ACT Alliance statement on Austria turning away from the Global Compact on Migration

6th November 2018
Cooking in the communal kitchen - young people take responsibility and care for themselves and others in a programme for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Austria. Photo: Nadja Meister / Diakonie Flüchtlingsdienst
Cooking in the communal kitchen – young people take responsibility and care for themselves and others in a programme for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Austria. Photo: Nadja Meister / Diakonie Flüchtlingsdienst

The announcement of the Austrian government that it has decided not to sign the recently agreed UN Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration (GCM) has caused consternation among many organizations working with and for migrants, including ACT Alliance, a coalition of 150 churches and church-related organisations working together in humanitarian aid, development and advocacy, and Austrian ACT member Diakonie Austria.

The text of the Global Compact was agreed between member states during negotiations at the UN in the first half of this year, and will be formally adopted at an intergovernmental conference in Morocco on 10-11 December. Many civil society organizations, including ACT and its members, have been actively involved in drafting the agreement.

“Throughout the negotiations, Austria has been proactively engaged, reaffirming a legacy of positive engagement with global governance frameworks.  We deeply regret the fact that the government is now announcing its pull out, which isolates it from the community of states in addressing one of the most important issues of our time, which can only be adequately addressed as a global issue at global level,” said Maria Moser, Diakonie Director.

Diakonie Austria has been at the forefront of delivering assistance and support to people on the move in Austria and abroad. Last year alone, the organization provided housing, legal counselling and psychosocial support to a total of about 45,000 arrivals in Austria, in addition to cooperating with other ACT members in meeting the humanitarian needs and strengthening the rights of people on the move in Southeastern Europe, the Middle East and South Asia.

The GCM addresses many aspects of migration that are touched by ACT´s work – from the negative conditions that lead to migration, to better protection for migrants in transit and destination countries, to access to social services, to sustainable reintegration, to international cooperation for implementing the GCM commitments. The GCM is not legally binding on any state, but encourages cooperation, emphasizing the human rights of all migrants.  Because it is non-binding, it preserves the prerogatives of state sovereignty that states like Austria claim to be so worried about.

“As a global church-based alliance working to protect and defend the rights of people in over 125 countries, we are worried about any country that uses arguments of national sovereignty as an excuse to act in isolation,” said ACT Alliance General Secretary Rudelmar Bueno de Faria. “Migration is a global phenomenon. States are increasingly realizing that they cannot address it on their own, as well effectively protect the human rights of people on the move – including their own citizens – without international cooperation.”

ACT Alliance and its members met in Uppsala, Sweden, October 28 – November 1 at their General Assembly, and have just adopted their new global strategy, which includes a dedicated focus on migration as one of its key thematic pillars.

“Migration is one of the great opportunities and challenges of our time. We have committed ourselves to taking the long view on this, and working together with our members, with governments, UN agencies, and civil society everywhere. We encourage others to do the same, and for member states to stay the course – we have nothing to lose and much to gain from adopting the Compact.”

Read the statement in German here.