Blog post written by Jean Monnet Professor ad personam Elspeth Guild (Queen Mary University of London) and Dr Tugba Basaran (Cambridge University) and forms part of a series of blog posts examining the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The ink is now dry on the UN’s Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), adopted 10 December in Marrakech and endorsed by the General Assembly on 19 December 2018 by 152 votes in favour, 12 abstentions, and five votes against by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland, and the USA. The adoption and endorsement of the Compact is hardly the end of the process, however, but only the starting point. For the proper implementation of the Compact, a well functioning review system is crucial. This is also recognized in the last section of the Compact, dedicated to follow-up and review (para 48-54).

For the review of the Compact’s implementation, the GCM states:

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” (para 48).

To review the implementation progress, two complementary processes are foreseen: A review on the global level, coordinated by the newly named International Migration Review Forum, is scheduled to meet every four years starting in 2022 (para 49).[1] The global review is complemented by a review of the implementation in the regions, beginning in 2020 and alternating with the global level every four years (para 50). The GCM also encourages states to conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national level, such as through the voluntary elaboration and use of a national implementation plans (para 53). “[T]he President of the General Assembly is to launch and conclude, in 2019, open, transparent and inclusive intergovernmental consultations to determine the precise modalities and organizational aspects of the International Migration Review Fora, and articulate how the contributions of the regional reviews and other relevant processes will inform the Fora, as a means to further strengthen overall effectiveness and consistency of the follow-up and review outlined in the Global Compact” (para 54).

Yet, the most pressing question, in our view is what the criteria will be against which such reviews, implementation plans and other mechanisms will be measured. In our series of blogs leading up to the adoption of the GCM, we analysed each of the 23 Objectives and highlighted the centrality of states’ international human rights obligations (which they voluntarily acceded to in the UN conventions they signed and ratified). The objectives, as our blogs have shown provide something of a menu of possible actions which states can take to implement the objectives. But the choices which states make must be guided by their human rights commitments. Implementation must be consistent with the internationally recognised human rights of all people including migrants.

In this series of blogs we examine the objectives with a view towards implementation. Each objective needs to be examined to determine what those charged with reviewing implementation should be watching out for, ensuring that the GCM is being applied correctly (and human rights consistently). The starting place is the identification of targets to which evaluators can have regard when examining national implementation. These targets can then be the basis of an assessment in practice. The question we have posed ourselves is: what indicators should evaluators look for which will give guidance on whether a state is correctly implementing the GCM. For each objective, we have sought to provide four or five simple indicators which can be easily checked to determine whether states are correctly implementing the GCM. They provide a starting place for evaluations – a crib sheet of sorts which clarifies where attention needs to be given. They do not cover all aspects of each objective – such a project would mean many pages of advice and tire the reader and evaluator. Instead, these blogs focus on the hard core issues: a limited number of indicators which reveal whether further investigation is urgently needed or whether the state is at least on the surface making a genuine effort to implement correctly and in a human rights compliant manner the GCM.

Because the GCM itself places such a heavy reliance on international human rights, so too in our blogs we commence with an indication of the human right relevant to the implementation of each objective. From that starting place, the blog sets out what to look for in national legislation and practice which will show whether the state is making good progress towards the objective or whether it is moving in the wrong direction. These blogs are designed to assist both experts and laypersons to understand what we can expect from national implementation of the GCM. It is important to remember that the GCM is not legally binding. Instead, it expressed the political will of the states which signed it. As such states are political bound to one another and the international community collectively to start putting in place laws and practices which are fully consistent with the GCM. These blogs will assist states in finding their way through the GCM to the correct implementation.

We also hope that these blogs may assist states engaged in the peer-to-peer UN Universal Periodic Review processes. This is because UPR is based on reviewing the human rights commitments of states. The GCM gives specificity to the human rights obligations of states in the framework of migration law and practice, as a cooperative framework within which states should operate. Thus the peer-to-peer review process is particularly well designed to take into account the political commitments of states regarding their application of their international human rights to migrants.


[1] A number of actors are invited by the GCM to contribute to the process such as the IOM International Dialogue on Migration and Regional Consultative Processes (para 52).

The views expressed in this article belong to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Refugee Law InitiativeWe welcome comments and contributions to this blog – please comment below and see here for contribution guidelines.

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