The Global Compact – Part 2: Canada’s role and MCC’s advocacy asks

Over the last year, MCC UN Office staff, Kati Garrison (Program and Advocacy Associate) and Abby Hershberger (Program Assistant), have been following the process of drafting the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) document (see Part 1 in this blog series). Both attended GCM negotiations to ensure to establish a connection between the high-level processes in New York with national governments, including the Canadian Mission, and MCC’s on the ground programs.

Throughout the GCM drafting process, Canada positioned itself at the forefront of the effort to create a framework that is beneficial to all. The MCC UN Office was pleased that many of Canada’s interventions addressed the importance of intersecting gender sensitive language in the GCM document. This contributed to a final draft that recognizes the additional challenges that women face when migrating. Many women and their children face obstacles when trying to confirm their nationality in a country of destination, which can leave them stateless and unable to access essential services. The finished text incorporates suggestions to remedying these challenges including, “ensuring that women and men can equally confer their nationality to children born in another state’s territory, especially in situations where a child would otherwise be stateless” (Objective 4e).

However, as we anticipate the installment of the GCM at the upcoming summit in Morocco in December, it is critical to keep momentum going behind member states like Canada and making the move from high level negotiations to practical steps. December’s summit will be more than just formalizing the GCM, as member states have been asked to submit proposals for specific actions to help put the principles of the compact in motion.

Leona and Bekah on Hill with Kati Garrison and Abby Hershberger from UN Office (2)

Abby Hershberger, Kati Garrison, Bekah Sears, Leona Lortie on Parliament Hill, August 2018

For that reason, at the end of August, Kati and Abby, along with MCC’s Ottawa Office staff, Bekah Sears (Policy Analyst) and Leona Lortie (Public Engagement and Advocacy Coordinator) reached out to Canadian Members of Parliament from various parties, to ensure the GCM and its principles were high on the Canadian government’s radar, and that Canada continues being a leader on global migration.

These are our three primary advocacy asks:

  1. Grant migrants access to basic services free from the risk of having their personal information shared with immigration enforcement officials.

Objective 15
The GCM acknowledges a shared responsibility among member states “to ensure that all migrants, regardless of their migration status, can exercise rights through safe access to basic services.”        

  1. Uphold the human right of non-refoulement.

Objective 21
Non-refoulement is a tenet of international human rights law that prohibits states from returning migrants to situations when there are “substantial grounds for believing that the person would be at risk of irreparable harm upon returning, including persecution, torture, ill-treatment or other serious human rights violations.” The principle remains contentious among some member states who want more control over how they conduct returns.

  1. Include civil society and migrant voices as integral components in implementing the GCM.

Implementation
The text of the GCM is lengthy and detailed, but the way member states implement the commitments will be the true test of the weight of its words. MCC, both the UN and Ottawa offices believe that effective action plans must include multiple actors, including civil society and migrant voices.

Our MCC team had productive and encouraging conversations with each MP office and is optimistic that Canada would indeed vote in favour of the GCM. We look forward to engaging in similar conversation in the month leading up to the GCM adoption in December with other member states and actors on the ground.

– By Abby Hershberger, Program Assistant, MCC United Nations Office

The Global Compact – Part 1: A truly global document

In 2015, the United Nations Refugee Agency declared the mass exodus of Syrians from their homes into neighboring nations to be “the world’s single largest refugee crisis for almost a quarter of a century.” Around the same time, increasing numbers of small-scale farmers in the Global South were seeing their crops stunted by climate change and choosing to seek a living elsewhere.

Increasingly, countries of transit are becoming countries of destination and former destination countries are growing more hostile, tightening border security and toughening migration policies. Politicians are building successful political platforms upon xenophobia and unsourced claims that immigrants are making society more dangerous.

Although migration has always been a constant presence, the past few years have highlighted how multi-faceted and even contentious the movement of people can be.

In the New York Declaration, agreed upon in October 2016, United Nations (UN) Member States committed to start formulating a global response to the current realities of migration, as well as a flexible framework that could accommodate future shifts in migration flows while upholding the safety and dignity of those on the move.

GCM_CoFacs

On July 13, 2018, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM) was finalized. The drafting of the GCM was the first time that UN Member States have collectively negotiated and created a document that considers migration holistically—from driving factors, to inclusion and social cohesion, to conduct in the case of return.

Not surprisingly, drafting such an extensive document among nearly two hundred uniquely situated Member States, including Canada, was an extraordinarily complex task. To ensure a comprehensive and cross-cutting document, the drafting process was divided into three phases of work.

