What does the final draft of the Global Compact for Migration say about education?

gcmThe final draft of the first intergovernmentally negotiated agreement on the governance of migration, the Global Compact for Migration, was released today. This is not a small feat given the vast divides in opinion on this issue around the world and earlier setbacks in the process. It reflects a common sentiment that migration is a global phenomenon of huge importance that requires global coordination.

Given this backdrop, we are excited to be launching the 2019 GEM Report on migration, displacement and education on November 20. Its findings and recommendations could not be more topical. The detail our Report carries on the subject will be a perfect complement to the commitments pledged in the Compact. It will help create an even stronger link between the Compact and the SDG4 priorities, bringing two agendas together and creating clarity for countries now tasked with turning the promises into policy.

What does the Compact say about education?

The word education appears 15 times in the 34-page document, appearing in relation to no fewer than 10 of the Compact’s 23 objectives. The links found in the document between migration and education show that this is a classic example of the need for sector collaboration in the spirit of the SDGs. In this same vein, migration is also one of the areas of focus in the 2018 High-level Political Forum taking place this and next week in New York. But three objectives stand out for being the most central to SDG 4 progress.The first is Objective 15 on providing access to basic services for migrants. Echoing the language of leaving no one behind used throughout the sustainable development agenda, this objective aims to ensure that “all migrants, regardless of their migration status, can exercise their human rights through safe access to basic services […] while ensuring that any differential treatment must be based on law, proportionate, pursue a legitimate aim, in accordance with international human rights law.”

It goes on to promise to “Provide inclusive and equitable quality education to migrant children and youth, as well as facilitate access to lifelong learning opportunities , including by strengthening the capacities of education systems and by facilitating non-discriminatory access to early childhood development, formal schooling, non-formal education programmes for children for whom the formal system is inaccessible, on-the-job and vocational training, technical education, and language training, as well as by fostering partnerships with all stakeholders that can support this endeavour”.

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A shopping list, perhaps, but one that covers many of the SDG 4 targets, and the renewed emphasis on the principle of non-discrimination is welcome.

The second is Objective 16 on empowering migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion. Two actions related to this objective imply changes to the way many countries are currently managing the education of immigrants.

  • “Develop national short, medium and long term policy goals regarding the inclusion of migrants in societies, including on labour market integration, family reunification, education, non-discrimination and health, including by fostering partnerships with relevant stakeholders.”
  • Promote school environments that are welcoming and safe, and support the aspirations of migrant children by enhancing relationships within the school community, incorporating evidence-based information about migration in education curricula, and dedicating targeted resources to schools with a high concentration of migrant children for integration activities in order to promote respect for diversity and inclusion, and to prevent all forms discrimination, including racism, xenophobia and intolerance

The latter aligns well with the sentiment in SDG target 4a on ‘safe and inclusive learning environments’, and with the aspirations encapsulated in target 4.7 on global citizenship.

The third is Objective 18 on investing in skills development and facilitating mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences. The mismatch between skills qualifications in some countries and skills recognition in others leaves so much wasted talent, resulting in frustration. A global commitment to develop standards and guidelines for the mutual recognition of foreign qualifications and non-formally acquired skills, work on the comparability of national qualifications frameworks, involve the private sector, extend internship programmes and mentoring, and provide language-specific training could turn thousands, if not millions, of people’s lives around.

Where next?

Where this step forward takes us will depend on the review mechanisms to be set up to examine progress. The GCM is non-binding. There will be an International Migration Review Forum in 2022, 2026 and 2030, although this is not the same as a formal review mechanism, which leaves accountability, as the 2017/8 GEM Report taught us, lacking. In addition to transparency, accountability and performance appraisal mechanisms, there is also the question of support now given to member states in their national implementation efforts.

The Compact is just that – a compact. It offers a positive message for education as an opportunity to make the most of migratory flows. But the details need to be spelled out. And that is where the 2019 GEM Report, with its full global analysis of policies tried, tested, failed and proven, will be of use.

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