In last week’s post on the movement of peoples—mass migrations—taking place in the contemporary world, we looked at the terms which are used to refer to these people and to indicate wherever possible the legal implications these terms might have.
Today, I’ll look at some of the international efforts to deal with the problem of a mass movement of peoples — efforts CNEWA and the Holy See have been involved with in many ways, for many years. It has been clear that since the problem is international in scope, the solutions must also be international. When individual nations attempt to solve the problem in isolation, the result is often merely to intensify the problem in other, surrounding countries.
Despite all the rhetoric and fear-mongering in some quarters, the problem of the mass movements of peoples is really one of a clash of rights.
First, there is the concern over the rights of the refugee (using that term in its broadest sense.). The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (old/broken link: https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html) (1948) holds that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” It also holds that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution;”
But secondly, there is the sovereign right of states to safeguard their borders, although that right is not absolute; a state, for example, cannot use racism and xenophobia (fear/loathing of foreigners) as reasons to “defend its borders.”
Excluding racism and xenophobia, there is, nonetheless, a true conflict of rights involved. The international community understands this — and understands, as well, that the uncontrolled movements of people can cause chaos and violent conflict. The United Nations, aware of conflict between these rights, speaks of the necessity of a safe, orderly and regular migration.
The UN General Assembly on 19 September 2016 passed the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The lengthy resolution outlines the rights and obligations of both migrants and states. The declaration recognizes the magnitude and complexity of the problem as well as the necessity of a comprehensive, international solution. In the second Annex to the Resolution, the UN announced the launch of a “global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.” The purpose of the global compact is to “set out a range of principles, commitments and understandings among Member States regarding international migration in all its dimensions” (Annex II, I, 2).
In fact, two global contracts have arisen: the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Contract on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). As would be expected, these compacts have been the subject of intense and ongoing negotiations. Several drafts of both compacts have been published for further discussion and negotiations. It is hoped that “final” texts will be ready to submit to the UN General Assembly Session which convenes in September 2018.
In all this, Pope Francis has been very vocal on the need for a just and comprehensive solution to the problem of the mass movement of peoples. He spoke about this just last March, at the Plenary Council of the International Catholic Migration Commission. Recognizing the work of the UN, Pope Francis stated that the church “must encourage countries to coordinate more suitable and effective responses to the challenges posed by issues of migration.”
The Holy See has also engaged in practical efforts to deal with the crisis. Charitable organizations such as CNEWA, CRS, and Caritas Internationalis—to name just a few—are actively working on the ground to alleviate the sufferings of refugees in the Middle East, Africa and around the world. Likewise, the Permanent Observer Mission (Embassy) of the Holy See to the United Nations, under the leadership of Archbishop Bernadito Auza, has been very active in promoting the emerging Global Contracts through significant interventions in the General Assembly and symposia held at UN side events, co-sponsored by the Holy See.
A major side event, sponsored by the Holy See, was Sharing the Journey of Migrants and Refugees: An Interfaith Perspective on the Global Compacts on 3 May 2018. The website of the Mission of the Holy See to the UNmakes available all the statements and side events which the Holy See has sponsored on the problem of the movements of peoples.
The role which the Holy See and its charitable organizations, such as CNEWA, play is crucial. It is not unrealistically idealistic. It fully recognizes the competition, if not conflict, of rights and the incredible international legal and moral complexities involved here — and it attempts to achieve a just solution favorable to both sides. However, it is not merely engaged in abstract negotiations—as important as these are—but is actively engaged on the ground to help those millions of people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.