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December 18: International Migrants Day

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Environmental protection, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Development, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, United Nations, World Law on December 17, 2014 at 11:33 PM

By René Wadlow


“Let us make migration work for the benefit of migrants and countries alike. We owe this to the millions of migrants who, through their courage, vitality and dreams, help make our societies more prosperous, resilient and diverse.”

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.


In December 2000, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed December 18 as the International Migrants Day. The day was chosen to highlight that on a December 18, the UN had adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families. Although migration to and from countries is a worldwide flow of people, only 42 countries, basically Latin American, North and West African, Indonesia and the Philippines, have ratified the Convention. The Convention created a Committee on Migrant Workers which meets in Geneva to review once every four years a report of the Convention members on their application of the Convention. The Convention also created a mechanism by which the Committee could receive individual complaints. Only three States have ratified this individual complaints mechanism: Mexico, Guatemala and Uruguay.

Today, there are some 232 million persons who reside and work outside their country of birth. The reasons for migration are diverse − most often economic, but also refugees from armed conflicts and oppression, and increasingly what are called “ecological refugees” − persons who leave their home area due to changing environmental conditions: drought, floods, rising sea levels etc. Global warming may increase the number of these ecological refugees.

After war, persecution, and poverty, a new danger is now driving people away from their homes in their millions – climate change. (C) Tck Tck Tck

After war, persecution, and poverty, a new danger is now driving people away from their homes in their millions – climate change. (C) Tck Tck Tck

Although migration is an important issue with a multitude of consequences in both countries of origin and destination, the Committee on Migrant Workers, a group of experts who function in their individual capacity and not as representatives of the State of which they are citizens, has a low profile among what are called “UN Treaty Bodies” – the committees which review the reports of States which have ratified UN human rights conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Since the great majority of States receiving migrants − Western Europe and North America – have not ratified the Convention on Migrant Workers, other ways have to be found within the UN system to look at migration issues. Thus has been created outside the UN system but in close cooperation with the UN, the Global Forum on Migration and Development and the Global Migration Group to address the opportunities and challenges of international migration. Within the UN, there was the recent, October 2013 “High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development”.

In 2013 the Conservative-led Government of the United Kingdom publicly called on undocumented migrants to “go home or face arrest”, a move that was basically inhumane and completely out of place. ( (C) Socialist Party of Great Britain)

In 2013 the Conservative-led Government of the United Kingdom publicly called on undocumented migrants to “go home or face arrest”, a move that was basically inhumane and completely out of place. (C) Socialist Party of Great Britain)

The Governments at the Dialogue unanimously adopted a Declaration (A/68/L.5) calling for greater cooperation to address the challenges of irregular migration and to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration. The Declaration also emphasized the need to respect the human rights of migrants and to promote international labor standards. The Declaration strongly condemns manifestations of racism and intolerance and stresses the need to improve public perceptions of migrants.

UN conferences and such dialogues or forums serve as a magnet, pulling Governments to agree to higher ideals and standards collectively than they would proclaim individually. This is not only hypocrisy − though there is certainly an element of hypocrisy as Governments have no plans to put these aims into practice. Rather it is a sort of “collective unconscious” of Government representatives who have a vision of an emerging world society based on justice and peace.


In 2010 two French singers, Stanislas and Mike Ibrahim, released a song entitled “Tu verras en France” (“You’ll see in France”). In this song, the two young men call for attention to the situation of migrants who leave their home countries hoping to find a better life in France but end up undocumented and living in extreme poverty, constantly having to run from the police if they don’t want to end up in jail or sent back to their country of origin.


The role of nongovernmental organizations is to remind constantly Government representatives that it is they who have written the text and voted for it without voicing reservations. Numerous States which ratified the International Convention on Migrant Workers made reservations limiting the application of the Convention on their territory. Thus, the Declaration of the High-level Dialogue was not written by the Association of World Citizens but by Government diplomats.

The Declaration is a strong text and covers most of the important issues, including human mobility as a key factor for sustainable development, the role of women and girls who represent nearly half of all migrants, the need to protect the rights of migrant children and the role of remittances to families.

