Global Cooperation on Migration

Global Cooperation on Migration

Carlos Garcia Rawlins
from Academic and Higher Education Webinars

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Immigration and Migration

Refugees and Displaced Persons

Katharine M. Donato, the Donald G. Herzberg chair in international migration and director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, discusses global cooperation on migration, including implementation of the recent UN agreement, the Global Compact for Migration.

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Katharine M. Donato

Donald G. Herzberg Chair in International Migration and Director, Institute for the Study of International Migration, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University


Maria Casa

Director, National Program and Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

CASA: Good afternoon from New York and welcome to the CFR Academic Conference Call Series. I’m Maria Casa, director for the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Thank you all for joining us today.

Today’s call is on the record, and the audio file and transcript will be available on within the next few days if you would like to share it with your colleagues or classmates.

We are delighted to have Katharine Donato with us today to discuss “Global Cooperation Efforts on Migration.” Dr. Donato holds the Donald G. Herzberg Chair in International Migration and is director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation during the 2017-2018 academic year. Previously, Dr. Donato was on the faculty of Vanderbilt and Rice Universities. She has examined numerous research questions related to migration, including the economic consequences of U.S. immigration policy; health effects of Mexico-U.S. migration; immigrant parent involvement in schools in New York, Chicago, and Nashville; deportation and its effects for immigrants; the Great Recession and its consequences for Mexican workers; and gender and migration. Her recent book, co-authored with the University of Toronto’s Donna Gabaccia, is Gender and International Migration: From Slavery to Present, and is published by the Russell Sage Foundation. Dr. Donato is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Welcome, Katharine. Thank you very much for being with us today.

DONATO: Thank you so much for having me.

CASA: Could you start us off by giving an overview of the current state of global cooperation on migration and talk a little bit about the recent negotiations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration?

DONATO: Sure, I’ll be happy to start.

This is truly a historic moment in the—in the global governance space for migration, meaning that it’s taken until now—the last few years—for the global community to come together and be willing to talk about and negotiate—come to the table and negotiate on issues related to migrants and refugees. And what I want to say a little bit about, I’m going to—I’m going to begin with just a little bit of history and then move into focusing largely on the compact, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. But I will make reference at times to the second compact, which has also been negotiated this year, which is the Global Compact on Refugees.

So let me first start by saying that when you think about migrants and you think about refugees, and no matter where they are in the world, there is a normative framework that has, since the mid-20th century, really helped—has helped guide the way we think about refugees; normative in terms of, you know, we should be—what are our normative values around refugees and helping people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. And that normative framework for refugees come out—comes out of the 1951 Refugee Convention, as well as the 1967 Protocol about refugees. And of course, there is a—the UNHCR, which came into being in 1951 as well, which essentially is the multilateral body that identifies and confers the refugee status, as well as facilitates settlement around the world. So there is a normative framework that’s embedded in a very specific organization, UNHCR, and in a set of conventions that all countries have agreed to, and it’s existed for decades.

But when we think about migrants, there’s no firm existing normative framework. And so it’s important to recognize that this is sort of the historical legacy, the difference in this legacy, because it helps us understand where we are now, I think, better. So there’s really no firm existing normative framework. Anything about migrants, anything that does exist—any of that that does exist derives, really, from either human rights law or from ILO conventions that protect migrant workers. But even on protection of migrant workers there’s been a convention on migrant workers and families, and that has existed since 1990, and less than fifty percent of all U.N. nations or member states have ratified that. So what this means is that, broadly speaking, you know, what we think about who a migrant is and what migrants—how they should be treated and managed is not normatively controlled, and then as straightforward and as simple as that normative framework is for refugees.

When we think about the main institutional actors, as well, for refugees and migrants, we have a very different set of actors. So UNHCR is the main institutional actor for refugees, period, but for migrants there are different institutional actors. So you have the International Organization for Migration, IOM, which was technically outside of the U.N. until 2016, just two years ago. And then, in addition, there are other U.N. agencies with a lot of skin in the migration—in the migrant game. And then there are additional other institutions like the Global Forum on Migration and Development, and then there are regional consultative processes. These are—these are institutions that are outside the U.N., but also have some skin in the migrant game.

Another difference—the final difference I’ll note here—is that there is a very clear definition of what a refugee is. That comes out of the Refugee Convention of 1951 and various amendments since then. It’s persecution based on five grounds. But for migrants, the definition is not clear. There’s no one definition. Different U.N. agencies have different definitions. For example, the IOM includes international and internal migrants. Other U.N. agencies don’t. Others say that migrants are people who have moved and stayed for at least a year.

