The UN Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

"It is true that through history, migration has always been present and I do believe it has contributed to global wealth, development and prosperity. And it is also true that 80 per cent of the migrants that live in the world, have done so in a safe and orderly way. But we cannot forget the tragedies that we witness every day in deserts, in the sea - everywhere-where people trying to have a better life put themselves in the hands of traffickers and smugglers, that dramatically violate their human rights and cause so many to die." - António Guterres, 10 December 2018

There are currently 258 million migrants worldwide - one out of every 30 people is a migrant. While most migrants change their country of residence through safe and legal means, over 60,000 migrants have lost their lives on dangerous journeys since the year 2000. To save lives, protect rights and share responsibility for people on the move, the UN General Assembly decided in September 2016 to develop a comprehensive agreement on international migration. In July 2018, after 18 months of extensive consultations and negotiations, UN Member States finalized the text of the UN Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which you can find here. On 10 December 2018, 156 UN Member States officially adopted the Compact in Marrakech, Morocco.

Today is the right time to start a conversation about how to get it right and do it right, for everybody's benefit - countries of origin, migrants, destination and transit countries, and countries of eventual return." - Louise Arbour, UN Special Representative for International Migration, November 2018.

The Global Compact for Migration is the first-ever UN global agreement on a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions. The Compact is legally non-binding. It is grounded in values of state sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination, and human rights, and recognizes that a cooperative approach is needed to optimize the overall benefits of migration, while addressing its risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination.

The Compact comprises 23 objectives for better managing migration at local, national, regional and global levels. The Compact:

  • aims to mitigate the adverse drivers and structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin;
  • intends to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration by respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights and providing them with care and assistance;
  • seeks to address the legitimate concerns of states and communities, while recognizing that societies are undergoing demographic, economic, social and environmental changes at different scales that may have implications for and result from migration;
  • strives to create conducive conditions that enable all migrants to enrich our societies through their human, economic and social capacities, and thus facilitate their contributions to sustainable development at the local, national, regional and global levels.

On 19 December the UN General Assembly formally endorsed the Global Compact, adopted by 164 Member States in Marrakech. In a statement the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres said that the Global Compact points the way toward humane and sensible action to benefit countries of origin, transit & destination as well as migrants themselves and he hopes that all countries will come to see the Compact's value.

Since the document is non-binding, the future implementation will depend on what the Member States want to make of it, and what they are willing to invest in moving its agenda forward. This is only the beginning, not the end of the international conversation on human mobility.