The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) is an intergovernmentally negotiated agreement between United Nations (UN) Member States, intended to comprehensively address all aspects of international migration. The finalization of the document on July 13, 2018 marked the first time that UN Member States collectively formulated an agreement encompassing a comprehensive 360-degree view of international migration, based upon the premise of a shared global responsibility.
The extensive process of drafting the GCM was divided into three phases of work.
Consultations: The initial consultations phase invited participants including Member State representatives, civil society actors, and migrants themselves to offer input and recommendations on the GCM development process. The consultations phase included six informal thematic sessions held in New York, Geneva, and Vienna. These sessions addressed broad themes within international migration:
- Human rights of all migrants, social inclusion, cohesion and all forms of discrimination, including racism, xenophobia and intolerance
- Addressing drivers of migration, including adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters and human-made crises, through protection and assistance, sustainable development, poverty eradication, conflict prevention and resolution
- International cooperation and governance of migration in all its dimensions, including at borders, on transit, entry, return, readmission, integration and reintegration
- Contributions of migrants and diasporas to all dimensions of sustainable development, including remittances and portability of earned benefits
- Smuggling of migrants, trafficking in persons and contemporary forms of slavery, including appropriate identification, protection and assistance to migrants and trafficking victims
- Irregular migration and regular pathways, including decent work, labor mobility, recognition of skills and qualifications and other relevant measures
These themes were eventually worked into GCM commitments, with stockholders’ input informing the policy and action suggestions listed after each commitment. Further consultations were held to address specific concerns in different global regions.
Stocktaking: In December 2017, Member States, UN Agencies, and civil society met in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to assess the input received during consultations. Also during this phase, UN Secretary General António Guterres released his report, Making Migration Work For All.
GCM co-facilitators Jürg Lauber (Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN) and Juan José Gómez-Camacho (Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN), along with their teams of writers released the Zero Draft of the GCM in early February 2018. This kicked off the third and final phase of the drafting process.
Negotiations: For one week out of each month from February to July 2018, Member State representatives convened at the UN Headquarters in New York for intergovernmental negotiations. During carefully structured sessions lead by the co-facilitators, Member States debated the text of the GCM. Co-facilitators also provided space for members of civil society to offer suggestions. Between sessions, the co-facilitators and their writing teams would edit the text, considering the comments received during each round. The text changed significantly throughout the process, highlighting how active and important these kinds of negotiations are.
On July 13, 2018, the co-facilitators ended the negotiations phase, concluding the drafting process and finalizing the text of the GCM. The finalized text in its entirety can be viewed here.
Although the text has been finalized, it will not be formally adopted by UN Member States until the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which will be held in Marrakesh, Morocco on December 10-11, 2018.
The MCC UN Office was one of hundreds of civil society actors closely following the process of drafting the GCM. Non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, migrants’ rights groups, migrants themselves, and diverse inter-organizational coalitions were present at every round of negotiations and hard at work behind the scenes in the weeks between.
MCC UN staff were active members of the NGO Committee on Migration and its Subcommittee on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. As part of its advocacy, the NGO Committee on Migration released a document called the Now and How: Ten Acts for the Global Compact. This document laid out the committee’s vision for the GCM, namely that the compact directly benefit migrants, refugees, and societies; that the compact rest upon international human rights law; and that civil society and migrants themselves be directly involved in the drafting process. The committee saw this language reflected in Secretary General António Guterres’ report, which was presented to the General Assembly shortly before negotiations began.
MCC and the NGO Committee on Migration also conducted visits to UN Member State missions and met frequently with the UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour. Meetings among civil society and with high representatives within the UN system were an opportunity for the MCC UN Office to share what should be learned from the work our MCC partners are doing around the world. We communicated frequently with MCC country programs directly connected to migration work on the ground and used that insight to inform our advocacy at the highest levels in New York.
After consultations, stocktaking, and negotiations comes the unofficial but instrumental fourth phase: implementation. To mean anything at all, the content of the GCM must be affirmed by Member States and put into practice. Creating tangible, positive results will require the intersection of migrants’ voices, civil society’s advocacy, and action by Member States’ local governments.
Throughout the next several months, our office will be conducting and participating in additional visits to Member State missions, encouraging their governments to arrive at the December meetings in Marrakech ready to vote in favor of adopting the GCM, ready to share their best practices, and ready to present their ideas for implementation at the local level. This is an opportunity for governments to position themselves as progressive leaders in the process. To play our part in this next ongoing phase, the MCC Office will continue to hold our place as a bridge between MCC’s work on the ground and the international policy work happening at the UN.
Kati Garrison is the Program and Advocacy Associate at Mennonite Central Committee's UN Office.
Abby Hershberger is the Program Assistant at Mennonite Central Committee's UN Office.