So what that creates, then, is—this kind of historical legacy of the last five, six, seven decades—is that when we talk about doing or developing global governance, global governance schemes for migrants, we’re really looking at a very different entity than thinking about a global compact or governance regime for refugees, because refugees we have a much clearer foundation for who they are, who’s responsible, and, you know, if changes need to be—who’s responsible, and what we value and how we think about those people.

That said, I’ll say there’s one key role of—there’s an important thing to note about nation-states that complicate the—further complicates the situation for global governance for refugees versus migrants. And that is the role of national sovereignty. I’ll come back to this in a bit. But who gets to enter and leave a country, states—member states have total freedom to decide who to admit and who to exclude. And the only exception is for countries that have signed onto the refugee convention. And we have—those countries have essentially promised the global community, as well as their own nation-states, that they will hear the story of the refugee, and they will resettle them if they can. But they promise not to return them to their countries of origin if they come into their country. And so it’s—you know, with respect to national sovereignty, we have—you know, this is a very important concept and a very important principle as we think about what global governance for migrants and refugees can be.

The final sort of caveat I’ll say here is just keep in mind, for many of us refugees and migrants are linked. Migration scholars and advocates tend to see refugees as a subgroup of migrants Refugee scholars, actually, on the other hand, and some advocates tend to see migrants and refugees as very distinct groups. The difference being that refugees lack protection from their own government. But the reality is that migrants and refugees travel the same routes. They often face—you know, they might use the same smugglers. They certainly often face the same risks. And so that the line between these two groups is not as black and white as many might argue they are—that line can be. So in 2015, all of the asylum seekers flooding into Europe at that time led to, I think, the last big push to start a serious mobile governance conversation. And there are a number of steps that led up to that point, but that’s, let’s say, was the icing on the cake.

And that impetus from Europe helped move us into a situation where most member states were suggesting that they would be really interested in developing global governance. And that—there was a—this all led to a U.N. summit on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants. That was in September 2016 at the U.N. And that summit produced a—what’s called the New York declaration. But the bottom line is that that summit produced a document that said: Within eighteen months, we will develop two global compacts—one on refugees, one on migrants. And those compacts would reflect different processes. But from eighteen months—in about eighteen months, those compacts would be developed. And that’s where we are today. These compacts, by the way, are non-binding. But, again, it’s the first time the world has ever come together to globally govern on this issue, and around these two groups of people.

For the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, that compact had, you know, a series of meetings. These are—they’re expert meetings, they’re meeting with—various rounds with different governments. There were two skilled diplomats—one from Mexico, one from Switzerland—who were co-facilitators and led the Global Compact on Migration process. And they were under the leadership of the president of the U.N. General Assembly. The final document, which was released in July of 2018—so just a few months ago—contains twenty-three objectives. The co-facilitators really have been pushing for the document to be adopted in full, which requires some balance between—because the document, if you meet the twenty-three objectives—there are objectives about border control and there are objectives about migrant rights and many other things. And so some countries—you know, they were really trying to push for countries to stay—to support the entire document.

Issues—some things are not included, like issues about regularizing people. You know, whether we call that an amnesty program, legalization process, a process of regularizing documents—that was left out of the final document. But migration advocates generally were very happy with many of the provisions. One issue of huge concern was whether or not there would be anything about environmentally induced migration. And there is. And there’s actually a substantial amount in the—in the document related to environmentally induced and/or climate change migration. Currently it was released, and it is to be adopted at an intergovernmental conference that is being planned for December 10 and 11 in Morocco. However, the U.S. in December of 2017 has pulled out of the Global Compact for Migrants. And Hungary the week—late July, the week after this—the final document was released Hungary also withdrew.

So there are at least two countries that we know will not sign the Global Compact for Migrants—for Migration. And Australia is giving some signs that it may not support it either, although they haven’t officially said. They are objecting to one of the objectives in the document. It’s not clear they’ll sign—if they’ll use that as their reason. But that document says—or, sorry—that objective says that migrant detention should only be used—or, should not be used, and should only be used as a last resort. And that is what Australia, at least publicly to date, has been objecting to.

