Blog post written by Dr Sandra Lavenex (Unige) and forms part of a series of blog posts analysing the final draft (objective by objective) of the UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.




The sections on Implementation, Follow-Up and Review address the operational aspects of the Global Compact for Migration and are crucial for putting the norms and substance of the 23 Objectives into practice. As pointed out by the UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed on the occasion of the fifth round of negotiations on 7 June 2018, “implementation will be the ultimate proof of the Compact’s success. Much will depend on the ability of Member States to leverage the common ground captured in the Global Compact towards more effective and scaled‑up cooperation. A strong, fluid, multilayered follow‑up framework, supported by a solid evidence‑based and open, inclusive mechanisms, will also be essential.” (UN Press Release DSG/SM/1183-DEV/3338). This is especially so given the Compact’s non-legally binding nature and its reliance on “objectives” to be achieved over time. Given this process-orientation, the final draft comprises five types of operational measures: a capacity-building mechanism including funding and knowledge sharing; the UN network on Migration; global, regional and sub-regional dialogues; an intergovernmental review forum at the global level, to be supported by regional and sub-regional fora; and national action plans.




The basic pillars of the two sections on “implementation” and “follow-up and review” were already contained in the Zero Draft. Main changes concern: greater emphasis on the role of states; clarification of the role of UN institutions in particular through the details of the capacity building mechanisms and intergovernmental review forum, including an upgrading of the IOM; and, more cross-references to associated processes such as the Global Forum for Migration and Development or the Sustainable Development Goals. In contrast to the Zero Draft, which provided for a prominent role of regional mechanisms in implementing and reviewing progress under the GCM, the references to regional level institutions have become more flexible and open with subsequent drafts. Overall, the involvement of local/city, subnational and regional levels of governance as well as of stakeholders has been maintained and clarified.


Whereas Art. 38 of the Zero Draft already acknowledged “taking into account our countries’ specific migration realities and priorities”, the final draft now reads “taking into account different national realities, capacities, and levels of development, and respecting national policies and priorities”. Similarly, the first Article in the Section on “follow-up and review” was reformulated from “We commit to track and monitor the progress made in implementing the Global Compact in the framework of the United Nations”, including intergovernmental measures (Art. 43 Zero Draft), to “We will review the progress made at local, national, regional and global levels in implementing the Global Compact in the framework of the United Nations through a State-led approach and with the participation of all relevant stakeholders”, including intergovernmental measures (Art. 48 Final Draft, emphasis added). The central role of states – and the respect for their sovereignty including the principle of voluntarism also transpire from a new article introduced with the June Draft (Rev 3) and reformulated in the Final Draft according to which “We encourage all Member States to develop, as soon as practicable, ambitious national responses for the implementation of the Global Compact, and to conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national level, such as through the voluntary elaboration and use of a national implementation plan” (Art. 53 Final Draft, emphasis added). The central review forum, the International Migration Review Forum, which was already proposed in the Zero Draft, is also respectful of state sovereignty. This Forum will succeed to the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and take place every fourth session of the General Assembly “to discuss and share progress on the implementation of all aspects of the Global Compact” (Art. 49 Final Draft).


Next to the clearer emphasis on state sovereignty, the role of UN institutions has been specified, with the IOM obtaining the central coordinating role. The June Draft (Rev 3) introduced a call for the Secretary General “to establish a United Nations network on migration to ensure effective and coherent system-wide support to implementation, including the capacity-building mechanism, as well as follow-up and review of the Global Compact, in response to the needs of Member States”, with the IOM serving as the coordinator and secretariat (Art. 45 Final Draft). The UN Migration Network is composed of the relevant UN organisations dealing with migration and succeeds to the Global Migration Group which has been coordinating relevant UN organisations dealing with migration since 2006. The Network and UN organisations involved will be in charge of the capacity building mechanism with its three components: the connection hub (facilitate agreements, provide trainings and run projects); the start-up fund (financing projects, technology or databases); and the knowledge platform (collecting evidence and best practices) (Art. 43 Final Draft). UN organisations will thereby support states in drafting and implementing their (voluntary) national implementation plans. Art. 45 also suggests that the Network will play an important role in the International Migration Review Forum, although the “precise modalities and organizational aspects” of the review procedure shall be specified later in 2019 (Art. 54 Final Draft). Finally, the June Draft (Rev 3) has enhanced the role of the Secretary General who is asked “drawing on the network, to report to the General Assembly on a biennial basis on the implementation of the Global Compact, the activities of the United Nations system in this regard, as well as the functioning of the institutional arrangements” (Art. 46 Final Draft).


The third aspect that has developed through the negotiation rounds concerns cross-references to related processes and institutions. This concerns in particular the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD). The Agenda for Sustainable Development is referred to in a new Article on international partnerships (Art. 42 Final Draft, also referring to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda); and its migration-related aspects shall be included in the International Review Forum (Art. 49 Final Draft). The GFMD was upgraded with a specific article (Art. 51 Final Draft) referring to it as a “space for annual informal exchange on the implementation of the Global Compact” and asking it to “report the findings, best practices and innovative approaches to the International Migration Review Forum”. The GFMD was thereby singled out from the more general reference in the Zero Draft (Now Art. 52 Final Draft) to “State-led initiatives on international migration” including Regional Consultative Processes (RCPs) and the IOM International Dialogue on Migration (introduced with the first revision).


