Almost lost in the highly toxic, politicized atmosphere which has been our lot for years on end and a variety of Christmas sounds is one of the most important documents which the United Nations initiated and nursed for years was finally crafted in Morocco two weeks ago.
With 170 members signing, this document, Global Compact on Migration, will now serve as an instrument to assist governments and migrants’ rights entities in devising ways to fully implement the 1990 enacted UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers Convention.
Thanks to the deliberate and high-minded intervention of the Philippines through our then Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and his ragtag staff, now Foreign Affairs Secretary TeddyBoy Locsin, we will have every reason to ensure that the years of hard work done by earlier missions and our own network of migrants’ rights advocates will finally get due recognition. This is one solid achievement which should prod us to lead the charge in getting ASEAN and as many of the 110 countries hosting the 10-million (and counting) Filipino diaspora to put into practice the initiatives suggested in the Compact.
Such a task will not be easy specially at this time when even the most advanced countries which have heretofore been havens for migrants are being blinded by isolationist thinking. Foremost of these is the United States, a country populated and prospered by migrants of all races, creed and color, which is now being torn between isolationism and its established history of accommodation and acceptance. This nation of immigrants, as the well-loved President John F. Kennedy wrote in his book of the same name, is now on the verge of descending into a country wary if not openly fearful of immigrants. It is as if the lights of safe and caring entry of that iconic symbol of migrants not only in the United States but in the whole world—the Statue of Liberty—is now dimming with President Trump’s “America First” rhetoric.
It will truly be a pity if the US, the bastion of freedom in all its forms, will now throw into the dustbin the famous inscription at the base of the statue written by Emma Lazarus, a New Yorker of consequence, a woman to the manor born as her friends said, as part of the fund raising for its erection would now be cavalierly disregarded. That powerful inscription which reads in part “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores” has been the migrants’ creed for years since 1883.
It is not only the United States among the G20 group of developed nations which has now sounded the alarm to the migrants’ despair. Members of the European Union have been deluged with accusations of going back on their earlier commitments to accept migrants as both a salving presence and a practical alternative to their requirements for workers in both public and private sectors since their population has slowly but surely aged.
With this compact, Secretary Locsin noted in his speech before the UN migrants rights convention in Morocco, migrants, whether temporary (as in those under specific contracts) or permanent (as in those who have taken residence in the host countries),and the receiving nations will now share a document which balances the concerns of the host countries with those of their migrant population.
“We have defeated the notion,” Secretary Locsin emphasized in that Morocco convention, “that migration is bad, quite the contrary. And we did that with facts and not frightful fantasies of losses of jobs no Westerner would take. And we did it with reason by showing that migrants have been useful additions to host countries. Not fear but facts shaped our perception, reason and passion distinguished discussion at the UN, if nowhere else, and we should be proud to acknowledge that a decent regard for the opinion of mankind dictated our decision to adopt the Global Compact today.”
Proceeding further in elaborating the moral and practical sharing that ensues in migration flows, Secretary Locsin emphasized that no one country address it alone, nor should any leading state take the lead in saying what can be done for and about it. Migration as a shared responsibility, Locsin emphasized, is the message of the Global Compact for Migration. And that includes addressing the fears of some peoples and states that migration flows as these are today would derogate their own “nationhood and unique standing as a people and as a state.” By the wording of the compact, it is not and will not be the case.
As Locsin noted, sovereignty is both a duty of care as it is an assertion of unlimited freedom of action. How that will translate in real life, in the day-to-day struggles of people fleeing persecution, organized crime and poverty, the impact of natural disasters or simply for want of a better state in life without enhancing the fears and confusion in peoples and states, whether migrant receiving or originating, is the challenge that we, all of us, must endeavor to overcome. We will surely be better off if we let our better angels prevail amid the furtiveness and fury of those who do not care a whit about their fellow human beings. Let the sharing begin in earnest now. Not later.