This is a moment to bring attention to the millions of people around the world who are affected by crisis and conflict every single day, especially girls and women who are disproportionately at-risk and impacted by emergencies. These are human beings like you and me who are often forced to flee or migrate to avoid attack or a bleak future. The Global Compact for Migration, which UN member states are being asked to adopt this December in Morocco, has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people, ensuring a coherent, coordinated approach and much-needed protections for migrant communities around the world.
That includes migrants like former refugee Ismail Al-Hariri, a Syrian teacher, who fled his country with his family in 2012 in the wake of civil war and spent years in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. Thanks to the 2015 documentary Salam Neighbor, and a community of Canadians who watched the film and heard his story, Ismail and his family have recently found refuge in Antagonish, Nova Scotia. The welcoming community that sponsored Ismail is an example of how local leadership and support can be just as important, if not more so, than national leadership. With the opportunity to continue his studies, Ismail is looking forward to giving back to his newfound home, as many migrants do.
Which is why we need to remind local leaders of communities, like the one Ismail now lives in, that migrants and refugees can make a positive difference — and that local leaders can make a difference in their jurisdiction.
Some local leaders are already stepping up. Mayor Di Blasio of New York City has spearheaded an initiative for mayors around the world to take matters into their own hands and become signatories to the Global Compact for Migration — even when their countries have withdrawn from negotiations, as the US has.
Fifty cities, including Zurich, Los Angeles, Montreal, Dallas, Milan, and Sao Paolo, have already indicated they want to sign the Global Compact. But many others have not. No Australian cities have signed up yet, and Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the country will not sign the Global Compact on Migration “in its current form,” despite the fact Australia helped negotiate the deal.
Ahead of the signing of the Global Compact in Marrakech this December, we want to see an increase in State and local signatories. We want the new Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison (a former immigration minister) to resume Australia's place in the Global Compact negotiations. And for Premiers like Western Australia's Mark McGowan to put pressure on Mr Morrison and the Australian Government to sign up … or to sign on themselves. And we want other US mayors, like Ted Terry of Clarkston, Georgia — the ‘Ellis Island of the South’ — and Ismail’s new mayor in Nova Scotia, Laurie Boucher, to use this opportunity to stand in solidaritywith Mayor Di Blasio and 49 other Mayors.
Stories like Ismail’s can convince our leaders to see migrants and refugees as human beings, with stories and history, and convince them that it’s time to be a leader on this issue. Call on other local leaders to join Mayor Di Blasio in signing up to the Global Compact on Migration this December.