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November 23, 2015

Responding To: Head of U.N. Refugee Agency Calls for Greater Multilateral Cooperation on Migration

Why Global Governance on Migration Matters

Patrice Ndayisenga

Today, more people are being forced out of their homes due to climate change, political oppression, poverty, war, and disease. The resulting increase of migrants requires us to rethink the politics of global governance, while taking into account the plight of the individual migrants themselves. Antonio Guterres puts this challenge into perspective in his discussion of the stunning rise in refugee numbers in the past five years – from 11,000 forcibly displaced persons per conflict per day in 2010 to 42,500 in 2014. His illustration demonstrates that the UNHCR is becoming overwhelmed by the needs of these people and by challenges to its ability to carry out its mandate.

Guterres stated that migration is often considered an intergovernmental concern and is rarely debated as a multilateral issue. However, the recent refugee crisis in Europe has demonstrated that this debate is urgently needed due to the deteriorating living conditions of people in precarious situations. Forced displacements often occur abruptly, due to states’ inabilities to ensure healthy living conditions for their populations. It is unrealistic to expect adequate solutions to come from intergovernmental diplomacy, because the complex humanitarian issues at stake involve multiple stakeholders and require multiple states to act. Hence, in order to be realistic about this issue, the UN needs an international organ to handle such crises.

Globalization impels us to think beyond the confinements of our state boarders and dissuades us from staying indifferent to global concerns outside our comfort zones. What goes around comes also around in one way or another, hence the urgent need to provide early solutions to problems with escalating capacity to affect everyone on the globe. Such a need compels global leaders to beware of Pope Francis’ decry of the “globalization of indifference” which is predominantly taking an upper hand on issues of human dignity and the right to life’s basic necessities. The migrants whose dignity and rights are sometimes left at the mercy of smugglers need global attention and the most assured way of attending to their needs requires concerted efforts with global coordination.

The lack of global governance on issues of migration impends also the possibilities of understanding properly the nature of the problems surrounding the phenomenon. We fall short of adequate knowledge to provide lasting solutions to the causes which make people think of migrating in the first place. Humanitarian crises cannot be left to the responsibility of individual states alone. In the case of migration movements a more integral approach is paramount; failure of which will lead to consequences hard to curtail. It stands to reason, in my view, to hold global governance as an indispensable response; it proves our sense of social responsibility as global citizens in the face of a global crisis.

Patrice Ndayisenga is a Jesuit scholastic from Rwanda currently pursuing theology studies at Hekima College, a Jesuit school of theology based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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