Vatican lauded for role in UN deal on migration

When the draft of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration was finalised at the United Nations last month, it was considered a major feat by international delegations who have worked the past two years to achieve consensus on an issue where countries around the world struggle to find agreement.

Aug 16, 2018

By Christopher White
When the draft of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration was finalised at the United Nations last month, it was considered a major feat by international delegations who have worked the past two years to achieve consensus on an issue where countries around the world struggle to find agreement.

The compact’s finalisation is also a victory in which, according to multiple parties involved, the Holy See deserves considerable credit for serving as a mediating force.

Efforts toward the Global Compact date back to a September 2016 U.N. Summit on Refugees and Migrants, which resulted in the New York Declaration calling for a Global Compact that would “reaffirm, and… fully protect, the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status” to be produced no later than September 2018.

During that same period, the global situation of migrants intensified, at times threatening to unravel the entire process. Yet, in the end, heads of states and government representatives from 191 countries managed to agree on broad principles for cooperation as they seek to protect the rights of migrants and their families, to improve their safety, and seek to govern their vulnerable situations.

In interviews with Crux, activists and participating country delegates alike chronicled a diverse, and, at times, unwieldy coalition of nations held together by the moral authority of the Catholic Church, insisting that migrants are individuals with human dignity and deserving of protection regardless of their legal status.

Building Bridges
While the two-year process was inching along, the final document was divided into two phases — consultation and negotiation, But before the official debates could even begin in January 2018, the compact received its largest blitz of media attention when the Trump administration announced last December that it would no longer participate.

Although then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the process would undermine the United States’ sovereignty, Catholic and non-Catholic leaders fired back, saying not only had they rushed to judgment on a document that was far from being finalised, but that withdrawal from the compact went against the United States’ own self-interest.

As the exit of the US loomed large over the negotiations phase — and the global situation of migrants continued to underline just what was at stake — various participants told Crux that the Holy See served as a stabilising presence that sought to build bridges, emphasising not only areas of agreement amid a background of contention, but also reminding countries of their pre-existing commitments under international law.

According to Kevin Appleby, who participated in the process through the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN), “The Holy See was consistent in upholding the rights of migrants and reminding member states of their obligation for the protection of human life and dignity.”

“They didn’t shy away from that, and they didn’t blink in their advocacy of migrants, so it helped balance out other voices,” he said.

Appleby described an environment of various countries posturing for political attention, in which the Holy See sought to remind participants of the principles at stake.

“The compact was negotiated in a difficult global environment where xenophobia was on the rise, spreading in Europe and other nations around the world. That translated into a more difficult environment in the negotiations room,” he told Crux.

Other delegates, who spoke with Crux in order to continue to operate at the United Nations in a neutral and non-partisan manner, said the Holy See’s approach was marked by a person-centred approach and working together with all involved for the sake of the common good.

As a result of its particular status, one delegate noted that for the Holy See, “during the negotiations, they were not positioned in a particular bloc — it wasn’t a matter of north versus south, or developed world versus the developing world. They were right in the middle.”

Msgr Robert Vitillo, Secretary General of the Geneva-based International Catholic Migration Commission, told Crux that when the Holy See would address the body, all participating countries would stop to listen.

Not only was such a response rare in his view, he went on to recall one session where he overheard a delegate remark “I could hug the Holy See,” after their intervention.

“You don’t hear that very often,” he added.-- Crux Now

Total Comments:0

Name
Email
Comments