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Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers Holds Side Event on the Impact of Climate Change on the Human Rights of Migrants and Promoting Ratification of the Convention

Meeting Summaries

The Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers this afternoon held a side event on the impact of climate change on the human rights of migrants and promoting the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families as a pledge for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 75 initiative.

In opening remarks, Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said according to the World Bank’s Groundswell report, climate change could force 216 million people across six world regions to move within their countries by 2050.  Climate change-related migration was multicausal and complex and influenced by various factors that determined the choice to move and the degree to which that decision was voluntary.  Migrant workers, especially those in an irregular situation, were disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of climate change.  In this context, the rights enshrined in the Convention were the best avenue to prevent vulnerabilities and protect migrants from abuse and human trafficking.  Mr. Cissé-Gouro welcomed that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 75 initiative included a "ratification" component, and the Committee was encouraged to continue active engagement with the United Nations Network on Migration to achieve this goal.

In the discussion, speakers from States parties to the Convention thanked the Committee for organising this important meeting to tackle the connection between climate change and migration.  The world was confronting a range of crises in the social, economic, and geopolitical spheres.  Understanding the impact of these on human mobility was essential.  The connection between climate change and migration was undeniable.  The last eight years had been the hottest on record.  Climate change warning signs were increasingly marked.  Africa had the climate most affected by new change phenomena but was responsible for less than 2.1 per cent of emissions today.  Hurricane Otis in Mexico had left a devastating humanitarian panorama and required people to relocate.  It was vital to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and allow economies of affected countries to move towards green opportunities, including within the agricultural sphere.  It was essential to broaden the legal routes for migrant flows, to promote orderly, legal and regular migration.  It was also important to develop early warning plans, keeping the most vulnerable people in mind. 

Xenophobia and discrimination against migrants were also a cause of concern, speakers from States parties said, and these challenges needed to be confronted.  The rights of migrant workers in the context of climate change lay at the heart of international challenges.  The Convention on Migrant Workers, the Global Refugee Compact, the Marrakech Agreement, the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement were key documents to utilise when developing roadmaps for public policies.  The adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly Migration by the General Assembly was a global milestone and now it was time to put those words into action.  The ratification of the Convention on Migrant Workers offered additional tools to ensure full respect for the right of migrants, particularly those confronting climate change.  The absence of ratification of the Convention of major destination countries was a source of concern.  States pledged to work with the Committee to encourage further ratification of the Convention. 

Speaking in the discussion were Omar Zniber, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations Office at Geneva; Francisca E. Méndez Escobar, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations Office at Geneva; Serdar Özkan, First Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Türkiye to the United Nations Office at Geneva; and Luningning Camoying Valdez, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Speakers from United Nations agencies and human rights mechanisms said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had played an important role in the development of all human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.  It was estimated that over 60 per cent of migrants globally were migrant workers.  Remittances had grown to 656 billion USD in 2023, which was a huge sum, illustrating the economic contribution made by migrants.  Migrants drove entrepreneurship and innovation.  Yet billions of people lived in climate vulnerable communities, and many people were forced to leave their homes due to climate challenges.  In 2022, there were nearly 33 million displacements which took place due to weather hazards.  Up to 216 million people could be internally displaced by 2050, according to the World Bank.  Children and young people were on the front lines of climate change, and sometimes had no choice but to move due to climate shocks.  Children were already adapting to climate change and needed to be partners in shaping policies.  There needed to be an overarching understanding of the law on refugees to address these issues. 

The speakers from United Nations agencies and human rights mechanisms said civil society organizations played a vital role in underscoring the significance between migration and climate change.  Regular pathways were essential to advancing safe, regular and orderly migration.  It was important to make progress on the ratification of the Convention, however, the lack of wide-ranging ratification of the Convention had an impact.  There would be more clout if interventions could be undertaken based on the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers.  The connection between the Global Compact on Migration and the Convention should be underlined.  Climate mobility needed to be harnessed as a key strategy, allowing people to move by choice, and not due to necessity. 

Speaking in the discussion were Felipe Gonzales Morales, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Vassiliy Yuzhanin, Head of the International Migration Law Unit, International Organization for Migration; Monami Pisky Maulik, Civil Society Liaison Officer, Secretariat of the United Nations Network on Migration; and Laura Linda Healy, United Nations Children Fund’s Team Leader of the climate change and mobility portfolio.

Speakers from academia and civil society organizations said the Convention remained key for Governments, education and international cooperation in the arena of international mobility.  There were currently 59 States parties to the Convention on Migrant Workers, making it the least widely ratified of the nine core human rights instruments.  A study could be undertaken to establish what had worked in the past in getting States to ratify, looking at past patterns of ratification.  The Global Compact on Migration could be a useful forum for promoting ratification.  Ratification of the Convention could also be advanced with the active support of the United Nations Global Migration network.  The Committee should consider partnering with civil society organizations to promote awareness of the Convention. 

Those speaking from academia and civil society organizations said none of the European Member States had signed or ratified the Convention; it was important to change this, as it would send a strong message of support for the Convention.  Ratification of the Convention only came about by campaigning, and there had not been a decent campaign for 10 years.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, civil society partners and intergovernmental organizations needed to revitalise a campaign.  The real consequences of restricted migrations were reflected everywhere, including in rising prices and limited availability of goods.  The consequences of environmental degradation on migrants could not be addressed without focusing on the other challenges faced by migrants, including discrimination, deregulation, and unsafe migratory conditions, among others.  The Convention remained an important landmark internationally, allowing States to participate in conversations on migration. 

Speaking in the discussion were Alan Desmond, Editor, Journal of immigration, asylum and nationality law, University of Leicester; Patrick Taran, President, Global Migration Policy Associates; and Enrico Lima Oliveira, Brazilian Public Defender. 

Guatemala and Kyrgyzstan also spoke.

In closing remarks, Edgar Corzo Sosa, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers, said climate change and ratification had been the key themes of the discussion.  On climate change, it was important to consider the issue of climate justice, whereby countries that did comply with climate obligations were impacted by other parties that did not.  Next week, there would be many interesting proposals regarding the universality of ratification of human rights instruments.  Mr. Corzo Sosa thanked all those who had participated in the event. 

The webcast of Committee meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers thirty-seventh session can be found here

The Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers will next meet in public at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, 8 December to close the thirty-seventh session. 


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