The first two phases, consultations and stocktaking, were held to discuss what general topics should be included in the text. After the co-facilitators released the Zero Draft of the GCM in February 2018, they commenced the intergovernmental negotiations phase.

Negotiations took place at the UN Headquarters in New York for one week a month from February to July 2018. For up to eight hours a day during these weeks, member states, non-governmental organizations, civil society coalitions, and migrant advocates debated the text of the GCM.

The co-facilitators and member states finalized the wording of the GCM at the end of the July negotiations, and will formally adopt the text this December at the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, Morocco.

For a more detailed description of the GCM’s purpose and the GCM drafting process, read our blog post from last year or visit the MCC UN Office’s website. Stay tuned for Part 2 regarding Canada’s role and MCC advocacy asks relating to the Global Compact.

– By Abby Hershberger, Program Assistant, MCC United Nations Office

 

Why I advocate for human rights

My name is Leona Lortie and I have recently joined the MCC Ottawa Office team as the Public Engagement Coordinator. For my first contribution to this blog, my colleagues suggested that I share what I am passionate about, what brought me to this work. I thought I would share why I am an advocate for human rights.

In contemplating where our passions come from and why we do what we do, we often look to our childhoods. In my childhood, I was faced with several tensions, which formed me and led me to study history.

I grew up in Germany as a child of parents who arrived in Germany as Aussiedler (ethnic Germans who lived in Russia/Ukraine for about two centuries) only five years before my birth. One of these tensions was that I fully identified as being German, but I also found myself not completely fitting in.

Another tension I consistently struggled with as a child, was learning about German history and the contrast to the history of some of my own ancestors. During both world wars, German settlers in Russia were seen as a threat, thought to be aligned with German political views and likely to join German efforts when given the opportunity. My grandparents struggled to survive deportation, dispossession, starvation, arrest, and imprisonment.

Growing up in Germany in the 80s and 90s, I found it difficult to wrestle with a German identity. School curricula included in depth material about the rise of Nazism, the fallout of the war, and lessons learned from our history. I frequently asked myself what I would have done, if I had been alive during this time.

As a result, from a young age, I wondered about the role of the individual in the context of extreme political movements, like Fascism. How can and should individuals respond when our society or state turns to extremist ideologies?

At the heart of my curiosity was the desire to understand how it was possible for so many people to be complicit in acts of genocide. This played a significant role in my studies as well. My search for answers led me to research the formation of Germany and the rise of nationalism in Europe. I learned that Germany committed its first genocide in German South West Africa (GSWA), now Namibia, between 1904-08. While it has not received a lot of attention over the last century, at that time, the German public was widely aware of the genocide of the Herero and Nama.

DKZ Image April

April 1904 issue of Deutsche Kolonialzeitung, a german colonial newspapers, discussed the unrest in German South West Africa.

Average German nationals shared their opinions openly in colonial newspapers and encouraged harsher treatment of colonial subjects. National identity was wrapped up in competition with other powerful imperial nations and defined by exposing and extinguishing the other, the inferior. The public discourse relating to colonial subjects reflected overt racist, nationalist, and supremacist ideologies, which intensified over the following decades and created the environment that made the Third Reich possible.

The vast suffering, discrimination, and deaths of the world wars pushed the global leaders of the time to urgently work together for lasting peace. Seeing humanity at its worst created a desire to make drastic changes. This is the context in which the United Nations was formed – in the aftermath of the Second World War. In 1945 the UN Charter and in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlined the recognition of dignity and equality for all members of the human family in order to achieve freedom, justice, and peace.

san-francisco-conference

UN Photo. The San Francisco Conference, 1945: UN Charter is superimposed on the photo.

I find the history of the 20th century astounding. The United Nations was formed as a reaction to war and violence, realizing that what mattered was the value of the individual. If the rights of the individual are not recognized, defended, and protected, then we – the human family – will not find peace. This was a massive shift, one that we are still trying to process.

I am a human rights advocate because I want to learn from our history and remind others that cultural and religious differences must not make us complicit in denying dignity and equality for all. I am a human rights activist because I believe it to be the responsibility of all of us to stand up against injustice, violence, and extremism.

by Leona Lortie, Public Engagement and Advocacy Coordinator, MCC Ottawa Office

Prayer for World Refugee Day

June 20 is designated by the United Nations as World Refugee Day — a day to commemorate the strength, courage and resilience of refugees around the world. MCC offers worship resources to mark World Refugee Day with listening, learning, prayer, and giving. The following intercessory prayer was written by Brian Dyck, MCC Canada Refugee and Migration Coordinator. May you be inspired to offer hospitality and hope to refugees. 

