The Global Compact on Migration (GCM) – a global agreement being negotiated by over 200 countries –can promote safe, orderly and regular migration, but first it will need to address a number of challenges to non-migrants. These include maintaining national identity in the face of large immigration flows, perceived (and actual) job competition impacting native workers in host countries, and the difficulties faced by family members of migrants who are left behind in the country of origin. These are critical missing components, for which there are no simple answers, and which will be even more challenging in the coming decades.
While the final GCM agreement is expected to be signed at the end of 2018, there is much work to be done, and the draft could benefit from several improvements.
Objectives of the GCM
Building on the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, and extensive consultations with all stakeholders, the zero draft of the GCM lists 22 objectives for the achievement of safe, orderly and regular migration along the migration cycle. These objectives are comprehensive in their coverage of the range of issues: a focus on migrants’ well-being; achieving migration-related Sustainable Development Goals (e.g., reducing remittance costs and recruitment costs); improving impacts of migration; shaping policies and public perceptions based on analysis of data; and environmental change-induced migration, especially displacement due to natural disasters.
While many of these objectives are non-controversial, the main challenges relate to collecting and analyzing relevant and reliable data, and then building financial and technical capacity. Some others – such as those related to migrant rights and return migration – will be hotly debated. In particular, many countries may hesitate to cooperate with host countries on return, readmission, and reintegration of migrants.
The GCM is non-binding. It proposes to repurpose and rename the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development as “International Migration Review Forum” (IMRF), which will take place in 2022, 2026 and 2030. Various existing global and regional forums and processes would contribute to the preparation of the IMRF. The GCM calls on the IOM and various international agencies within and outside the UN to contribute data and knowledge to shape the IMRF.
The Role of the World Bank and UN
The IMRF would benefit from establishing a formal review mechanism similar to the G20 Mutual Assessment Process (MAP), under which countries identify objectives for the global economy, note the policies needed to reach these shared objectives, and describe progress toward the objectives. At the request of the G20, the IMF (in collaboration with the World Bank) provides technical analysis to evaluate key imbalances and how members’ policies fit together—and whether, collectively, they can achieve the G20’s goals.
The World Bank Group, through Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD) and the Global Remittances Working Group (GRWG), stands ready to contribute to the IMRF our data, knowledge, review, evaluation, and formulation of policies. Even though the GCM is non-binding, its chances of success would improve if its objectives could be formalized through agreed guidelines, which could be developed based on many existing international, regional and bilateral agreements. A stocktaking of such agreements for each of the GCM objectives would be an essential next step.
Operationalization of the GCM will also involve a mapping of institutional architecture: Which institutions are involved? What are their missions and capabilities? At what level do they operate (global, regional, national and subnational)? What kind of technical capacity building might be needed to achieve safe, orderly and regular migration and mobility? How should commitments in the GCM be monitored? Currently the UN Special Representative for International Migration is undertaking an exercise to help answer these questions and map the missions and capabilities of Global Migration Group agencies.
The GCM does not clearly mention how its implementation would be financed. Many host countries for migrants are likely to welcome financial assistance through a mechanism like the Global Concessional Financing Facility which was created to assist countries hosting refugees. However, such financing should be additional, not a diversion from existing development programs. A controversial question, not explicitly mentioned but indirectly implied in the GCM, relates to ideas of co-development through “conditionalities.” A cooperation framework that links readmission and reintegration of return migrants to development aid, trade, or investment policies may not be sustainable in countries with high unemployment.
Population Trends and Migration
The working-age population in developing countries is projected to increase by over 2 billion by 2050 (according to UN population projections), while employment levels (according to ILO projections) are likely to fall short of this number by over 800 million. This shortfall is an indicator of growing migration pressures in the next three decades (see World Bank 2016). By acknowledging the possibility that the flow of migration could accelerate to a significantly larger number than currently anticipated, the GCM could not only allow for some contingency framework for response, but also it could spur a search for innovative solutions to the challenge of managing a large and unexpected movement of people. At the very least, the acknowledgement of the enormity of the risk would lend a greater sense of urgency to member states to adopt and operationalize the GCM.
The Other Compact: Refugees
The UN Declaration proposed two separate Global Compacts, one for migrants and the other for refugees. Formal consultations on the draft of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) are also taking place between February and July 2018; the final draft will be included in the High Commissioner’s 2018 annual report to the General Assembly. Unlike the GCM, the GCR already has standards, foundations, legal frameworks, operational knowledge, and a lead implementing agency (UNHCR) already in place. The GCR will be governed by the 1951 Geneva Convention, its 1967 Protocol, regional instruments, the principle of non-refoulement, and article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The GCR will continue an emphasis on prevention and addressing root causes of refugee movements.
While the well-established norms and governance mechanism for addressing refugees has many benefits, a rather strict separation of the GCR from the GCM leaves a gap in addressing the complex reality of mixed migration. Links between the GCR and the GCM could include addressing the adverse drivers of migration; integrated border management; the special needs of vulnerable groups, such as women and children during journeys at sea or overland; and reception and integration issues.
Negotiations on the GCM are in full-swing, with a third round concluded on April 6, 2018, with negotiations to continue until July 2018. The Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, will be held in Morocco on 10 and 11 December 2018.