So it’s a—you know, I’ll end by saying just a few things. This compact on migration is—it’s a—this year is a momentous year with respect to thinking about how countries come together and globally govern migrants and refugees. But with respect to the Global Compact on Migrants, because the foundation wasn’t as firm as the Compact for Refugees—from which the compact was then negotiation with respect to many of the items I mentioned earlier—and because this is really a great time of change with respect to the International Organization for Migration which, as I said earlier has only recently entered the U.N. But it also has a new director, which is—he has just literally taken the reins now. So there’s a lot to be worked out with respect to IOM in the U.N. And of course, you know, it’s a time for change for, generally speaking, with respect to migration—migrants and refugees, because the numbers—their numbers of both groups are steadily increasing from year to year now.

So general comments: I think it’s really important for the United Nations that the—both compacts, actually, are adopted. I think it would be seen as a failure of multilateralism if they’re not. I also think this is a very difficult climate to be negotiating the Compact for Migrants—for Migration as well—both of them, really, but especially for migration. The frameworks themselves, you can read them online. And in terms of the actual compacts themselves, they’re available, you know, in .pdf across many, many websites. Many, you know, of the twenty-three objectives, for example, in the Global Compact for Migration are objectives that are aspirational. So it really also depends on how these are going to be implemented. And there’s a section in the Global Compact for Migration on implementation. But, again, implementation—I think it’s one thing to talk about how things will be implemented. It’s another thing to see how implementation plays out.

And then one final point I’ll say, and open it, I guess, up to questions, there’s a big gap in that internally displaced persons are not mentioned in either compact. And currently those—they number more than 40 million people. And that number’s been going up recently. So, anyway, that’s all I’ll say for the moment.

CASA: Well, thank you very much for that interview. Let’s open up to the students on the call for questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time we will open the floor for questions.

(Gives queuing instructions.)

We’ll pause for just a moment to let everyone compile a list of questions.

Our first question will come from the University of Northern Iowa.

Q: Hello. This is Catherine Zeman, University of Northern Iowa.

And my question focuses on the current IPCC report, and the fact that, as you mentioned, I believe the U.S. has withdrawn from this pact. I mean, in light of that report are the benefits the U.S. should be considering to being in the compact, especially considering that refugee impacts from climate continuing to deteriorate could be significant in the coming years?

DONATO: I am to answer each question as we go through, correct? I just want to make sure. We’re not gathering questions, correct?

CASA: No, one at a time.

DONATO: OK, great. You know, yeah. Are there implications for the United States pulling out? Yeah, of course there are. The global compact—the U.N. currently has 193 member states. So if the global compact for migration gets signed by almost all of the nations, except for the United States and Hungary and perhaps Australia, this is a big, global—you know, it will represent a very big global effort in terms of thinking about how to govern migrants.

And the Compact for Migration has so much in it about environmentally induced migration—whether you think about that with respect to disasters or you think about that with respect to slowly changing environmental conditions that could have a huge impact on people moving. So for example, the second objective in the Global Compact on Migration is technically—you know, the words are: Minimize adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their countries of origin. And then there’s a subsection that says—that’s specifically about natural disasters, the effects—the adverse effects of climate change, and environmental degradation.

And the specific sub-objectives here are—you know, it’s not clear to me, you know, with a country pulling itself out of the compact—it’s not clear to me, you know, will the U.S. then not do any of—you know, not use any of its information in these objectives in their thinking about and planning for the effects of climate change? It’s not clear to me what—where they will be on this. But they will not be working with most of the rest of the world. And that itself has, you know, pretty significant consequences.

CASA: Thank you. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Washington and Jefferson College.

Q: Hi. My name is Nick Volosky (sp).

I was wondering why internal migration was excluded from the compact. And also, what it would take for—what it would take to get countries around the world to get together on internal migration.

DONATO: Oh, well, my colleague Ferris, Elizabeth Farris, has spent, you know, her entire career almost working on issues related to internally displaced persons. You know, what would it take—well, first, let me address the why . Why internally displaced persons or internal migration is not part of the—covered by the compact. We pushed. Many of us were pushing. We were on various committees. We were in various meetings. There were many people pushing for one of the two compacts, at minimum, to address IDP.

Ultimately—this is just my takeaway; I don’t know what others would say—but ultimately I think this was part of the—part of the subject that no one wanted to integrate because it’s too hard. On the one hand, it’s actually the largest group of displaced persons in the world are internally displaced, right? Out of the sixty-six or so million persons who are internally displaced—or, who are displaced, about twenty million of them are refugees and most—though not all—most are internally displaced. So that’s number one.