While the role of regional institutions is stressed alongside with global, national and sub-national entities throughout the text, their involvement in the operational aspects of the GCM has not become clearer in the negotiation process. Art. 41 and 47 (Final Draft) mention that implementation shall occur at the national, regional and global levels, and the new article on international partnerships (Art. 42 Final Draft) addresses implementation through regional cooperation alongside bilateral and multilateral tools.  Art. 49 (Final Draft) provides that the International Migration Review Forum “shall discuss the implementation of the Global Compact at the local, national, regional and global levels, but the idea to convene a “Regional Migration Review Forum” alternating with the International Forum, which was contained in Art. 45 of the Zero Draft, was dropped. Instead, the revised Art. 50 (Final Draft) contains an open formulation according to which:

“Considering that most international migration takes place within regions, we invite relevant subregional, regional and cross-regional processes, platforms and organizations, including the United Nations Regional Economic Commissions or Regional Consultative Processes, to review the implementation of the Global Compact within the respective regions, beginning in 2020, alternating with discussions at global level at a four year interval, in order to effectively inform each edition of the International Migration Review Forum”.

Whereas earlier drafts proposed to select pertinent regional entities, the decision which regional institutions will be involved is left open (see also Art. 54 Final Draft). Art. 52 (Final Draft) suggests that RCPs (and other State-led initiatives such as the IOM International Dialogue on Migration) “shall contribute to the International Migration Review Forum by providing relevant data, evidence, best practices, innovative approaches and recommendations” which gives the RCPs a privileged position compared to other regional bodies like the UN Economic Commissions or regional economic communities. Given that most RCPs are administered by IOM, this choice adds to the growing influence of the organization.


Next to the regional, also the subnational level of governance is consistently referred to in the implementation and review mechanisms. The participation of stakeholders has become more precise and inclusive over the rounds of negotiations. In the first draft, “migrants” as well as “the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement” were added to “civil society, migrant and diaspora organizations, cities and local communities, the private sector, trade unions, parliamentarians, National Human Rights Institutions, academia, and the media” listed in the original Art. 40,  now Art. 44 Final Draft. For the review process it was clarified that this would be a “State-led approach and with the participation of all relevant stakeholders” (Art. 48 Final Draft) and not a “multi-stakeholder approach” as indicated in Draft One (March).


Finally, an element from the Zero Draft that was not maintained in subsequent drafts is the idea contained in Art. 40 (Zero Draft) to “determine, in 2026, which specific measures will further strengthen the global governance of international migration, including whether to hold a review conference of the Global Compact in 2030”


The Future


The Implementation, Review and Follow-up mechanisms are clearly intergovernmental, with the inclusion of regional and sub-regional levels of governance and the involvement of stakeholders. The strengths of this approach are its flexibility and respect for state sovereignty and different state capacities; the inclusion of capacity-building elements including funding and knowledge; the mobilisation and involvement of the different layers of governance including, next to states, local/city and regional institutions; and the greater coordination and central role of UN organisations in the UN Migration Network. There are however also some challenges that come with this approach.


Firstly, while states are the primary targets, their own review of implementation shall be “voluntary” based on national implementation plans (Art. 53 Final Draft). In contrast to similarly open governance mechanisms such as e.g. the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, there is no obligation to draft up ambitious and progressive national action plans. States will be relatively flexible to “pick and choose” from the objectives they want to work on. Apart from the intergovernmental review taking place every four years – which seems excessively distant for meaningful monitoring — no timeline or roadmap with specified deadlines is provided.


Likewise, the modalities and organisation of the International Review Forum have not been spelled out and are left for future negotiations starting in 2019 (Art. 54 Final Draft). One question is how to assure that protection of migrants’ rights receives as much attention as other state prerogatives, also given that the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants or of the Special Representative for International Migration have not been strengthened. The same is true for the funding of the capacity-building mechanism which will be influenced by the priorities of donor states.


This equally applies to the IOM which takes up a central role as coordinator of the UN Migration Framework and in the capacity-building and review mechanisms. In the absence of a normative mandate and of a solid funding basis this organisation is likely to be limited in its ambitions and capacities, the more so with the US’ retreat from the GCM. Another point facing the IOM is its dual responsibility both in the implementation and the review of progress, which may cause conflicts of interest. In this context the fact that IOM does not have universal membership may also turn out to be problematic when it comes to state that are party to the GCM but not members of IOM. With regard to the monitoring, the modalities for deciding on the operationalisation of actionable commitments and on benchmarks for assessing progress will need to be specified, including the role of pertinent international organisations such as for instance the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for workers rights.


Finally, while the Compact acknowledges that most international migration takes place within regions (Art. 50 Final Draft), the role of regional institutions has not been specified. The Final Draft emphasizes Regional Consultative Processes as primary units for regional implementation. RCPs have however a very weak institutional basis, a hitherto limited agenda frequently focused on irregular migration, and in many cases depend on the input from international actors. Other regional bodies with more developed institutional frameworks and stronger ownership such as regional economic communities could have received greater attention.



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