Sister Janet Kinney, CSJ at the UN

The United Nations has completed key stages of work on two compacts related to migration and refugees, winning cautious praise from migrant advocates and church officials.

“Now we have a basis from which to work,” said Sister Janet Kinney, the executive director of the Partnership for Global Justice, a U.N.-based advocacy group.

Global compacts are documents that are not legally binding but provide a framework for nations to work together to manage the current wave of migration, in which 68.5 million people worldwide have been displaced. The compacts stem from the 2016 New York Declaration, in which the United Nations concluded it had to deal with the increasing challenges of global migration.

U.N. members approved the final text of the migrant compact, “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” on July 13 after more than a year of meetings in New York. The compact is expected to be formally adopted at a Dec. 10-11 conference in Marrakech, Morocco.

UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery told GSR in an email that the global compact on refugees “is building upon and strengthening, not replacing, the existing international legal system for refugees — including the 1951 Refugee Convention and other human rights treaties and international humanitarian law.”

Under the leadership of Pope Francis, the Vatican took a pro-migrant position in the talks, and Archbishop Bernardito Auza, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, praised the migration compact as serving as an “international reference point for best practices and international cooperation in the global management of migration.”

Among the declarations contained in the migration compact: Migration “should never be an act of desperation. When it is, we must cooperate to respond to the needs of migrants in situations of vulnerability, and address the respective challenges.”

But though U.N. member states drafted the final wording, the compact does not have universal approval. The United States pulled out of the migration compact talks in December, citing the need to protect its migration policies. And on July 18, the government of Hungary, which has taken a tough stance against admitting refugees and migrants in recent years, said it will not sign the accord and is “exiting the adoption process” of the compact.

Sister Janet Kinney said the tension between countries protecting their sovereignty and nongovernmental advocates pushing for more human rights protections is an ongoing dynamic at the United Nations. “Even in this document, issues of national security and human rights are not always in balance.”
Global Sisters Report

Sr. Janet Kinney (left), a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, New York, and the executive director of the Partnership for Global Justice, a U.N-based advocacy group, and Maryknoll Sr. Marvie Misolas, the representative of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns at the U.N. (GSR photo / Chris Herlinger)