Children on the move in Mali take part in a programme to improve efforts to protect them. ©Tdh/Bintou Camara

As we campaign for a safer world for children on the move, the Destination Unknown campaign was glad to see talks between governments begin on the first versions of two global frameworks for international cooperation on large movements of people.

These global agreements, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), are a once in a lifetime opportunity for world leaders to agree to a better and more cooperative response to people moving across borders. Since over half the world’s refugees are under 18, and over 36 million migrants worldwide are younger than 20, putting children’s rights at the heart of both Compacts should be non-negotiable.

All children have rights regardless of their migration status, yet they are also at high risk of having those rights violated, from exploitation and violence to being separated from their families, detained because of their migration status and deprived of essential protection and services. As part of the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts, the Destination Unknown campaign is calling on governments to commit to respect and fulfil the rights of children and to work towards a continuum of care, protection and support for migrant and refugee children through these Compacts.

Following discussions around the GCR last week, negotiations are underway this week on the GCM at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Making the Global Compact for Migration work for children

Whether children are migrants themselves or born to migrant parents, they are directly and profoundly affected by everything to do with migration. They have particular vulnerabilities – both as children and as migrants.

The GCM is a milestone in the global migration agenda. It has the potential to mark a turning point for children affected by migration – reducing how vulnerable children are and increasing their protection. But for this to happen, governments must use the compact to commit to a child-sensitive approach to their role in the governance of migration.

There are reasons for optimism in the first draft of the GCM. It has child sensitivity and the best interests of all children as one of ten guiding principles, calls for ensuring safe access to services regardless of migration status and equal access to education, promotes social inclusion, stops child immigration detention, and helps families stay together or be reunited.

The GCM could make a huge difference to migrant children. States must put children’s rights before politics and uphold and strengthen the parts of the compact that have the potential to truly make a positive difference to children for whom migration is part of their lives.

Destination Unknown will continue to call on governments to make bold commitments in both Compacts over the next few months of negotiations. These compacts can lead to concrete, lasting and meaningful improvements for refugee and migrant children. It’s time for governments to make it happen.

Detailed recommendations by the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts for strengthening the migration compact are available here.

Recommendations developed by the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts on the first draft of the Global Compact on Refugees are available here.

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