illustrations which will help us collectively answer the question of what implementation of the GCM looks like.

These countries can help identify what works best in the design and implementation of GCM strategies including in the design of frameworks for enhanced international cooperation, through bilateral exchanges and other forms of partnership.

Pilot countries will be selected drawing from the following criteria:

  • Geographical balance: it is vital to the integrity of the process that the Compact’s global nature is reflected;
  • Substantive balance: that between the countries in question, there is a broad respect for the 360-degree approach inherent in the GCM;
  • The commitment, of course, of the host government;
  • The existence of a country-level UN migration coordination mechanism and the support of the Resident Coordinator, where applicable;
  • Synergies with other processes. For example, compatibility with UN planning cycles (the new Cooperation Frameworks), where applicable, and alignment with Universal Periodic Reviews.

And the workplan is highly adaptable. This is evident in the fact that much of its content remains to be filled in at the country level.  It is evident, too, in our commitment constantly to assess progress.  And it is evident in the third block of ‘pipeline’ activities: areas of focus which we believe merit attention when we have the capacity, and which will be constantly updated.

Your Excellencies,

The United Nations represents more than a collective of states and frameworks for action.  It represents, also, a body of law; a repository of experience and expertise; and a commitment to working for the betterment of us all, in particular those most in need of protection.

There is a danger, in a statement such as this focusing on process and the establishment of new structures, that we might forget what we are here for.  I do not want to fall into that danger.

The United Nations system, through the Network, is determined to speak up on behalf of those who lack the ability to be heard on their own. We will do so intelligently and sensitively and with an understanding both of our collective obligations under international law and the very real challenges of realizing them fully in all circumstances. We will do so in a manner that is at once both principled and constructive, looking not simply to criticize, but also to suggest alternative and effective courses of action.

The Principals of the Executive Committee have tasked the Network with developing a number of position papers in the coming months, on those aforementioned policy issues. These will be one important component in helping to advance our collective understanding of the challenges and opportunities which, collectively, we are facing.

Excellencies,

Turning now to the Fund, this represents one of the most concrete achievements of the past 12 months.

Established by the Principals of the Network Executive Committee when we first met in May, it was formally launched in New York in July, in the presence of the Deputy Secretary-General.

The objective of the Fund is not – cannot be – to replace existing funding streams.  Rather its goal is to incentivize cooperation and coherence in support of GCM implementation by funding joint initiatives.

Its importance goes beyond migration in that it is utterly aligned with the broader UN reform agenda.  It is consistent with the Funding Compact; aligned with the 2030 Agenda; and acknowledges the new role for Resident Coordinators.

Mandated by the General Assembly in the Global Compact, the Fund is an independent entity in its decision-making and is governed by a broad-based Steering Committee, which I chair, including all stakeholders (serving two-year terms on a staggered basis). The composition of the first Steering Committee is:

  • Member States: Ecuador, Morocco, Philippines
  • Donors: Germany, UK, Thailand
  • Stakeholders: Mayors Migration Council, the Special Rapporteur for the human rights of migrants, and the grassroots civil society organization, African Movement of Working Children and Youth.
  • UN Organizations: ILO, UN Women and WHO

I am grateful to them all for undertaking this responsibility.

This inclusive feature of its governance will be reflected in all aspects of the Fund’s working.

As you know, we have sought a capitalization for the first year of the Fund’s operations of $ 25 million.  We consider this to be a target at once both realistic and absorbable, but also indicative of a degree of ambition appropriate to the vision of the Compact. As the Fund begins operations through the financing of joint programming, as with history of other pooled funds, we hope and anticipate that we can expand this envelope.

To date signs are cautious but promising.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank, in particular, Germany and the UK, for being the first to commit to the Fund. The support – financial and political – given by these decisions is immense. 

And thanks, also, must go to Cyprus, France, Mexico, Spain, and Thailand for following suit. The confirmed pledges from these donors amount to a total of approximately US$ 8 million.  In addition to these pledges, we have also received in recent days expressions of interest from various additional countries.