I think there was a real reluctance to bring in IDPs in part because of the issue of national sovereignty. If people move within their countries of birth, then that many member states thought that isn’t as significant or as important an issue for us in the global space to deal with. So—and overall, I think there was just a real reluctance to get into the politics of how would we globally govern internally displaced persons who remain inside their countries of origin. So maybe we’ll see that in the future, but we certainly—certainly not here now.

Q: (Off mic)—to get them together. Is that right?

DONATO: Excuse me? I couldn’t hear you well.

Q: What would it take for nations to get together to have this done, included in the compact?

DONATO: Well, I don’t know if it’s possible to include it in either of the compacts now, because they’re technically done, although, you know, we’ll see if they’re signed and—I mean, it takes a lot to bring people to the table who would be willing to negotiate and think about what can the global world tell an individual country to do about a million people who have been internally displaced. That—I mean, that’s just a—it’s a very hard egg to crack. I can tell you that when I do—so it’s a hard egg to crack and globally govern around. On the other hand, my colleague and a number of other people are doing a lot of really interesting work about planned relocation and getting a number of countries to think about and actively create policies around what would happen if there was environmental displacement and/or any other forced displacement, an acute situation.

Can countries develop policy and practices around—and then implement a planned relocation scheme such that if something happened, let’s say, in the southern part of one country, that there might be a place in the northern part of that same country where that country could mobilize resources and move people to so that they don’t have to move out? So that is something that now is being actively discussed at UNHCR, at IOM, and then my colleague Beth Ferris is actually an important player in that regard. And that, I think, is an interesting policy alternative, perhaps, to the compact. If we’re not in a position to globally govern around IDPs, then maybe we can do something different rather than a global compact. Maybe we could develop a set of practices around planned relocation that countries can use.

So I think that’s an alternative. It’s not the answer to your question, which is how can we get this in these compacts, because I think that’s what many people were trying to do in the last eighteen months and weren’t successful.

CASA: Thank you. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Brooklyn Law School.

Q: This is Stephen Kass.

My question has already been asked and answered. It had to do with IDPs.


CASA: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Washington and Lee University.

Q: My name’s Jack Easton (sp) from Washington and Lee University.

And my question is, what is, in your opinion, the right balance of self-determination and cooperation in regards to immigration policy within the European Union? Should the responsibility for determination of policy skew more towards individual nations, or is a more uniform approach needed?

DONATO: I—listen, I would say—I don’t think it’s one or the other. And I do think some uniformity here would be an amazing contribution. So if this—if this global compact gets ratified by most member states, and at least some of it gets implemented, it’ll be a net gain. But, you know, nations have, and, you know, have—play an important role here in determining who gets to come in and in what ways and who’s not welcome. And so that’s—there’s a balance between, I think—I think we could get to a very good balance between global governance and national, you know, governance. And then actually, you know, I think we could do more in the space of regional as well.

I mean, obviously with as many people who came from the Middle East and up—seeking asylum in Europe in 2014, ’15, ’16, you know, it taxed a lot of individual countries’ systems in that, you know, different national sovereignties weren’t ready for the volume of people who showed up at their borders claiming asylum. On the other hand—so that was a big problem. On the other hand, two years after that initial big influx, the national countries—you know, Germany, whatever—many countries in Europe have really developed their systems and their administrative management systems so that they’re doing much better at processing these applications and at—you know, there was—there was a lot of confusion initially, in part because the management systems at the national and the local levels weren’t connected. And so now they’re much—you know, they’re much better identified within countries. And in the European Union as well, you know, this was a challenge for the union itself. And we still see that challenge being played out.

But there is a certain balance. I think the problem has been—one problem has been—for migrants—is that there’s been no global governance. There’s been very little regional governance. And the issue—you know, when migrants—when people move and cross borders, we need to have all these different spatial levels involved in the governance. So I know it’s an optimistic say of saying we need all the players at the table and believing that that will matter. But I think it is—I think all the players and all the spatial skills need to be at the table. And I think we could develop a better balance than we have had in the past. And in a way that facilitates migration in new ways.

