Blog post by Elisa Fornalé [1] and Federica Cristani [2] and forms part of a series of blog posts examining the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.


1.0 Introduction


Objectives 2 and 5 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) aim at minimizing the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin (objective 2) and at enhancing availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration (objective 5), respectively; several actions are listed in order to support the implementation of the relevant commitments.


Objectives 2 and 5 include separate but strictly interconnected goals: on the one hand, minimizing the adverse drivers and structural factors of migration can enhance regular migration flows (as specified in para 18 of the GCM, “desperation and deteriorating environments” can lead to “irregular migration”); on the other hand, “identify, develop and strengthen solutions for migrants compelled to leave their countries of origin owing to slow-onset natural disasters, the adverse effects of climate change, and environmental degradation” is one of the express actions for realizing the goals of objective 5 (para. 21, let. h) of the GCM.


The following blogpost offers an overview from the first UNECE review that took place on 12-13 November 2020, by analysing the reports submitted by states on the progress made in the achievements of the commitments and actions specified in objectives 2 and 5. The structure of the reports differs substantially and some states have addressed only objective 2 (Azerbaijan; Finland; The Netherlands) or objective 5 ( Croatia; Russia), or both (Albania; Armenia; Belarus; Belgium; Denmark; Germany; Greece; Ireland; Kazakhstan; Moldova; North Macedonia; Norway; Portugal; Serbia; Spain; Sweden; Turkey; United Kingdom (UK); Uzbekistan), or neither one (Canada; Malta). Several states have also underlined how the policies implementing objectives 2 and 5 of the GCM have been directly instrumental in the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the national level (in this respect, Belarus, Belgium,  Germany, Ireland, Norway and Kazakhstan).  


2.0 What states have been doing at the national level: Emerging strategies


2.1 National policies and regulations aims at improving and facilitating employment and integration of migrant workers (objectives 2 and 5)


With a specific view to implement objective 2, states have enacted policies promoting economic development and employment opportunities at the national level: Albania, Belarus and Moldova adopted new strategies in the aftermath of the GCM aimed at reducing some of the “push factors” of emigration, namely unemployment and lack of work opportunities in the countries. Indeed, Albania adopted the National Strategy on Migration (2019-2022), together with the National Strategy for Employment and Skills 2019-2022 and its Plan of Action that focus on the improvement of employment opportunities. Belarus established in 2019, with the support of the UNDP, the National Centre for Subcontracting on the basis of the Belarusian Fund of Financial Support to Entrepreneurs, a program aimed at promoting “effective employment and self-employment of population in small and medium-sized towns” and that has already had a positive impact. Also Moldova adopted a new national legal framework on employment aimed at “minimizing the factors that boost labor migration processes”. On the other hand, Armenia has linked objective 2 of the GCM to one of the objectives of its 2010 Migration Concept, namely the design of programs aimed at improving the demographic situation of the country, thus connecting “migration management policy making and improvement of demographic situation”.


At the same time, employment policies have been adopted in order to attract labour migrants in the countries, and thus implementing objective 5: Albania has improved its national legislation on private employment agencies, in line with ILO standards, while Croatia has increased the quotas for migrant workers and Denmark has focused on “legal pathways for regular migration that reflects labour market realities”. While the above mentioned policies address labour migration without distinction between low- and high-skilled migrants, a number of countries have instead narrowed down their national policies with a view to attract high-skilled migrants (in the implementation of objective 5): Germany, Kazakhstan, and Moldova reported specific actions in this direction. Indeed, Germany adopted the Skilled Workers Immigration Act (Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz) in 2020, which increases the opportunities for “qualified professionals to access the German labour market” and established the Central Advisory Service for the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (ZSBA) for facilitating the process for recognition of foreign qualifications. Also Kazakhstan’s 2025 Strategic Development Plan includes strategies for “attracting highly qualified overseas workers”, while Moldova opened up its labor market to foreigners “in certain priority areas of the national economy” (the report however does not detail which ones).  


2.2 National policies and programs aimed at facilitating and/or improving visa and work permit procedures (objective 5)


A number of states have put in place reforms in the direction to make it easier for migrants obtaining work permits: Armenia adopted in 2020 a new system for managing work permits in order “to establish a transparent process for immigrants”, Croatia has simplified stay and work permits procedures, Ireland has implemented an “employment permit regime” which is much “orientated to the skills/labour needs in the economy” and Russia has improved its system in order “to ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation”.


In particular, a number of states have adopted measures tailored to attract high-skilled migrant workers: since 2019 Belgium has adopted a new work permit procedure for high-skilled labour and seasonal workers, as well as medium-skilled professionals “for which there is a structural shortage and need”; Kazakhstan has also simplified the work permit procedure and has introduced a special system to “attract specialists demanded in priority economic sectors under self-employment conditions” and the UK has enacted a “new points-based immigration system” (in force from January 2021) “to attract the high-skilled workers […UK] need[s…] to contribute to [its] economy, […] communities and […] public services”.


When dealing with employment policies and/or visa and work permit procedures, another emerging strategy, common to a number of states, deals with investment migration, as detailed in the following paragraph.  


