Blog post by Dr Younous Arbaoui, Assistant Professor, Amsterdam centre for Migration & Refugee Law (ACMRL), Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
In June 2020, Morocco responded favourably to the UN Network on Migration’s (UNMN) invitation to join the ‘Champion Countries Initiative’. Together with Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, Morocco is one of the six African countries participating in this group comprising 25 ‘champions’. Morocco’s acceptance is certainly a first step to effectively becoming a champion for the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). The country’s willingness to gain this title is not surprising considering its significant and active role in the process leading to the adoption of the GCM. It is one of the few countries that has elaborated a pre-Compact review of its national migration policy in light of the GCM, addressing the 23 GCM’s objectives and including a draft national implementation plan. In addition, in 2018, Morocco hosted major events surrounding the issue; including, the Global Forum on Migration and Development, the inter-parliamentary conference about the GCM, and the Intergovernmental Conference adopting the GCM. Joining the group of ‘champions’, thus, re-confirms Morocco’s pre-Compact commitment.
In this blog, I discuss Morocco’s role as a member of the ‘champions’ group. I argue that while this membership strengthened its role as a regional ‘leader’ in migration governance, its ‘champion’ status is still in progress. I first present the government’s understanding of being member of the ‘champions’ group. I then identify indicators reflecting Morocco’s claimed championship, as well as contra-indicators rejecting such a claim. In closing, I reflect on the added value of being a member of the ‘champion countries’ group for Morocco. My findings are largely based on my recent research into the GCM in Morocco (see references blow).
Morocco’s understanding of the ‘champion’ status
In the Letter of June 2020, the government accepted the UNMN invitation to join the champions group. We can note that the government makes use of the terms ‘pilot’ and ‘champion’ interchangeably. It states that the government ‘accepts the invitation to become a pilot country, or “champion”, for the implementation of the GCM’. The Letter then states that as a ‘pilot’ country Morocco will support the GCM’s implementation, and thereby, take on a ‘unifying’ role at a regional and international level. For example, they can express this commitment by mobilising and organising regional reviews, or initiating joint actions to implement the GCM. This suggests that being ‘champion’ implies having a unifying leadership in the region.
Through the second Letter, the government accepted the UNMN invitation to participate in the Informal consultation on the role of champion countries and confirmed Morocco’s support and willingness to actively contribute to it. It is notable that the term ‘pilot’ is not used anymore. Although the term ‘unifying’ is also not employed, the whole letter emphasizes Morocco’s willingness to play a leading role in the region. It reinforces this implication by sharing the country’s experience on migration governance, and highlighting their role in initiating joint actions to implement the GCM.
Importantly, the government attached to the second Letter a brief ‘reflection’ on the role of champion countries. It is worth noting that Morocco is the only member which did this. Through this reflection, the government basically reconfirms Morocco’s commitment to the GCM, but also includes sections presenting the Moroccan experience in four contexts: (1) access to knowledge and information on migration; (2) border management; (3) reducing vulnerabilities; and (4) migrants’ integration and their contribution to development. As to the first theme, the government refers to the creation of an informative website for its citizens abroad and for migrants living in Morocco and the establishment of the African Observatory for Migration (AOM). In the context of border management, the country’s efforts to fight against trafficking in particular the creation of the National Coordination Commission for Preventing and Combating human trafficking. With respect to tackling migrants’ vulnerabilities, the government mentions its collaboration with the UNHCR and the National Council for Doctors to ensure access to health care for refugees and asylum seekers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also refers to a project called ‘FORAS’ aiming to facilitate the reintegration of sub-Saharan migrants after their return to their countries of origin. Regarding the issue of integration, the government refers to national programmes aiming to facilitate migrants’ access to the labour market. The fact that the government included these examples about its migration policy suggests that Morocco views ‘sharing experiences’ as falling under its role as a champion, or rather as a leader. Ultimately, a close reading of that ‘reflection’ shows that the government does not explicitly explain how Morocco views its role as a champion.
Both Letters suggest that the government understands the champion status as basically implying taking a leading role in the GCM’s implementation, by sharing its experience, for instance, and mobilising other states to join. It is notable that both letters are silent about the compliance of Moroccan migration policy with the GCM. The government’s focus is on cooperation, assisting other states, and sharing its experience; therefore, assuming that the GCM is already effectively implemented in Morocco. Hereafter, I will present implementation indicators bearing the potential to make Morocco a ‘champion’ country.
Indicators demonstrating that Morocco has the potential to effectively become a champion country are reflected in its engagement with the GCM. Apart from the fact that Morocco actively supported and engaged with the pre-Compact negotiations, it also engaged in the post-Compact review mechanism. Besides the pre-Compact review, the government also submitted a ‘voluntary review’. It participated in the first regional review of GCM’s implementation in the Arab region and hosted the African regional review. By hosting this regional review, Morocco clearly displays its leading role.