Listen, bottom line is, we’re not talking about seven billion people. We have seven billion people on this—on this planet. But we’re not talking about even one billion migrating right now or moving. So this is a—this is—if you think about the skills, yes, the numbers have been going up and the share of people who were foreign-born living in a country outside their birth is going up. The share is still quite small. The numbers have grown, but even then the numbers are—you know, we’re a world. We could manage this so much better than we do now, given the scale of migration and refugees worldwide.

CASA: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Indiana University.

Q: Hello. My name is Rosanna Lumroe (ph).

But I was just wondering, what responsibility does the global north as a partaker in globalization and the global economy have to take in refugees and migrants?

DONATO: Well, that’s a big question, right? What responsibility does the global north have in taking in, welcoming refugees and others? You know, that is a question that goes back to one of the first things I said. To answer that question, you have to have a pretty—to answer that question in a way that’s—maybe universal is too strong of a word—but in a way that the answer is shared by many people, you have to have a strong normative network, right, that says—that reminds people, that says that it is the responsibility or at least part of the responsibility is for countries in the global north to not only welcome and resettle migrants and refugees, but to actually lead in that effort. And, you know, the normative framework for migrants is weak. And so various—you know, if—my personal opinion is that the global north should take more responsibility than it does. But I—and I think we’ve gone in the United States and elsewhere, countries in the global north go through periods of more versus less assumption of responsibility and leadership. But exactly how to get us there, you know, in the current political climate, there are certainly many challenges to getting us back there.

CASA: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Texas A&M University.

Q: Hi. My name is Carolina Luja (sp).

I was wondering that—considering that the global compacts are not binding, to what extent do you think that the adoption of these two compacts would have an impact on the current crisis, for example, in Venezuela, in Latin America.

DONATO: Yeah. I mean, I would say I don’t think the current—I don’t think the compacts are going to have an immediate effect, probably on any growing numbers of displaced persons anywhere. Certainly not in the Venezuelan case either. But here’s the thing, you have to start from somewhere. So that—you know, what’s happening in Venezuela’s happening now. By the time these compacts get implemented and then there’s a few years to—obviously, the first year will be interesting. But then, you know, think about cumulating the implementation over time, over a number of years. I don’t know where Venezuela will be at that time, right? By the time something is really being implemented well from these compacts it may take two or three years. And there may be many changes in Venezuela by then, and lots of—lots more people leaving.

So I’m not sure we’ll see any immediate impact on any acute migration/displacement situation around the world. But my hope is—so my hope is that we still stay on this road toward global governance because we’ve never been there on migrants until now. And so we can’t have too high expectations that, oh, we’re going to implement this and, you know, six months after implementation we are going to see significant release, for example, or a reduction of the adverse drivers of out migration in Venezuela. I think that’s setting us up for failure. But without starting here, we’re not ever going to get to a point where we—the global world can govern on migration in any effective way.

So I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t have short-term expectations of, wow, this is going to make a huge difference in a year. But I do think this is a very significant moment. And even if these two compacts in their current versions are not as successful as we want them to be now, they are laying the foundation for global governance in a way that never existed before. And I imagine, over time, that they will be improved, if we find that there are more limitations of them.

CASA: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Johns Hopkins University.

Q: Hi. I really liked your book on gender and migration. And I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the changing gender dynamics between—I mean, in the migrants coming in from the northern triangle countries to the United States. And do you think the change in male versus female migration to the U.S. is due mainly to labor market demand changes? Or do you see any other factors aside from that?

DONATO: Well, actually, I think labor market demand hasn’t changed as much as we might think, especially now that we’re post-recession in the United States. I mean, what we see really happening from Central America and Mexico to the United States is very different than what existed ten years ago. So—or, let’s say, before ten years ago. And the gender composition of migrants coming into the United States from Central America and from Mexico has become much more gender balanced, in part because almost everyone who is coming in are people who are seeking asylum. Now, they may also be seeking jobs, but almost everyone who’s crossing the border is coming in seeking asylum—crossing the southern border, is coming in seeking asylum.

Mexico-U.S. migration back in the day—which, I think that was twenty years ago, fifty years ago—that kind of migration is—that kind of migration flow is done. That’s over, in part because there’s no great supply now of Mexicans—young Mexicans looking for work. And, you know, but there are employers from the United States looking for immigrant workers. So I think the demand story is not really what’s driving the changing gender composition. I think it’s that when people are forced out of their homes because they fear for their lives, they fear for their children’s lives because of civil violence or because of gang violence, or these kinds of threats, you know, people then reflect much more—a much more complicated demographic than the single male, or the single female, frankly, looking for work.