 

Refugee

Prayer of Intercession

Our loving and compassionate God, we know you grieve

where there is violence,
where there is oppression,
where there is hatred
in the world.

We know you stand with the refugees in our world today, just as you stood with our ancestors in the faith who were compelled to flee their homes,

like Moses,
like Ruth,
like Jeremiah,
like Paul,
and even like Jesus and his parents.

We pray for comfort for those who mourn. We hold before you

those who have lost their homes,
those who have lost their communities,
those who have lost their families.
We grieve with them and long to reach out to them
to bring your healing comfort.

We pray for peace, O God. We pray that those who bring war will change their ways and beat their swords into plowshares. We pray for meaningful reconciliation in broken communities where hate is sown in the soil of prejudice and watered by our indifference.

We pray for courage and wisdom as we look for ways to be your agents of comfort and peace in a world that needs your holy and healing touch. We pray this in the name of Jesus. AMEN

 

 

A transformative agenda on migration

This week’s guest writer is Kathrine Garrison, Program and Advocacy Associate at MCC’s UN Office in New York. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame where she majored in psychology and minored in international peace studies, and then went on to earn a Masters of Philosophy in International Peace Studies, with a focus on humanitarian aid and development, from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Her work at the MCC UN Office centers on migration, food security, and the region of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In recent years, the emerging crises of unprecedented migrant flows into Europe brought migration to the forefront of international policy discourse. These discussions culminated in a United Nations (UN) summit that assembled its 193 member states at its New York headquarters in September 2016. At this time, leaders from around the globe came together to agree upon a powerful outcome document, known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.

This document expressed the political will and commitment of the international community to protect the lives and human rights of all refugees and migrants, as well as to address the imperative for a shared responsibility in facing future migration challenges. In addition, this declaration demonstrated that migration now holds a place as a significant issue of focus within the international agenda.

One of the specific plans of action outlined in the New York Declaration was the start of intergovernmental consultations and negotiations aimed at establishing a comprehensive framework promoting safe, orderly, and regular migration.  The process began in early 2017 and will culminate in a United Nations conference on international migration in late 2018, during which the General Assembly will adopt what has been termed the Global Compact for Migration.

This time of consultation and negotiation, leading up to the General Assembly adoption of a Global Compact for Migration, presents a powerful opportunity to improve the global governance on migration, to address the challenges of migration, and to enhance the ways in which migration can actually contribute to the UN agenda of sustainable development.

Acknowledging that Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) works with a great number and diverse spectrum of migrant populations around the world, the MCC UN Office decided to actively engage in the consultation, stocktaking, and negotiation processes, with the intent to ensure that migrant voices effectively reach the ears of those who will ultimately draft and adopt the formalized framework.

We delivered official statements at high-level meetings such as those deciding upon the methods and procedures for the negotiation process itself, and stressed the necessity of including civil society voices throughout the entirety of the proceedings. We attended countless meetings to monitor the consultations and remain attuned to the topics of focus along with taking note of those being overlooked. We met with Louise Arbour of Canada, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on International Migration, and with Swiss Ambassador Jürg Lauber, one of the official co-facilitators for the Global Compact for Migration process.

emma

Former MVS intern Emma Cabana delivering a statement on behalf of the MCC UN Office at the Informal Briefing by Civil Society on the Modalities for the Global Compact for Migration

Yet, it remains crucial to note that these advocacy endeavors are conducted not alone but in collaboration and partnership with a multitude of other civil society representatives, primarily through a coalition called the NGO Committee on Migration.

This coalition worked together to draft a vision for what it termed the UN Global Compact on Human Mobility and Migration, a set of ten acts that civil society believes are essential to a meaningful Global Compact. Read the entirety of “Now and How: Ten Acts for the Global Compact” here. This document represents civil society’s attempt to reframe the conversation on migration to emphasize human dignity, full participation in discussion and solutions (especially honoring the multiplicity of migrant voices), development for all, and a commitment to implementing both existing international human rights law and labor conventions and protocols and the actions outlined in the Global Compact for Human Mobility and Migration.

As the UN body works to compose a draft of the Global Compact for migration in the upcoming months, the MCC UN Office plans on participating, with the NGO Committee on Migration, in meetings with representatives from UN member states to present the “Now and How” document and advocate for the inclusion of its contents in the official Global Compact.

