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 to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner. With the GCM, it is the first time Heads of State have come together to agree on a common approach on international migration, recognizing that stronger cooperation is needed to maximize the benefits of migration.

Although not legally binding, the Global Compact on Migration is grounded in and builds on states’ commitments under international law, international human rights treaties and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, among others.

As the UK manages these and other migration changes, the Global Compact on Migration provides a comprehensive toolkit of policy solutions on how to respond and manage international migration. The GCM offers an ideal that States can aspire to and a global benchmark against which both existing and new UK policy and practice can be assessed.

What are the main goals of the GCM?
  • Promote safe, orderly and regular migration as a source of prosperity, innovation and sustainable development. Support international cooperation on international migration governance.
  • Provide a comprehensive set of policy options for States from which they can draw to address some of the more pressing issues around international migration.
  • Give States the space and flexibility to pursue implementation based on their own migration realities and capabilities.
  • Encourage multi-stakeholder engagement around the challenges and opportunities of migration.

The GCM is based on 10 guiding principles and 23 objectives.

GCM Guiding PrinciplesGCM Objectives

You can discover more about each objective by visiting the Migration Network Hub; a virtual “one-stop-shop” to access and share migration-related information. 

How did the GCM develop? 

The Global Compact on Migration emerged from a period of heightened global concern around record-breaking numbers of migrants and refugees moving across international borders to escape violence, persecution, and poverty, also seeking better opportunities and security. This exodus disproportionally affected a small number of host countries receiving the highest number of arrivals. The combination of large-scale migratory movements, unprecedented levels of humanitarian need, uneven distribution of responsibilities among states and worldwide media coverage, prompted the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to take action by convening a high-level meeting on mass movements of people and requesting the UN Secretary-General to prepare a report with recommendations on the issue. 

These actions resulted in the adoption of the New York Declaration for Migrants and Refugees in 2016, in which states recognized the need for a comprehensive approach and stronger cooperation around human mobility at the global level. The New York Declaration laid the foundations for the negotiation and adoption of two Global Compacts in 2018: the Global Compact for Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM).   

The GCM was formally endorsed by the UN General Assembly in December 2018.

Monitoring progress

Mechanisms exist at the global, regional and national level to ensure that the principles of the Global Compact on Migration translate into concrete actions. At the global level, the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) convenes every four years and serves as a platform to monitor progress and discuss challenges in achieving the GCM objectives. The IMRF builds on regional reviews which are also conducted on a regular basis, and on national voluntary submissions. These reviews provide an opportunity for various stakeholders, including civil society and migrants themselves, to participate in discussions and provide inputs.

The IMRF will take place for the first time from 17 to 20 May 2022 and will include interactive multi-stakeholder round tables where progress on the achievement of all GCM objectives will be shared. 

The UN Network on Migration (UNNM) was established to support implementation and coordination at all levels. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) serves as the Coordinator and secretariat of the Network. 

More information on the implementation process is available on the UNNM website.

The GCM in the UK context

Since the United Kingdom’s adoption of the Global Compact for Migration in December 2018, significant developments in the UK context remind us why the principles that govern the GCM remain important:

  • COVID-19 highlighted the critical role played by migrants in the health and social care sectors, as well as in other essential services. The pandemic also underscored the importance of migrant and refugees’ access to basic services, including testing and vaccinations. The UK Withdrawal from the EU posed questions on the status and rights for both British nationals in the European Union and EU nationals in the UK.
  • The UK Immigration Act 2020 effectively ended freedom of movement for EU citizens, subjecting them to the same immigration rules as citizens from the rest of the world through an overhauled points-based system prioritising skilled workers. These changes are expected to affect the labour market and will require monitoring of anticipated shortages in particular sectors.
  • The Nationality & Borders Bill 2021 is the cornerstone of the UK government’s New Plan for Immigration and is widely regarded as a comprehensive reform to the UK's Asylum System. The Bill is currently in committee stage in Parliament.
Where does the UK government stand on the GCM?

The UK Government endorsed the Compact in December 2018. The UK contributed actively during the negotiations phase of the Compact and has since been a major contributor to the Migration Multi-Party Trust Fund (MPTF), the UN financing mechanism established to assist Member States in their national implementation of the Compact.

