Proposals for the Negotiation Process on the United Nations Global Compact for Migration

Victor Genina

Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Proposals for the Negotiation Process on the United Nations Global Compact for Migration


On September 19th, 2016, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted Resolution 71/1, the text of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants(the “New York Declaration”). Resolution 71/1 is the outcome document of the high-level plenary meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants, held at the UN headquarters. The New York Declaration reflects how UN member states have decided to address the challenge of large movements of people in two main legal categories: asylum seekers/refugees and migrants.

Resolution 71/1 includes an annex titled “Towards a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” (the “global compact for migration” or “global compact”). This document is comprised of several thematic issues related to international migration that will be the basis of a globally negotiated agreement on how member states should respond to international migration at the national, regional, and international levels, as well as to issues related to international migration and development. The global compact for migration is intended to be adopted at a conference on international migration and development before the inauguration of the 73rd annual session of the UN General Assembly in September 2018. This paper addresses how UN member states should plan to address international migration in the future. It does not refer to refugees and asylum seekers: a global compact on refugees will be drafted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2018, and to be presented to the UN General Assembly for states’ consideration during its 73rd annual session, which starts in September 2018.[1]

For those who have been involved in migration issues within the United Nations, the fact that member states have finally agreed to convene an international conference on international migration represents a major achievement. It is the result of an extended process that started decades ago and was made possible by a long chain of efforts by many state delegations and other stakeholders. The global compact for migration will not be the first outcome document dealing exclusively with international migration. A declaration[2] adopted at a high-level meeting at the United Nations in October 2013, for example, paved the way for the 2018 conference. Nonetheless, the global compact represents a unique opportunity to address international migration comprehensively and humanely. This paper contributes to the discussion on the elements that should be included in the global compact for migration.

The paper is divided into two sections. The first section analyzes the main elements of Annex II, “Towards a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” and the criteria that needs to be adopted in order to achieve a substantive outcome. In particular, participants in the negotiation process should aim to balance the concerns of states and the members of host societies, on one hand, with the needs and rights of migrants, on the other.

The second section includes proposals to enrich the final global compact for migration and takes into account two documents written by two different actors within the UN system, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Migration, and the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. In particular, the paper proposes that the global compact for migration:

  • sets forth principles that can inform the actions of governments in relation to international migration at all levels;
  • enunciates a clearer definition of state protection responsibilities in relation to migrants in crisis situations and so-called “mixed flows” [3];
  • affords a substantive role to civil society organizations, the private sector, and academic institutions in the global compact’s follow-up and review process;
  • defines the institutional framework for the implementation and follow-up of the global compact within the United Nations, including through the work of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF);
  • establishes a mechanism to fund migration policies for states that lack enough resources to invest sufficiently in this task; and
  • builds a cooperation-oriented, peer-review mechanism to review migration policies.

The paper has been conceived as an input for those who will take part in the negotiation of the global compact for migration, as well as those who will closely follow those negotiations. Thus, the paper assumes a level of knowledge on how international migration has been addressed within the United Nations during the last several years and of the complexities of these negotiation processes. The author took part in different UN negotiation processes on international migration from 2004 to 2013. The paper is primarily based on this experience.[4]


[1] G.A. Res. 71/1, ¶ 21 (Sept. 19, 2016).

[2] G.A. Res. 68/4 (Oct. 3, 2013).

[3] A mixed flow, according to UNHCR (n.d.), is the migratory flow comprised by both asylum seekers and migrants: “Migrants and refugees increasingly make use of the same routes and means of transport to get to an overseas destination.”

[4] During that period, the author was a staff member of the Mexican delegation to the United Nations, both in Geneva and New York.

Author Names

Victor Genina

Journal Journal on Migration and Human Security
Date of Publication 2017
Pages 682-693
DOI 10.1177/233150241700500307
Volume 5
Issue Number 3