Global Compact for Migration Conference

Global Compact for Migration Conference

Read the full text of the Global Compact for Migration here.


Read the inputs by the Sovereign Order of Malta here.

The global compact for migration is the first, intergovernmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.  It is the result of a comprehensive process of discussions and negotiations among all Member States of the United Nations that started with the New York Declaration in 2016 which was subsequently unanimously adopted at the UN General Assembly in 2016. The agreement will be formally adopted by Member States at an Intergovernmental Conference, which will be held in Marrakesh, Morocco, on 10 and 11 December. In line with United Nations practice, the state representatives will not sign the Compact. The adoption will take place by way of consensus or a vote. Once the text has been adopted, it will be sent to the UN General Assembly where it will be formally endorsed in the form of a short resolution in January 2019. Louise Arbour, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for international migration, former Canadian Supreme Court justice and UN high commissioner for human rights will serve as the Conference’s Secretary-General.

What is the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration?

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) intends to provide the international framework for a comprehensive international cooperation approach. It comprises a range of objectives, actions and avenues for implementation, follow-up and review, aimed at facilitating safe, orderly and regular migration, while reducing the incidence and impact of irregular migration.

Watch the historic moment for the UN as an agreement was reached on the GCM here


How is the Global Compact structured ?

The GCM begins with a preamble and ten guiding principles, including national sovereignty, the non-binding character of the document under international law and the commitment to the universality of human rights. It further lists 23 objectives covering factors including:

  • Managing secure borders and improving cooperation on border management
  • Strengthening safe, orderly and regular migration routes
  • Minimizing structural factors in connection with irregular migration
  • Combating human smuggling and trafficking on a transnational basis
  • Strengthening and protecting the rights of children and women
  • Gathering accurate data to searches for people missing in migration
  • Ensuring access to basic services.

The list of the 23 objectives can be found in paragraph 16 of the Global Compact for Migration.

Is the GCM binding?

The Compact is not an international agreement and is not legally binding. Special Representative Louise Arbour warned that the lack of enforcement power means that mobilization will have to happen at all levels of government and civil society to implement this legally non binding document that is the first ever really serious effort to enhance international cooperation on the management of cross-border human mobility.

How is the GCM financed and who governs it?

UN member states can pay voluntary contributions to the United Nations and its agencies. As it is not legally binding, the GCM has no obligatory costs. The implementation of the Global Compact will be supported by the Capacity-Building Mechanism in the UN. An eight-member core group of the larger interagency Global Migration Group is set to guide implementation and the International Organization for Migration has been designated the lead agency.

 Will the Global Compact result in national sovereign rights being relinquished or curtailed?

No, upholding national sovereignty is a guiding principle of the Global Compact: “The Global Compact reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction, in conformity with international law.” (Paragraph 15 c of the Global Compact). National sovereign rights will neither be curtailed nor transferred. The Global Compact will not be an international agreement and will therefore have no legal effect on national legal systems.

Does the GCM establish a right to migrate?

The Compact will not create any new legal categories. It explicitly states that national sovereignty will be upheld, especially when it comes to residence and border issues.

What impact will the GCM  have on irregular migration and will it increase migration?

The aim of the Compact is to make migration orderly and regular by improving international cooperation. It includes concrete actions that will help States to reduce irregular migration, for example through enhanced cooperation on addressing the drivers of migration, fighting trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants, managing borders and facilitating return. At the same time it aims to facilitate regular migration, necessary in many parts of the world.

Is regular migration positive or necessary?

Some positive examples are:

  • Skilled workers: Many labor markets around the world needs skilled workers, a demand which can be met by regular migration.
  • Contribution to social and economic development: the magnitude of remittances by migrants to their countries of origin amounted worldwide to approx. 600 billion US dollars in 2017; of that amount, approx. 450 billion US dollars went to developing countries – that is three times as much as total official development aid.

What is the difference between Migrants and Refugees

According to the GCM they are both entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, which must be respected, protected and fulfilled at all times. However, migrants and refugees are distinct groups governed by separate legal frameworks. Only refugees are entitled to the specific international protection as defined by international refugee law. The Global Compact on Migration refers to migrants only and presents a cooperative framework addressing migration in all its dimensions.

A companion to the migration agreement is the Global Compact on Refugees, which has not attracted as much controversy and is to be formally adopted by the General Assembly in December.

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