The Declaration merits to be better known and widely quoted in the on-going discussions and debates on migration policies and practices.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

UN Peacekeeping Forces: Limits and Opportunities

In Conflict Resolution, The Search for Peace, United Nations on May 24, 2011 at 8:40 PM


By René Wadlow


May 29 has been designated by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly as a Day to honor UN Peacekeeping troops. Thus we are reminded that the UN remains the only universally representative and comprehensively empowered body the world has to deal with threats to international peace and security.

Peacekeeping operations have made the UN visible in many parts of the world, and the “blue helmets” have symbolized the peacemaking and conciliation role of the UN. The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the “blue helmets” in 1988 testifies to the respect and confidence placed in them. The UN is the logical choice to provide a framework for multilateral engagement. The UN operates under its Charter which outlines norms of behavior, establishes means for the settlement of disputes and gives sweeping powers to the Security Council under Chapter VII for enforcement of peace. These powers are internationally binding and in many countries, carry the force of domestic laws.

Yet the UN does not have its own peacekeeping forces and must always rely on the goodwill of a relatively small number of Member States to provide soldiers and finance. Often the UN peacekeeping operations are determined not by the situation but by the resources available. In practice, the UN must accept what it can get from any state that offers units. The UN Secretariat is designed to serve its member states and does not have the authority to impose standards on contributing countries — except where UN soldiers break national laws, such as having sexual relations with under-age children.

There are situations which objectively threaten international peace and security, and the maintenance or restoration of order would require police actions, often swift and prolonged. However, for some types of action, the military working for the UN are only relatively trained. Most come from the ex-British Empire: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Nigeria. They share the methods of training of the British Army and speak English. Now China is starting to provide troops with a non-English tradition.

In 1988 the UN Peacekeeping Forces were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

There have been a good number of suggestions that the UN create a “ready response” force of its own that would be on call and would have had special training for the broad tasks which UN troops now undertake. These suggestions have always come up against the “wall of costs” and some fears that the UN would become a “super-state” if ever it had its own forces. The UN Secretariat has established a “standby forces” study group to study equipment compatibility, standardization and shaping national units tasked for multilateral activities. Nothing visible has arisen from these studies, but they may be dusted off in future emergencies.

The ending of the “East-West Cold War” confrontation has seen the proliferation and diversification of UN peacekeeping missions, increasingly complex and difficult to conduct. Yet, “blue helmets” are increasingly called upon not so much to safeguard a peace agreement but to create a situation of peace and to transform earlier relationships, as we see in Darfur, Sudan and the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (basically North and South Kivu).

Sir Brian Urquhart, former UN Undersecretary-general for Peacekeeping Operations. The British diplomat is widely regarded as the father of UN peacekeeping as we know it today.

Currently, there is no such thing as consistency and predictability in UN actions to preserve order. The world is too complex, and UN Security Council resolutions are voted on the basis of national interests and political power considerations. UN “blue helmet” operations have grown both in numbers and complexity. Even with the best planning, the situation in which one deploys troops will always be fluid, and the assumption on which the planning was based may change by the time the force is ready for deployment or even as the force hits the ground.

Policemen, civilian political officers, human rights monitors, electoral officials, refugee and humanitarian aid specialists all play important roles along with the military. To be successful, UN peacekeeping operations need clear objectives, but such objectives cannot be set by the force commanders themselves. Peacemaking forces are temporary measures that should give time for political leaders to work out a political settlement. The parties in conflict need to have a sense of urgency about resolving the conflict. Without that sense of urgency peacekeeping operations can become eternal as they have in Cyprus and Lebanon. There needs to be real international support for UN peacekeeping operations, otherwise there is a danger that they will be overburdened, under-funded and overstretched.

UN Forces do not exist in a vacuum. They are part of world politics. They have limited but crucial roles. UN forces are one element in a peacemakers tool kit, but there needs to be a wide range of peace-building techniques available. It is not enough to say “Support our UN troops”; there must be concerned efforts by both diplomatic representatives and non-governmental organizations to resolve the conflicts where UN troops serve, as in Darfur, in the Congo, in the Middle East.


René Wadlow is Senior Vice-President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

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