You can also help advance these advocacy efforts! The NGO Committee on Migration aspires to secure at least 1,000 organizational endorsements on the “Now and How” document by the end of November 2017. Therefore, we encourage you to share this opportunity for endorsement with other NGOs and ask them to sign on here to show support for its vision. In addition, at an individual level, we encourage you to utilize the attached template to send a letter to your parliamentarians or other government representatives, asking them to enter into a discussion about practical solutions to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration.

Letter_template_for_national_advocacy_TEN_ACTS_2017_2018_0

As stated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Director General William Lacy Swing, “The Global Compact is a historic opportunity to achieve a world in which migrants move as a matter of genuine choice. It’s time for the international community to come together to more responsibly and humanely manage the movement of people.” Just as we are called on a personal level to welcome the stranger in Matthew 25:35 and to “love the alien” as ourselves in Leviticus 19:33-34, so too are we called on a collective level to strive to create more just structures and international policy to address the matters of migration.

Now is the time for a transformative agenda for human mobility, migration, and development. Let’s make it happen.

Out of step on nuclear disarmament

The Humanitarian Disarmament Forum was abuzz with a celebratory spirit. It’s not hard to imagine why.

After all, the International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons (ICAN for short) had just won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. And the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons—the result of years of hard work by millions of global campaigners—had opened for signature at the UN merely a few weeks earlier.

In the world of humanitarian disarmament, history had been made yet again.

On October 14-15, I had the privilege of joining coalition colleagues from Mines Action Canada (MAC) and Project Ploughshares at the annual Humanitarian Disarmament Forum in New York. For two, chock-full days, representatives from global coalitions working to protect civilians from the catastrophic effects of small arms, cluster bombs, landmines, fully autonomous weapons systems (aka “killer robots”), and nukes came together to share insights from their advocacy efforts.

Coming on the heels of the ground-breaking nuclear ban treaty and the Nobel Peace Prize, the joy at the forum was palpable.

Though they belong in the dust-bin of history, roughly 15,000 nuclear warheads are still in the world’s arsenals, many of them launch ready and on high-alert status. This means that the possibilities for nuclear catastrophe due to global tensions, human error, system malfunction, a rogue launch, or weapons-capture by non-state actors are far too close for comfort.

The international community has already stepped up to ban biological weapons (1972), chemical weapons (1993), landmines (1997), and cluster bombs (2008). Finally, more than 70 years after the devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons—the most indiscriminate, disproportionate, and destructive of all weapons—have also been banned.

Front row: Setsuko Thurlow and Ray Acheson. Back row: Allison Pytlak, Cesar Jaramillo (Ploughshares), and Erin Hunt (MAC). Photo courtesy of Erin Hunt

Adopted in the heat of July, the 10-page treaty (backed by 122 nations) outlines a categorical prohibition on the development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, or stockpiling of nukes or any other nuclear explosive devices.

Global campaigners like ICAN as well as Project Ploughshares and Mines Action Canada worked tirelessly, attending ban treaty negotiations as civil society delegates. Atomic bomb survivors (the Hibakusha) and victims of nuclear test explosions around the world were also critical players, providing, in the words of ICAN, “searing testimony and unstinting advocacy” on the humanitarian imperative for a ban.

As the shadow of nuclear conflict looms ever-larger in our current political reality, the new treaty fills a huge gap in international law.

Yes, there was strong opposition from nuclear-armed states (i.e. the P5 on the UN Security Council) and their allies. And, no, these states are not expected to sign-on to the treaty any time soon.

But other UN treaties have been effective even when key nations failed to sign up to them.

When the Mine Ban Treaty was negotiated in 1997 in Ottawa, civil society successfully argued that the humanitarian impacts of landmines far outweighed any military benefit these weapons offered in combat. This same argument helped drive the Treaty to ban cluster bombs roughly a decade later.

Banning these weapons has had significant ripple effects. Implementing an unequivocal ban on landmines helped contribute to the broad stigmatization of the weapon and encouraged even non-party states to adapt to new norms in military theater.

Now, the prohibition on nuclear weapons marks a shift in the nuclear abolition debate.

Whither Canada in this global conversation?

According to his speech last year during Disarmament Week, then-Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion claimed that a ban on nuclear weapons without the support of nuclear weapons states was a utopian dream. It was impractical, impossible, and divisive.

