General Assembly General Assembly

Statement by 

Ambassador Tanmaya Lal, Deputy Permanent  Representative 

at the Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

20 February 2018



Mr. Co-facilitators,


We commend your hard work in holding very detailed consultations and the efforts in compiling this comprehensive document on an issue that is quite complex. We also appreciate the efforts of the Secretary General and the SRSG for helping you make available this document to us.


Mr. Co-facilitators,


2. We would like to make a few general comments and observations at this stage. We note that the format of the draft Global Compact text is broadly similar to the 2030 Agenda.  This is a familiar format and, therefore, augurs well for the discussions. 


3. We have noted that the document is intended to be non-legally binding. However, the language pertaining to the Actionable Commitments and Follow up and Review needs to be suitably amended to reflect such a nature of the document. This may actually help in eliciting greater participation and ownership by member states in an overall spirit of cooperation which was displayed in the finalization of the 2030 Agenda.


4. In our understanding of legal aspects, the documents are considered binding or non-binding based on the exact language used under the provisions and not simply by declaring those as non-legally binding.  Therefore, the exact language of the Compact needs to suitably reflect its non-legally binding nature.


5. We are in broad agreement with the Preamble and the Guiding Principles outlined in the draft text. However, there are certain other generic challenges also that the draft text faces. The biggest handicap in developing a common understanding on Migration issue remains the lack of a precise definition of the phenomenon we are trying to address. This clearly poses problems for the scope of the intended national actions and international coordination.


6. While issues relating to refugees are addressed through the Refugee Convention that involves a clear legal understanding of who constitutes a refugee, this is not so in the case of migrants. This contributes to a significant difference of perspective and approaches that are quite visible in the way this debate has gone so far.


7. Today, migration is integral to the modern global economy that transcends borders in many ways. The post-Cold War global economy has been built on the mobility of capital, goods, services across national borders. The movement of human resources is another important factor that contributes to the success of global businesses. This overwhelming positive and integral aspect of migration to the functioning of global economy must not be lost sight of.


8. However, the uneven impacts of globalization on economic prospects of specific categories of jobs in certain regions, coupled with the recent spurt in the influx of refugees fleeing conflict in some parts of the world, has led to concerns in some quarters against migrants in general. This is regrettable. It is, therefore, of utmost importance to retain strict distinction between migrants and refugees and not allow any references to loosely defined estimates of numbers and other language in this context. For instance there is an incorrect reference to a figure of a quarter of a billion migrants in para 6.


9. It is well known that the regular migration of workers – skilled and unskilled, professionals, researchers, teachers, students constitutes around 90% of international migrants, both permanent and temporary. Irregular or undocumented migrants are a small fraction of the total number of migrants. The irregular migration seeks to overcome the barriers to regular migration by taking advantage of loopholes in existing national laws.


10. We, therefore, are strongly of the view that our primary concern in these discussions is to find ways of facilitating regular and managed migration and eliminate practices, which force people to seek other avenues to move.  


Mr. Co-facilitators,


11. The second related issue is of data. In the absence of a proper definition, any accurate estimation of relevant data is not feasible. Especially for undocumented cases. You may recall that even during the finalization of the landmark 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDGs, the question of measurable data, indices etc. was a major challenge that was negotiated separately by the UN Statistical Commission. We, therefore, have to be careful in using appropriate language relating to data generation as a commitment that is sensitive to national contexts, laws and capacities.


Mr. Co-facilitators,


12. One of the issues that has received undue high prominence is the so-called adverse drivers of migration. This, in our view, stems from the perception that somehow blurs the distinction between the flow of refugees and migrants. While a refugee flees and seeks shelter from conflict or persecution, migration is not only seeking better opportunities but has become essential to the global economy and demographic reasons. 


13. The language appears to almost convey an impression that the underdevelopment in large parts of the world is entirely on account of mis-management or mis-governance by national governments. This becomes an overly simplistic view and completely ignores both the historical reasons of uneven development of regions and nations, including the colonial context, as also the continuing less than democratic and equitable structures of global economic governance. The inadequacies of international aid architecture and the relative lack of engagement on the kind of Global Partnership envisaged in the SDG 17 also need to be brought out for a more balanced assessment.


14. We would further stress that we should not presume that migration is only from developing to developed economies.  As is highlighted in several studies on the subject, migration is equally from south to south and also north to south and north to north.  Such trends are driven by globalization.  These cannot be explained by simple assumptions relating to so-called adverse drivers. 


15. We, therefore, urge that such an understanding of the historical context and the current global economic integration would also need to be suitably reflected, if we are to pursue such a discussion.


Mr. Co-facilitators,


16. The wide range of Objectives included in the draft text world appeal differently to different member states based on their national legislations and capacities. Appropriate caveats would need to be inserted to take into account their implications as per national circumstances and laws.


Mr. Co-facilitators,


17. These are our preliminary comments and feedback. We would provide further comments during the discussions on specific clusters. We look forward to engaging constructively during these discussions.


Thank you.