Listen: Carolina Gottardo in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty
Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) Australian Director, Carolina Gottardo, has been working at a high level in the development of two new UN Global Compacts. One of the Compacts concerns refugees the other Compact is about safe, orderly and regular migration. She went to New York for the second round of negotiations on the Global Compacts on Migration. She was there in the capacity of civil society observer and advocate.
These new United Nations compacts aim to improve the protection of refugees and migrants at a time when the United Nations itself is highlighting huge movements of people due to conflict, persecution and famine in various parts of the world. The number of people involved make it a humanitarian crisis at a scale not seen since the end of World War II. For instance, more than 20 million people are facing starvation and famine, notably Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
History making UN compacts
“The fact that there will be a global governance framework on migration is a once in a lifetime development that should uphold the human rights of migrants.” says Carolina Gottardo. In New York, she also attended meetings with international experts. She discussed a range of issues to help finalise the Global Compact on Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees.
She says the development of the two compacts is an important moment in history. “Though the meeting participants had diverse perspectives on the issues, it is critical for the development of historic agreements. It is also important that refugees and migrants are part of the work to advance and uphold their rights.”
“We were also working for more recognition of women and girls in migration. They are affected by specific situations and negative policies. It is essential there is more recognition of the voices of the people directly affected by policies” she noted.
Australia says one thing at UN – does another at home
JRS is involved locally, nationally, regionally and globally to empower refugees, people seeking asylum and other forcibly displaced people in Australia. Ms Gottardo says it is hard not to see a mismatch between what Australia says officially in support of the two UN Global Compacts and the actions of the Australian government. Her organisation is active in calling for more humane policies and actions by successive Australian governments.
Like many other non government organisations and individuals, JRS has been vocal in deploring policies such as turning back boats, putting children in detention and off-shore processing of asylum seekers. With almost one hundred like minded groups (including the Refugee Council of Australia and the Australian Council on Social Services), JRS is sounding the alarm about drastic changes the federal government recently made to support for people who have claimed asylum.
Carolina Gottardo explains the decision and its terrible effects “Until recently, there was a low level of Government income support for people awaiting a decision about their claim for protection. Now even that has been terminated. It means no chance to get casework support, or torture and trauma counselling, or help with securing housing. Unless organisations like JRS intervene these already traumatised people will have further suffering heaped upon them.” Read more about the effect that decision is having here.