Interview with Roula Hamati and Ignacio Packer, moderators of the Civil Society Stocktaking and Strategy Meeting


Ignacio Packer, former head of Terre des Hommes and incoming Executive Director of ICVA (January), and Roula Hamati from the Cross Regional Center for Refugees and Migrants in Lebanon, who was the regional coordinator for the MENA civil society consultation on the Global Compact, guided the two days of meetings during the Civil Society Stocktaking and Strategy Meeting, which took place in Puerto Vallarta Mexico on 2-3 December.

Following the meeting, we caught up with Ignacio and Roula to hear their thoughts on this gathering of regional and global civil society.

What was the biggest challenge you foresaw going into the Civil Society Stocktaking and Strategy meeting?

Roula: The meeting brought together civil society actors who are involved in different initiatives at different levels (global, regional and local). Although all of the participants have been involved in the GCM process in one way or another, the biggest challenge, but also the biggest opportunity, was how do we make use of all of the information, expertise and knowledge in the room and how do we move forward in formulating messages that resonate with everyone for the next phase of the process.

Ignacio: We have a global process which we never had before. We have to keep the momentum. No relaxation and build on collective voices.

Do you have a favourite quote, nugget of information or moment from the meeting?

Roula: There were many personal takeaways from the meeting, all in all I think it was very rich in information, analysis, and energy. My favourite moment was Louise Arbour’s advice who invited us all to listen to governments first… to listen and keep an open mind as we might be surprised by how many governments would be able to support our asks.

Ignacio: “Civil society and governments have been speaking and listening much more, between governments and within civil society. The relationship with civil society should continue on the ground and in the negotiations." (GCM co-facilitators)

What was your key takeaway, in terms of civil society strategy and organising?

Roula: For me, in Puerto Vallarta the different pieces came together. It was striking to see how much the different initiatives at the different levels (whether sectoral, regional, or global) and as diverse as they may be, compliment and enrich one another. For the next phase where organizing will be crucial, it is important that we continue to reflect this diversity while at the same time presenting a unified front, and building on our collective knowledge.

Ignacio: As civil society, we should reinforce our practice of self-organising. It is about our collective voices, unity in diversity and this includes bridging the gobal compact for migration and the global compact on refugees. The bridge is “people”: something we hear over and over from the frontline workers.

And on the political side, civil society met with over 50 government delegates from 23 states in Day 2 of the civil society meeting. What did you learn during these discussions that you will be taking with you into the GCM negotiations next year?

Roula: The meeting with governments on day 2 was one of the highlights of the civil society stocktaking meeting. On a very basic level, the high turnout was a sheer indication of how much interest governments have in civil society’s positions, something we might sometimes lose track of in the way the process has been structured so far. This time, roles were reversed: it was governments who were here to listen to our vision and civil society did deliver.

The meeting was very timely in that it provided a much-needed informal space for civil society representatives to start building personal relationships with government delegates, relationships that will be developed further in the negotiation phase.

Ignacio: The TEN ACTS drafting process and its presentation at the Global Stocktaking to governments and other stakeholders reinforces civil society organisations’ credibility as a key actor with a collective voice. “Timely and precisely what we need now” is what some governments have expressed, calling also for more partnership with member states at capital level and in New York and Geneva.

Do you have any advice for the civil society actors who will be following the negotiations in New York early next year?

Roula: My advice would be: build on the information and relationships that we have so far, find out where state positions are decided (in New York or in capital), identify key people and invest in building long term relationships, and share information (with those who can support you at national level but also those who are involved in this process).

Ignacio: Forget your logos and egos. Focus on sensitive topics. Link with Civil Society dynamics in capitals. Partner with some Member States.

For the civil society actors at local and national level who are often the first responders, implementers and on-the-ground defenders of migrants’ rights, what advice do you have for them in terms of how to engage with the Global Compact for Migration?

Roula: The seven regional civil society consultations have really challenged how we (including us who work at national and regional level) define our role and contributions as local and regional actors.

People who work at the local level often have the detailed and nuanced understanding of how migration plays out in reality, they are in day-to-day contact with migrants and sometimes are migrants themselves. They are the first to point out how a recommendation which might be good in theory might not work for migrants in reality. In the consultation phase, a wealth of good practices and recommendations has indeed come from the local and national level, and when put together, they have formed the regional and the global picture. It would be a mistake to forget that in the negotiation phase. Clearly, the role of local actors is crucial and irreplaceable in capitals as they are the ones able to have access to their governments. Also crucial is to have people with this contextual knowledge be part of the global discussions in New York and to continue to bridge this gap between the local and the global in the next phase.

Ignacio: Engage in joint work to convince the public, including migrants and refugees, change perceptions (ie. South-South migration, economic and development benefits of migration…).  Communicate what the Global Compact is and is not.

There were 4 youth delegates at the Civil Society stocktaking, representing the voice, experience and concerns of youth worldwide. Do you have a message for the many youth advocates and practitioner’s active in this field.

Roula: Youths have a unique perspective and a big role in making migration policies work better for young people and children. My message would be believe in what you can do individually and collectively.

Ignacio: Join your forces with other youth lobby groups. Dialogue and influence with social movements. You have other talents than the ones of the previous generations, use them, don’t replicate.