Taking these into account, we estimate that we have now reached approximately 50% of our capitalization target for the first year of operations. The current steep upward trend is very encouraging. We are also reassured by the fact that the initial donor base is not limited to the traditional donors. Its diversity is in line with the spirit of the global compact and reflects the collective commitment to its implementation. We trust that more donors are going to join in the coming year, enabling the Fund to fulfil its potential.

Two days ago, the Steering Committee met here in Geneva for the first time. This inaugural meeting saw the adoption of all the rules and procedures of the Fund, which is now fully operational. The Steering Committee also adopted an ambitious timetable that will see the first joint programme concept notes being tabled at its next meeting scheduled on 2 April 2020. These concept notes, if deemed relevant to the Fund and worthy of investment, will help launch a pipeline of projects, providing a basis for initial allocation decisions and concrete examples of what the Fund could achieve with additional resources.

Bringing us up to date, and before turning to next year, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly report to you on the discussions which took place yesterday during the Network’s first annual meeting.

The meeting brought together approximately 160 UN Network and civil society colleagues. In a first closed session, the UN Network members focused on reviewing the Network’s current working arrangements and exploring ways to further enhance UN system collaboration as the Network moves towards implementation of the workplan in 2020 and gets ready to support Member States in their regional reviews of the GCM.

Discussions on the Network’s progress, its workplan and working groups, as well as the impact of the Network at the regional and country level were open to civil society and other stakeholders – who participated in large numbers and came in with a strong call for the Network not to forget about its main raison d’être: to ensure our efforts have positive impact on migrants’ lives;

I shall now turn to what I consider to be among our priorities for 2020, a year which I anticipate to be no less busy – arguably more so – than 2019.

If there is a leitmotif for the coming twelve months, I suggest it can be encapsulated in one word: implementation.

Implementation through the Fund.  Implementation with the support of the Network. And implementation through your commitment, collectively and individually, to the goals laid out in the Compact.

Here, I would like to say a few words on the regional review process which will take place for the first time next year.

This review presents us with a first opportunity to reflect on the progress to date in the implementation of the GCM and on what more needs to be done, within the context of individual regional dynamics.

The regional landscape is both complex and rich, with multiple opportunities for dialogue, exchanging experiences and identifying common goals.  Our collective challenge must be to ensure that all voices are heard, that the Guiding Principles provide a strong framework for our discourse, and that we effectively distil the many findings into end products which can help deliver tangible progress.

The Network, as requested, will support you in this process.  To that end, as its Coordinator, I recently wrote to the Executive Secretaries of all five UN regional economic commissions to begin a discussion of how best we can contribute.   Regional experts from the Network met in Geneva two days ago to discuss how the Network can best support Member States in their regional reviews of the GCM, including how we can strengthen UN system capacities and coordination, promote cross-fertilization amongst regions,  and support a review that recognizes both the Compact’s 360-degree nature and its guiding principles.

In conclusion, let me come back briefly to the reason why we are all here.

Huge progress has been made in recent years in highlighting the importance of migration as a global issue. For a long time this was in large part due to efforts outside of the United Nations system.

Here, I would like to acknowledge the work of the GFMD, amongst others, and look forward to attending the forthcoming summit in Quito.

In a few days, we will commemorate International Migrants Day.

The profile of migration has steadily gained increasing visibility and the Global Compact is but one latest – and truly significant – manifestation of that.

Much of this has been positive as we have expanded our understanding of the breadth of migration; of its global importance; and of the immense vitality that migrants can – and do – bring to their communities.

Whether causal or correlative or part of a broader set of dynamics, this heightened understanding of the benefits of migration has seen in parallel heightened tensions and anxiety around the same.

Worse, we have witnessed heightened incidents of tragedy, intensified polarization of debate, and a steady undercutting of our norms – which are not in opposition to, but rather support, our collective goals.

I say all this because I firmly believe that one of our ongoing challenges for next year, and potentially for some time, will be how best to navigate these complex waters. 

The aim cannot be to stop the debate.  But it can, and must be, to help frame it within a set of agreed parameters: of fact, of law, and of what works. 

That, in many ways, is what we - the United Nations Network on Migration - are committed to contributing towards.

Thank you.