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Edited by Professor Elspeth Guild, Queen Mary University of London and Dr Tugba Basaran, Centre d’Etudes sur les conflits, la liberté et la sécurité, Paris; visiting scholar Harvard University.


In this contribution to the negotiations of a UN Global Compact Migration that the reader will find by clicking here, a number of academics and practitioners based at different institutions and different countries have come together to provide their initial views and comments on the first draft. The objective of this document that does not reflect the position of the Odysseus Network as such is to provide an initial response to the Zero Draft from academia and civil society which examine what we consider to be the key parts of the Zero Draft. For each section examined we provide our personal views on the advantages and weaknesses inherent in the approach and some commentary explaining briefly the reasons for our positions. This paper is not intended to be a detailed examination of every aspect of the Zero Draft and should be read together with the Draft.

The emphasis in the preamble of the Zero Draft on existing human rights standards and their applicability to migrants is very important. Indeed, more concentration on the existing UN human rights standards, starting of course with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and all the conventions which provide specificity to it must be at the centre of the Compact. The Global Compact must be guided by the New York Declaration that was agreed by consensus of Member States at the General Assembly meeting in September 2016. Negotiations on the Compact itself cannot permit a small number of States to alter the content of what was originally agreed. The New York Declaration must provide a framework for the Compact, especially in regard to Human Rights. It would be unacceptable if the final version of the Compact gave even the appearance of moving away from the existing obligations of states to protect and deliver human rights for migrants (as well as citizens). Fuller references to the core international human rights treaties would be welcome here rather than a selective approach taken in preamble 1.

The vision and guiding principles of the Zero Draft include three sections – common understanding, shared responsibilities and unity of purpose. All three reflect a common approach – states must work together on issues around migration as migration is normal, advantageous for countries and part of international prosperity. It is also important that state authorities remember that the only thing which divides their citizens from being migrants (or foreigners) is the international border. Everyone can be a migrant by reason of crossing an international border and residing outside his or her country of nationality. How this person, citizen of one country and subject to the immigration rules of another is treated is a matter of international relations. It is right that the UN is seeking new ways to diminish friction which arises from time to time regarding migrants and to ensure that states deliver their human rights duties including to migrants who are equally the beneficiaries of human rights conventions. The centrality of those human rights obligations needs to be highlighted in the Compact.

Given the new focus on information gathering, sharing and knowledge building, which is evident throughout the preamble and draft objectives, the Compact must address the data protection rights of migrants themselves. The necessity of firewalls to ensure that data regarding migrants is not being shared across States without permission, is absent from the current draft but is essential to protect their privacy.

In the following sections, expert academics and members of civil society provide their perspectives on the positive and negative elements of key objectives set out in the Zero Draft. In the final section, there is an overview of the implementation and follow up proposed in the Zero Draft. Our intention is to contribute to the debate, including at our summer school that will take place like every year in Brussels from 2 to 13 July 2018.

The full text of this initial commentary on the Zero Draft can be found HERE.