And that’s what we’re seeing now. And that’s partly why the gender composition has really begun to shift, is that most people coming in to that region of the world to the United States are seeking asylum. So they’re bringing children, or they’re sending children unaccompanied, or the unaccompanied children are leaving on their own. Partial families. And so it is a very different gender dynamic at the southern border than, let’s say, fifteen year ago.

CASA: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Prairie View A&M University.

Q: My name is Amina (ph).

I’m asking, why do countries prefer migrants instead of refugees?

DONATO: Oh, why do countries prefer migrants instead of refugees? That’s an interesting way to actually frame the question. I don’t think—I don’t think that there’s a preference, although—you know, that you could attribute to a country. It might be at any given point in time, depending on governance and politics, that some countries might prefer one versus the other. But migrants—you know, traditionally, before we got—before, let’s say, the 21st century, traditionally we would think about migrants as being workers, and motivated by economic opportunity and maybe their family members too. You know, maybe it’s the grandmother or the mother of someone who got permanent residency to stay in a country. And those were migrants. And refugees were people who were forced out, who the UNHCR then vetted, determined their status, and then countries like United States would tell UNHCR how many refugees they wanted to resettle in the United States that year, and then there would be resettlements of refugees.

So I’m not sure preference is the right way to kind of frame the question. I think countries have policies related to refugees and how many refugees they’ll bring in. And those numbers shift as politics in different countries shift. You know, but if you talk to—you know, twenty years ago, if you talk to many of the meat packer employers in the United States in the middle of the country, they would be talking about how they loved refugees as well as migrants to come in and work in their large meat packing facilities. So it’s not—so I hope I’ve answered the question by saying, first, I’m not sure preference of one versus the other is the way that countries tend to think about the two groups, because the two groups come in in very different ways. And then there are stakeholders like—you know, there are different stakeholders looking to bring in and help resettle the different groups.

CASA: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Stockton University.

Q: Hi. My name is Taylor (sp) from Stockton.

What should the global community do about stateless children who are born in a nation, but later deported? How can international jurisdiction be enforced to protect these people against human rights abuses?

DONATO: Yeah. I mean, I think we could do a lot. We, the global community, could do much more around stateless children. So I’m assuming that question might have come from what we know is happening currently in Bangladesh, with respect to the Rohingya who are having children. And Bangladesh is reluctant to give them a birth certificate. I mean, there’s birth identification, right, but to have them become Bangladeshi-born is a—the Bangladesh government is reluctant to do. So when you think about almost a million people, almost a million Rohingya now in Bangladesh, and as we could see in some of the photos that many of us I’m sure have seen, most of these people are fairly young. They’ve lived through a whole lot. And they’re—but they’re fairly young. And there are many children. And if women are, you know, under forty-five or fifty and they’re in families, they’re going to have babies.

So I really think that this—I think the global community could do much more here. But I’m not exactly sure what the entry point would be. I am optimistic that on IDPs and stateless peoples in general, that I know that there will be people who are working both within the U.N. and civil society voices outside trying to push the U.N. to do more in those spaces. I think it’s easier, frankly, if you compare IDPs to stateless children. I think the—it would be easier to get global governance agreement on stateless children than on IDPs. So we’ll see what happens, but I agree with you that this is an enormous problem. And it’s just not an enormous problem for today, but children grow up. And to have huge numbers of children without a state causes—you know, is complicated for so many countries around the world. So I am thinking it’s possible to get there, just—I think we’ll hear more about that next year, after these compacts are signed.

CASA: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Syracuse University.

Q: Hello. My name is Adam Sawyer.

And I have a question comparing the Global Compact on Refugees to the ’51 convention. Do you see the language as strengthening the convention or weakening it? Or what is your perspective, I guess, on how they compare in terms of the legal framework? Thank you.

DONATO: OK. I have to say, my colleague is more versed and could probably answer the question better than I, because she is doing more work on the Global Compact for Refugees. I’m working on the Global Compact for Migration. I can tell you, her general sentiment is that it does strengthen the 1951 convention, the Global Compact on Refugees. And that she had—and she’s not the only one—but many scholars, and policy, and humanitarian types in the world of refugees had begun to identify a series of weaknesses in the convention. And I think that many of those people are pleased with the Global Compact for Refugees. That said, you know, they’re—I know that Beth would say that there are some weaknesses. She was extremely disappointed IDPs were not taken up there. And I think she was a bit disappointed on climate change—how much climate change got into the Global Compact for Refugees.

