- Migration is back in fashion in the UN. Whilst no one will doubt that OxIMUN was a success for the participants, was it also a success for the empowering of migrant’s rights in the midst of international turmoil? The Newswire takes a closer look at the OxIMUN General Assembly Draft Resolution.
Patting Your Own Back
The Preamble shows one stark contradiction: on the one hand lauding the High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR): “for its outstanding work in leading […] action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.” Yet, at the same time being: “alarmed by the humanitarian crisis [...] and the shortfall in providing protection and assistance.” Some fist-bumping by the UN, yet at the same time deploring the lack of active assistance to refugees is not exactly proof of a clear and consistent vision within the General Assembly (GA) when discussing migration problems.
Refugee: One Word, Many Meanings
In the first 7 Points, the actual Draft Resolution proposes an upgraded, more categorical definition of the term Refugee. The Legal Committee came up with an elaborate distinction between a “normal” refugee, an armed conflict refugee and an environmental refugee. The latter being further distinguished into either a permanent environmental refugee or a temporary environmental refugee.
Corcerning, however, is Point 7, which specifically excludes “voluntary migrants who leave their country for economic reasons.” from any of the aforementioned definitions.
This phrasing suggests that people who leave their home country in view of a dire economic situation in their home country will never be considered eligible for refugee status, because they were not being forced to do so because of conflict or adverse environmental conditions.
Consider the situation of a farmer in the southern part Africa who moves to a neighbouring country in search for a better life, because of a combination of drought, a corrupt government and a non-existent economic policy resulting in stellar inflation rates. Should he be excluded just because he voluntarily crossed the border?
Likewise, the lack of clearly redefining Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in light of the changes made to the definition of Refugees, is a missed opportunity. The concept of an IDP in itself is a very good idea. Giving people displaced within their own national territory a unique status would greatly improve their protection, yet the raison d’etre for IDPs should perhaps also mention the specific situation which gave rise to the displacement in the first place. Examples could be Ethnic Conflict IDPs, Environmental Catastrophe IDPs, Armed Conflict IDPs. This could raise awareness and understanding of people hearing the term IDP for the first time.
Imposing Point 28′s national system of registering and aiding IDPs by the troubled nation itself cannot possibly be a good idea. Whilst everyone should support the aiding element, registering IDPs sounds shady: It cannot automatically be assumed that the government is keen to help the displaced, because a) it might alienate the government from the ethnic majority power base which ultimately elects and legitimizes it, and b) maybe the government could actually be hostile towards the IDPs precisely because of their ethnicity. We feel that this task might be best left to the HCR or similar private organisations, perhaps in combination with the data collection at local level, called for at Point 27. Anyhow, mentioning Russia in Point 28 is plain hypocritical: It’s clearly not a model of multicultural tolerance (remember Chechnya?).
Equally concerning is leaving the power of national resettlement programs in the sole hands of the government, for the same reasons mentioned above. Once again, cooperation with the UN, other nations with a proven humanitarian track record and private organisations would be the key in determining whether it is safe to allow the IDPs to move back to their territories. The possibility of abuse is just too great if everything is left to the nation facing the problems in the first place.
Point 33 fares much better: Letting the IDPs get involved in the actual planning and management of pragmatic measures regarding their current situation – an involved IDP is a happy IDP. It would also stimulate the need for IDPs to organise themselves into an effective body and allowing them to speak as one voice, allowing for stronger opposition against any potential abuse.
Let me FDI your LDC
Points 34-43 read like a rollercoaster of good intentions, with an emphasis on Foreign Direct Investment in Least Developped Countries. These intentions are praiseworthy and formulate well-thought out ideas. Notably the World Bank involvement clearly paves the way for effective implementation: it has a solid track record in lifting millions from abject poverty. Still, it just remains to be seen as to how committed developed nations are to treating LDCs as equal partners, bearing in mind that there is little room for financial backing by the developed countries as a result of the global recession.
The Necessity of Tackling Economic Issues
The GA Draft Resolution once again took on the centuries-old problem of global migration streams which dislodge individuals, families, tribes and whole nations. The social friction caused by such displacements has been the cause of much violence and misuse of power. It is heartening to see that this Draft Resolution acknowledges the changing conditions for migration, specifically taking into account the changing climate as a legitimate reason for attaining refugee status. Furthermore, the IDP concept is a promising one, allowing greater international protection of minority groups and allowing the UN, the international press and other bodies to keep a close watch on their rights. Lastly, stopping the migration flow is only possible if the economic situations in the Least Developed Countries are vastly improved. This can only be managed by lessening the incentive of many to leave their homeland in search of a better life elsewhere, by giving them the hope and possibility that they can live a good life in their own country of birth. The Draft Resolution certainly tackles this economic issue effectively.