October 13th at First Committee, 72nd Session, Thematic Discussion on Nuclear Weapons

Since then, Canada’s actions have continued to be out-of-step with this global movement. Despite claiming its support for the abolition of nuclear weapons, the Canadian government not only boycotted the treaty negotiations but (rather than simply abstain) voted against the historic UN resolution that launched the process—a position influenced, in part, by U.S. pressure on its NATO allies.

Instead, Canada backs a “step-by-step,” incrementalist (and completely broken) approach to reducing nuclear arsenals, including, among other things, the proposal for a fissile material cut-off treaty, a “step” that has faced deadlock for years. I heard this support reiterated by the Canadian delegate’s remarks as I sat in on a First Committee meeting at the UN a few weeks back.

Back in 2010, the government unanimously passed a motion calling for Canadian leadership on nuclear disarmament. What happened?

Far from “being back,” Canada seems to be inching backwards on disarmament.

Encourage your Member of Parliament to sign ICAN’s Parliamentary Pledge and send a message to Canada’s Ambassador to the UN, urging support for the treaty!


By Jenn Wiebe, MCC Ottawa Office director

No Way to Treat a Child

It was the middle of the night when Israeli soldiers came to 15-year-old Jarrah Masalmeh’s home to arrest him.

Jarrah Mesalmeh in the barbershop he runs below his family home. MCC photo/Meghan Mast

Over the next five days, Jarrah’s family had no idea where he was being detained.

When they attended court during the trial ten days later, the family still couldn’t speak to their son.

Eventually convicted of throwing stones—something he says he didn’t do—Jarrah was sentenced to nine months in military detention, in a jail far away from his home.

When he was released, he wasn’t the same young man.

Unfortunately, Jarrah’s Masalmeh’s story is far from an isolated incident.

Two legal systems…two different experiences

Every year, hundreds of Palestinian children in the West Bank—like adults—face arrest, prosecution and imprisonment under an Israeli military detention system that denies them basic rights.

Most are accused of throwing stones.

Since 1967, Israel has operated two separate legal systems in the same territory. While Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are subject to military law (where army commanders have full executive, legislative and judicial authority), Israeli settlers in the West Bank are subject to civilian law.

  • In more than half of all cases, arrest happens in the middle of the night by heavily armed Israeli soldiers;
  • During transfer, children are often blindfolded, hooded and/or painfully restrained with zip ties;
  • In the majority of cases, children are interrogated without legal counsel and without access to a parent or guardian;
  • Interrogations tend to be coercive, including verbal abuses, threats and physical violence that ultimately results in a confession;
  • Children are often shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew, a language most do not understand;
  • After sentencing, more than half of Palestinian child detainees are transferred from occupied West Bank to prisons inside of Israel—a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Upon release from prison, these children are typically traumatized, cautious about ever leaving the house for fear of going straight to prison again without question.

Relationships with their parents become strained, as there is a sense that they can no longer be protected.

There is a profound impact on children and families alike.

Why does it matter?

Beyond the moral questions, these practices are all in violation of international law, which protects children against ill-treatment when in contact with law enforcement, military and judicial institutions.

For instance, the UN Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)—both ratified by Israel in 1991—prohibit the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment under any circumstances. Full stop.

The CRC outlines, among other things, that:

  • The best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in all actions (Article 3);
  • Children should only be arrested and detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible time (37);
  • Children have the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment (37); and
  • Children in custody have a right to prompt access to legal advice and to a prompt hearing before an independent court (37).

In other words, Israeli authorities have no right to treat Palestinian and Israeli children differently under the civilian and military legal systems.

What can we do in Canada?

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, third party countries like Canada have an obligation to hold Israel to account for these violations—by cooperating with other states to bring an end to the situation, refusing to recognize the situation as lawful, and abstaining from giving aid or assistance.

In short, Canada has international obligations.

The No Way to Treat a Child campaign—led by Defence for Children International – Palestine—is urging Canada to live up to these responsibilities, in word and in deed.

As a first step, the campaign is inviting Canadians to sign a petition to the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, calling on Canada to prioritize the human rights of Palestinian children and to hold the Israeli authorities accountable for widespread and systemic ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees.

We invite you to learn more, and join us as we work to draw attention to the situation faced by Palestinian children and their families!

By Jenn Wiebe, Ottawa Office Director

MCC participates in this initiative in both Canada and the U.S. In Canada, MCC’s engagement with No Way to Treat a Child is part of its own A Cry for Home campaign.