Morocco also attended various UNMN meetings in preparation for the first International Migration Review Forum (IMRF). These are certainly indicators bearing the potential to make champion of Morocco, at least with regard to the GCM’s review mechanism. In this context, Morocco seized the initiative to host and organise the recent meeting of the champion countries in Rabat. This meeting resulted in the Rabat Declaration praising the role of Morocco as the ‘African Leader on the issue of Migration’ and recalling its ‘strong commitment through the African Agenda on Migration’. The Rabat Declaration also praised Morocco’s efforts in the creation of the African Migration Observatory (AOM) settled in Rabat. One of the key missions of this observatory is to guide African states through their implementation of the GCM. By taking the initiative to establish and host the AOM, Morocco concretely responded to Objective 1 GCM. It also enhanced its reputation, leadership and potential to effectively become a champion country. Should Morocco fail to become a champion for the effective implementation of the GCM, it would no longer have a claim on its leadership and champion role.
Besides these concrete indicators, the government notes within their voluntary review their continued efforts to align national migration policy with the Compact, and claims that the implementation reached an advanced stage. The voluntary review also states that Morocco’s migration policy is in conformity with the GCM’s objectives. These statements portray Morocco as a champion, and reveal that Morocco relies on the GCM to legitimize its national migration policy. However, as will be discussed hereafter, this claim is not substantiated.
Although Morocco’s engagement with the GCM’s review mechanism bears the potential of a champion, there are some contra-indications demonstrating that such a status is still in progress.
To begin with, it appears from the voluntary review that no independent body was introduced to review the GCM’s implementation. It was the government itself that was in charge of the elaboration of the review. This calls into question the statement that national migration policy is indeed in conformity with the GCM. This is more the case because civil society was also not involved in the review process (Arbaoui 2022a), a practice which is not in line with the GCM’s ‘whole of society’ approach (GCM, para. 15 and 44). Furthermore, the voluntary review does not include a national implementation plan (GCM, para 53), unlike the above-mentioned pre-Compact review.
Additionally, the voluntary review fails to address the 23 objectives, unlike the pre-Compact review. The voluntary report does not mention any concrete implementation indicators, except for the creation of the African Observatory. In this context, it deserves to be noted that the report’s discussion of objective 1 does not mention the issue of privacy at all (Arbaoui 2022b), while that objective requires that by implementing objective 1 States should take into account the protection of privacy and personal data of migrants. In addition, it also appears that objective 15 (access to basic services) is not yet fully implemented (Arbaoui 2022a, p. 34-38).
In spite of these implementation gaps, the government relies on the GCM to defend its migration policy without providing concrete indicators. This calls the claimed championship into question.
While the Moroccan government has been a ‘champion’ in the process of leading to the GCM’s adoption, its post-Compact implementation provides conflicting results. On the one hand, the government has participated in the ‘Champion Countries Initiative’ and has submitted a voluntary review. On the other hand, the government did not specify concrete indicators that would help assessing migration policies compliance with the GCM. It also appears that some GCM’s objectives are not yet fully implemented. The Moroccan ‘champion’ status therefore is still a work in progress. So, what is the added value so far of being member of the ‘champion countries’ for Morocco?
The foregoing discussion shows that such membership certainly strengthened the leading role of Morocco in the region. It increases its visibility and gives it a space to participate, for example through sharing its experience and mobilising other states to implement the GCM. However, to remain a leader and further progress towards the champion status, Morocco will have to substantiate its claimed championship by effectively complying with the GCM at a national level. Since failing to do so would jeopardize its regional reputation and leadership, this can act as a stimulating condition for Morocco to become a champion, especially if civil society and independent monitoring bodies get involved in the national implementation and review mechanism.
- Arbaoui 2022:
a- The Impact of the Marrakech Compact for Migration in Morocco: The role of the Government and of Civil Society, VÜR/WCL 55, 2022, pp. 19-43.
b- La protection de la vie privée des migrants en Afrique: que peut faire l’Observatoire Africain des Migrations?, in: Elkbir Atouf (ed.), Le Maroc et l’Afrique subsaharienne à travers les rapports migratoires, Ministère de l’éducation nationale, de la formation professionnelle, de l’enseignement supérieur et de la recherche scientifique, en collaboration avec CNRST, Marrakech 2022 (sous presse).
c- L’impact du Pacte mondial pour les migrations au Maroc, Enass Media, 29 Avril 2022.
- Arbaoui 2021 :
Maroc: ‘champion’ de la mise en œuvre du Pacte de Marrakech?, Revue Hijra 1 (2021).
The views expressed in this article belong to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Refugee Law Initiative. We welcome comments and contributions to this blog – please comment below and see here for contribution guidelines.