So I do think most of the people I know in this space feel like the Global Compact for Refugees is an improvement over the convention, that the convention needed to be updated, that there needed to be several issues attended to, and that they were. But beyond that level, I don’t feel prepared to—I don’t want to go further. I don’t want to misstate anything that she has said.

CASA: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from St. Edwards University.

Q: Hi. You mentioned migrants and tension. And I was wondering, is this operationalized in the global compact? And what is—are there any consequences if a nation-state does not comply with the—I guess, the edicts?

DONATO: Yeah. Well, you know, that’s why implementation, let me just say, is very important, right, because we don’t really know. This is not a binding compact. And so enforcement is not here in these compacts. Let me back up and say Objective 13 of the Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration says that member states will use immigration detention only as a measure of last resort, and work toward alternatives. And there are a series of very specific actions related to this—you know, things like using human rights mechanisms to improve monitoring of migrant detention, to ensure that it’s a measure of last resort, consolidating a repository to disseminate best practices related to—with respect to alternatives to detention, which there are some practices to allow alternatives to detention around the world that probably right now could be disseminated even without the compact.

Another specific action is to review relevant legislation, policy, practices related to detention to ensure that migrants are not arbitrarily detained, and that decisions to detain are based on law—are legitimate. You know, so there are a variety of very specific actions on—with respect to the subjective. And I think it’s going to be super interesting and important to really look at the ways in which—well, let’s say, whether, and then the ways in which these specific actions are implemented. The verdict’s out on this. As all of us who live in the United States know, we’re—you know, we’re increasing detaining persons who come across. And, you know, so detention—we’re living in the United States in a moment where detention seems to be the first order of business, or let’s say it’s not a measure of last resort. It appears to be a measure of first resort. So we’ll have to see how this plays out in the countries.

CASA: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from King Fahd University.

Q: Hello? My name is Abdullah Khan (sp) from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia.

And my question is with regards to the effects of migration on states. Can migrants, after making a large community in a country, ask for independence, making a situation similar to that of Catalonia in Spain? Thank you.

DONATO: Can you repeat? Some of that question actually didn’t, for some reason, come through, on my headphones. Can you repeat it?

Q: OK. Can migrants, after making a large community, ask that country or the U.N. for independence, making a situation similar to that of Catalonia in Spain?

DONATO: Oh, can migrants do that? I mean, in theory, any group can try to do that, right? I don’t think that migrants—the situation of Catalonia in Spain is quite different than most situations around the world. So I see that really as a stand-alone, very unusual situation. If you look around the world there are many countries that have large numbers of migrants and migrants from specific national origins. And, you know, I haven’t seen any movement to—I mean, I haven’t—among most of these very large populations, I haven’t seen any movement to—by the migrants themselves to say: Now that we’re here, we want to become something different—meaning, we want to take the property that we have and become a separate state.

So can groups try to do this? I’m sure they can. Would they get very far? I can’t—cannot imagine that they would, without having a long historical legacy to rely on and other—you know, and then other kind of mechanisms. So I cannot really imagine that happening. I can imagine that migrants might—a large group of migrants who think similarly about an issue or about a condition that they face, going to the country—the country’s government where they’re living and saying: We need—you know, this is going on, and we want—we want this rectified in some way. I could imagine that if it isn’t rectified and there are a lot of human rights abuses, I could imagine that, you know, multilateral organizations could get involved. But actually becoming a separate state and taking over property that’s one member state’s, and because migrants are there they become their own entity, I think—I can’t even imagine that happening, at least not in the current day. But maybe we’ll see. Maybe it can.

CASA: Thank you, Katharine. I’m afraid our time is up, so we’re going to be able to take the rest of the questions. But, Katharine, again, we’d like to thank you very much for this informative discussion. And also thanks to all of you on the call for your questions and comments.

Our next call will take place on Wednesday, October 31 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time. Michael Dempsey, the 2017-2019 national intelligence fellow at CFR and former acting director of national intelligence, will lead a conversation on “The Increasing Complexity of U.S. National Intelligence.” In the meantime, I encourage you to follow CFR Campus on Twitter at @CFR_Campus and visit for information on new CFR resources and upcoming events.

Thank you again for joining us today. We look forward to your continued participation on our calls. This is all.


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