ABA ROLI's Annual Issues Conference Addresses Rule of Law Concerns in Forced Migration Crisis

Elizabeth Anderson, Director of ABA ROLI, welcomes attendees to the event "When People Flee: Rule of Law and Forced Migration."

As a record 65 million people flee their homes, within and across borders, displacement has become increasingly prolonged, fundamentally shifting the necessary global response. This change, coupled with the current negotiations for two U.N. compacts on migrants and refugees, and the reduced budgets of organizations working in this area, forced migration has once again come to the forefront of rule of law concerns. The U.S. has pulled out of the negotiations on the Migration Compact and is playing only a peripheral role in the Refugee Compact talks, but the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), together with academic and civil society organizations, aims nonetheless to contribute American perspectives to the process through these recommendations.

On April 17, ABA ROLI held its annual Conference on Contemporary Rule of Law Issues titled, “When People Flee: Rule of Law and Forced Migration.” The conference explored the timely and evolving topic of forced migration through the lens of three common migration routes originating in sub-Saharan Africa, Northern Triangle, and Syria. Experts and practitioners convened to discuss how new approaches to forced migration involve a three-step process of tackling root causes, ensuring the safety and human dignity of those forced to flee, and providing sustainable solutions for refugees and internally displaced people.

To better understand the migrant experience, each of the three routes followed the same format: addressing causes for migration in home countries, challenges faced in transit countries, and finally, challenges faced once in the final host country. A few recurring key themes supported a nuanced view of migration while creating an understanding of the greater migration crisis: home countries, for various reasons, are no longer filling the needs of its citizens, transit countries are often ill-equipped to protect migrants, and host countries are likewise ill-equipped or unwilling to provide long-term solutions for migrant populations. Rule of law challenges coalesce these themes as a driver of and solution to these problems. A focus on the migrant, not the state, will work to advance the rights of all and allow for the maximization of the benefits of migration.

Based on the conference’s discussions, an expert working group discussed recommendations for the global compacts processes, U.S. engagement on refugees and migrants, and ABA ROLI. While the compacts are not legally binding, the collaboration and attention to this ongoing crisis, offers hope that the rule of law will be used as a tool for freedom not injustice. To read their final report and recommendations, click here.