The UK Government’s key statements and communications on the GCM include:

Opportunities for civil society engagement

One of the core and cross cutting principles of the Global Compact for Migration is the whole-of-society approach, where the GCM promotes broad multi-stakeholder partnerships to address migration in all its dimensions. A whole-of-society approach entails the robust participation of migrants, host community members and civil society in the implementation, follow-up and review of the GCM, and governments are encouraged to create avenues for engagement as part of meaningful multi-stakeholder engagement.

National consultations, where civil society organizations can participate and submit contributions informing regional and national voluntary reviews, are key opportunities to shed light on the challenges and success stories linked to achieving the GCM objectives.

There are multiple ways that civil society can engage with the Compact at global, national and local levels.

Thematic Working Groups
Thematic Working Groups established by the UN Network on Migration allow civil society organizations to take part in global thematic discussions, developing tools and guidance to help States in realizing the GCM objectives. Click here for more information on the UNNM thematic priorities and working groups 2021-2022.

Country and regional networks 
Country and regional networks offer useful platforms for different stakeholders to collaborate and share practices. In the UK, an informal 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. For more information about the UK stakeholder engagement group, you can write to mcastiglioni@iom.int.

The UNNM repository of good practices
The UNNM repository of good practices hosted by the Network’s Hub  allows civil society members, as well as governments, organizations and people around the world to submit examples of projects and initiatives that demonstrate the GCM principles in practice. The repository will be fully operational in February 2022. You can submit a best practice by filling out this form and access the landing page of the Repository here.

International Migrants Day
International Migrants Day provides a global platform where a multitude of actors gather to celebrate the contribution of migrants and offers an opportunity to reiterate the values of the Global Compact on Migration. Find out more about how IOM UK celebrates IMD here. International Migrants Day 2021 builds on the #ItTakesAcommunity global campaign and it aims to celebrate diversity and migrants’ contributions in the UK society. Click here to find out more about International Migrants Day 2021.

Global campaigns
Global campaigns dedicated to migration issues represent unique opportunities for civil society and migrant voices to come forth. For example, through the It Takes a Community  campaign, people around the world can share positive stories that show how migration enriches their communities. Find out more about IOM active campaigns and how you can join them here.

Civil society can benefit from these opportunities to engage with global and national processes on the Global Compact on Migration in many ways. Engagement is useful to:

  • Bolster advocacy messages by highlighting how national practices align with the global objectives states have committed to.
  • Access a range of global resources available on the UN Network on Migration on countries’ initiatives, thematic projects and reports, and global updates.
  • Connect with other stakeholders working on similar issues in different contexts and share ideas.
Initiatives and Resources in the UK

The ‘Increasing Engagement in the UK on the Global Compact for Migration’ project, implemented by IOM UK in partnership with the Centre for Global Development and IMIX, aims to increase awareness and engagement of UK stakeholders on the GCM. The project includes developing and highlighting resources and opportunities for civil society engagement, supporting celebrations for International Migrants Day and multi-stakeholder consultations ahead of the IMRF.

  • You can read here the Event Report from the 'UK Consultation on the GCM' which was co-organized by IOM UK and ODI on 21 March 2022. The report highlights key messages and recommendations for the UK Government ahead of the IMRF in May 2022. 

The ‘GCM Implementation’ Blog Series by the Refugee Law Initiative includes both analyses of country reports and thematic blogs covering objectives of the Compact or specific human rights issues as well as the UN Secretary-General report. Reflections on how the New Plan for Immigration sets the UK up for its global responsibilities: This discussion hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration and jointly organized by RAMP and IOM explored how the GCM can better inform UK migration policy and programming.


Global resources

Additional information on the Global Compact on Migration can be found in the GCM FAQs and in the UK Resource Guide. The UNNM Monthly Newsletter is the best way to stay up to date on events, resources and best practices. You can read the latest issue here and sign up here. The UN Network on Migration Hub, comprising both the connection hub and global knowledge platform, remains the virtual “one-stop-shop” where governments, stakeholders, partners, and experts can access, request and share migration-related information and services. It will host multi-stakeholder discussions ahead of the IMRF and updates on the IMRF 2022 as well as the repository of best practices on the implementation of the GCM.