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    Louise Arbour and the Secretary General's Report on Global Migration

    By Sammy Witt

    Last Monday I got to engage in a dialogue between NGO Reps/Civil Society and Louise Arbour. The event, which took place at the Church Center for the UN, a space many NGOs use, was a discussion built around an interview with Louise Arbour.

    Louise was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2004 until 2008. She is also one of the former Chief Prosecutors of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (that I recently wrote about) and Rwanda. Currently she is the UN Special Representative for International Migration. After having been around the UN System or a while now, she has a lot to say.

    She has done a lot to improve the international justice system in regards of Sexual Violence and Homophobia.

    Louise's presence and reputation managed to fully fill the room. Many people, mostly women, as always with the Church Center meetings, came. Half of them I recognized, mostly from the NGO Group on Migration.

    Louise came that day to inform us about the Global Compact on Migration, to hear what we have to say about it, and to take our concerns into consideration. The UN is after all made up in a way, that’s supposed to include and represent all of humanity, not just its elites.

    So what is the Global Compact we were discussing? The Global Compact for Migration will be the first, intergovernmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration.

    What really makes it special is its never before used holistic approach, which means, that the Member States aren’t just focusing on refugees or illegal immigration, but mostly on legal migration and people that have a hard time fitting in boxes. The idea is to truly understand migration as a universal and very dynamic natural thing happening all around the world.

    The Secretary General's report should not be a reiteration of already agreed commitments. It’s supposed to be completely new. Many commitments have already been made, but all of them focus on the attempts of western countries to protect against illegal immigrants.

    Illegal and legal migration are strongly connected; Louise agrees, that making legal immigration easier is a good way to prevent illegal immigration.

    But with this Compact, which is supposed to include such a large variety of issues, no one really has the luxury of fleshing out. Some issues will have to be cut from the final draft. This might unfortunately include the problems of unaccompanied minors and the situations regarding their families and getting them reconnected. The people in charge of the final report feel that this is an issue that enough reports and agreements have been written on.

    At my meeting, many were very concerned for the rights of climate displaced people, a group ignored or undefined.

    Louise Arbour seems to have developed a certain hatred of definitions though. She believes that debates about different categories of migrants slow us down and that we need a humanitarian approach. Meaning, that we prioritize helping people over discussing their different statuses.

    We must remember, that migration is an amazing tool for development, and that it works best if we create the greatest access for the greatest number.

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