What is a Compact? Migrants’ Rights and State Responsibilities Regarding the Design of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

35 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2017

See all articles by Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen

Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen

Danish Institute for Human Rights

Elspeth Guild

Queen Mary University of London - School of Law

Violeta Moreno-Lax

Queen Mary Law School

Marion Panizzon

University of Bern Law School

Isobel Roele

Queen Mary, University of London

Date Written: October 11, 2017

Abstract

On 19 September 2016, in response to the large movements of refugees and migrants around the world, the UN General Assembly held its first ever summit dedicated to this topic. The outcome was the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which not only reaffirms the importance of existing legal instruments to protect refugees and migrants, but also foresees two new global Compacts; one on refugees, and one on safe, orderly and regular migration. Both compacts are scheduled to be adopted by the General Assembly in the summer of 2018. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is responsible for the negotiation of the Compact on Refugees. The Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is primarily in the hands of the UN Special Representative for International Migration, assisted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which became a UN related organisation in July of 2016.

While both these organisations have expressed much enthusiasm for the prospects of these new agreements in responding to the current challenges surrounding migration and refugee protection, the final content and resultant impact of each compact are as of yet uncertain. More fundamentally, there is little clarity on exactly what kind of international agreement a compact is, and where it sits in relation to existing instruments of international law and international relations. The term appears to have arrived fairly recently in international and regional discussions as an increasingly popular political tool with restricted legal content.

The objective of this working paper is to examine what a compact is, how it relates to other international instruments, and what, if any, normative implications follow from such an instrument. The working paper secondly analyses the likely impact of the Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration on human rights of migrants by examining the role of related UN compacts, the negotiation process for the Global Compact on Migration so far, as well as the political context in relation to other agreements in this area. Our concern is that inter-state agreements which concern the rights of individuals (in this case migrants) must take forms which complement existing international legal obligations of states. These new forms of agreement are welcome if their content raises standards of treatment of migrants above the existing floor of rights contained in international conventions. They are a threat, however, to the UN human rights conventions if they, either intentionally or unintentionally, appear to lower existing standards of human rights.

Keywords: Governance, Migration, Refugee, Human Rights

Suggested Citation

Gammeltoft-Hansen, Thomas and Guild, Elspeth and Moreno-Lax, Violeta and Panizzon, Marion and Roele, Isobel, What is a Compact? Migrants’ Rights and State Responsibilities Regarding the Design of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (October 11, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3051027 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3051027

Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen

Danish Institute for Human Rights ( email )

Wilders Plads 8K
Copenhagen K, 1403
Denmark

Elspeth Guild (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London - School of Law ( email )

Mile End Road
London, E1 4NS
United States

Violeta Moreno-Lax

Queen Mary Law School ( email )

Mile End Rd
Mile End Road
London, London E1 4NS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.qmul.ac.uk/staff/morenolax.html

Marion Panizzon

University of Bern Law School ( email )

Institute of Public Law
Schanzeneckstrasse 1
Bern, CH-3012
Switzerland
++41 1 31 631 4199 (Phone)
++41 31 631 3630 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://nccr-onthemove.ch/home/

Isobel Roele

Queen Mary, University of London ( email )

Lincoln's Inn Fields
Mile End Rd.
London, E1 4NS
United Kingdom

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