As the UK considers its future migration polices, the principles set by Global Compact for Migration (GCM) offer a useful framework to better inform the debate. The UK has been a supporter of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) since its framing and adoption in 2018. The global compact comprises 10 key principles and 23 objectives for better managing migration at local, national, regional, and global levels, and can be a useful tool and framework for parliamentarians to consult as they consider future migration policies in the UK context. With the recent publication of the Government's New Plan for Immigration, this is an important moment to reflect on the options for safe and regular routes to the UK, and to broaden the scope of discussion to also consider how migrant vulnerabilities can be reduced at origin and in transit.

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

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) is the first inter-governmental 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 first time Heads of State have come together to agree on a common approach on international migration. The GCM is underpinned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and international law.

Although not legally binding, it is grounded in values such as 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.

It comprises ten principles and  23 objectives.

Why is the GCM important?

The adoption of the GCM in 2018 by Member States was a testament to the power of human mobility: inevitable, undeniably beneficial but capable, too, of generating challenges if left unregulated. 

Today, there are over 281 million international migrants around the world, with the number expected to grow as a result of population growth, climate change, increasing connectivity, demographic changes, conflict and inequality. 

If well governed, migration is an engine of economic growth, innovation, and sustainable development. It allows millions of people to seek new opportunities each year, creating and strengthening bonds between societies. 

Yet, migration is also a source of division, often leaving migrants vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. In recent years, large movements of people have cast a shadow over the broader benefits of migration.
The GCM allows States to come together to address the issues and challenges of international migration and is designed to:

  • Support international cooperation on the governance of international migration;
  • Provide a comprehensive set of options for States from which they can select policy options to address some of the more pressing issues around international migration; and
  • Give States the space and flexibility to pursue implementation based on their own migration realities and capabilities.

How will the implementation of the GCM be managed and monitored globally?

For the GCM to be effective, concerted efforts at global, regional, national, and local levels, including a coherent United Nations (UN) system, are required. To that end, not only does the GCM set out a common framework for action on all aspects of migration policy and practice, but it also creates a set of institutions and processes for reporting on the progress made by States to implement its 23 objectives and ten guiding principles.

To ensure that the words in the GCM translate into concrete actions and that the Compact delivers on its promise, periodic reviews are organised on a regular basis with the participation of all stakeholders, including Member States, civil society organisations and local authorities. Convened every four years at the regional level, these reviews provide a high-level platform for all partners to highlight good practices and identify emerging gaps and challenges that could be addressed through strengthened adherence to the GCM.

These regional discussions pave the way for the first International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) to be held in 2022 and every four years after. The IMRF will serve as the primary intergovernmental global platform for Member States to share progress on the implementation of all aspects of the GCM and with the participation of all relevant stakeholders. It will result in an inter-governmentally agreed Progress Declaration.Strengthening migration governance for everyone requires cooperation at all levels by all actors. Recognizing this reality, the UN established the United Nations Network on Migration to support their implementation of the GCM and ensure effective, timely and coordinated UN system-wide support at country, regional and global levels. The International Organization for Migration, IOM, serves as the Coordinator and secretariat of the Network.

To date, over 50 Networks have been established at the country and regional levels to channel UN expertise and provide support to Member States in the implementation, follow-up and review of the GCM. In the UK, a group of stakeholders, including UN agencies, national NGOs and think tanks, and UK Government representatives, meets quarterly to discuss initiatives and updates relevant to the GCM implementation. In addition, IOM UK is currently involved in a project to increase awareness and stakeholder engagement in the United Kingdom on the Global Compact on Migration. More information on the UN Network on Migration and how stakeholders can engage with it can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions  here  and on the Network’s website.


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"Migration is one of the key realities of our time. It cuts across communities, influences priorities, and shapes societies.
To realise the benefits of migration for migrants and host communities alike, our responses must be innovative, collaborative and designed beyond the immediate."


Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission of the IOM UK Office