2.3 Investment migration (objective 5)


National programs are described to grant residence permits to foreigners in return to investment– better known as “investment migration”. For instance, Greece highlights the promotion of “migration for investment to real estate and other forms of investments”. North Macedonia described its efforts for attracting foreign investors by ensuring the constant improvement and acceleration of the procedures regarding the employment of foreigners.  Moldova, also, adopted simplified admission and documentation procedures for those who want to work or invest in the country. Recently, this topic became a “controversial and divisive” issue, and it is attracting severe criticism especially at European level (PACE, 2020). On 4 December 2020, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PA) adopted the Resolution 2355 (2020)  “Investment Migration’”, which emphasizes that these national programs “must respect the legal standards set by the Council of Europe, as well as relevant international standards designed to prevent corruption” (para.1).  In line with this development, the GCM offers the unique opportunity to receive information about national policies and practice to explore the role of investment migration to become a “legal pathway” to regular mobility and of reducing visa requirements. Indeed, as also underlined by the Rapporteur of the PA Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons in its Report on “Investment migration” of 19 August 2020 (Doc. 15127), though “investment migration is primarily a political issue […it] can only be regulated by law” (para. 6).  


2.4 Academic mobility: Visa policies for students and academics (objective 5)


A number of reports have highlighted the efforts of the state to encourage and facilitate academic mobility: Belgium provides a “clear visa policy for students”; Greece has implemented an “accelerated and facilitated visa and permit processing for students” and UK will launch a Graduate Route during the summer of 2021 tailored for students who wish to work in the country. Also Germany implements national policies for students and academics, promoting international academic exchange.  


2.5 National policies for supporting citizens working abroad (objectives 2 and 5)


Serbia, Uzbekistan, and North Macedonia have also highlighted the implementation of national policies addressing citizens that decided to migrate and work abroad: Serbia has adopted a Law on Conditions for Posting Employees to Temporary Work abroad and their Protection; also Uzbekistan adopted the Decree No. UP-5785 on Measures to further strengthen guarantees for the protection of citizens temporarily working abroad in 2019, while North Macedonia’s Resolution on Migration Policy 2015-2020 underlines “the need for improved opportunities for temporary employment abroad”.  


3.0 What states have been doing at the bilateral / international level: The cooperative dimension


As part of the implementation of objectives 2 and 5 of the GCM, several states have worked at the bilateral level with countries of transit and/or destination in order to strengthen cooperation and facilitate regular migration: Belgium has promoted “pilot projects on circular migration with African countries”, while Croatia has focused on youth mobility. Albania, Belarus, Greece, Portugal, Russia and Serbia have reported the conclusion and/or on-going negotiation of bilateral migration labour agreements (BMLAs) – also as part of the implementation of objectives 2 and 5. Also UK has worked in the direction to “introduce new legal pathways for regular migration within migrants’ region of origin”. Belgium, Finland, Germany, GreeceNorway, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain  have engaged in agreements/initiatives, mainly at the bilateral level, with the aim to promote development cooperation. As highlighted by Germany, “development-oriented engagement on regular migration” aims for “labour migration and mobility to benefit countries of origin, host countries and migrants alike (a “triple win”)”.  


4.0 ZOOM IN – Environmental changes and human mobility


Specific attention deserves the recent developments described by state reports in the contexts of disaster displacements. It is important to recall that the Global Compact for the first time recognized “the adverse effects of climate change, environmental  degradation, as well as other precarious situations”” as co-drivers of human mobility (Objective 2). Examples of measures adopted include development programmes implemented by Germany in cooperation with the government of Fiji “to develop solutions such as human-rights-based disaster displacement and relocation guidelines”. Initiatives are also supported in line with the Sendai Framework to develop national disaster risk reduction strategies. In the aftermath of the adoption of the GCM, Germany has established a Commission on the Root Causes of Displacement with the task to “elaborate […] recommendations on how to reduce the root causes of irregular migration and displacement”. In the same line, also the UK commissioned research “to better understand the links between migration and climate change and to build evidence of drivers and effective responses”.


Recent developments have also been described in the first biennial report by the UN Secretary-General on the implementation of the GCM submitted in 2020.  The report highlighted how countries have incorporated climate change considerations into their national migration policies before the adoption of the GCM (para. 40) and it is also mentioned a number of countries that are developing ad hoc measures as part of their climate strategy. Despite the sustained attention at international level, as highlighted by ACT Alliance, efforts “to address climate change as a driver for migration and to include climate-specific responses in their design and implementation of regular pathways” are still not sufficient.  


5.0 The challenge of implementation: Suggestions from state practice


A number of states have highlighted in their reports the main challenges in the implementation of objectives 2 and 5 of the GCM. In particular, North Macedonia has underlined, on the one hand, the challenges to address brain drain and, on the other hand, the need to attract high-skilled migrant workers, especially for some economic sectors (objective 5). Furthermore, it has admitted the difficulties in keeping accurate data on migration at the national level (objective 2 and 5). Also, Moldova has underlined the “low level of information” on migration issues (objective 5).


Overall, as the above paragraphs has shown, states have taken first steps in the implementation of objectives 2 and 5, with a number of diverse strategies in the framework of labour mobility – sometimes with a specific focus on high-skilled migration and investment migration – and development cooperation. On the other hand, a number of issues seem not to have been fully addressed, as in the case of human mobility in the context of disasters and climate change.  Also the Summary Report of the Rapporteur Ms. Michele LeVoy after the Informal Multi-stakeholder Consultation Regional Review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in the UNECE region pointed out the need to “[e]xpand regular pathways” within the implementation of objective 5; at the same time, she called on states to “address climate crisis and people on the move by following the steps outlined in Objective 2 […] and by including pathways for people affected by climate change in the implementation of Objective 5”, thus enhancing multilateral cooperation.


Author bios

[1] Elisa Fornalé is SNSF Professor at the World Trade Institute, University of Bern. The author acknowledges the support of the SNSF grant no. PP00P1163700. Thanks are also due to Mr Elias Bieri for research assistance.

[2] Federica Cristani is Senior Researcher at the Centre for International Law of the Institute of International Relations in Prague (CZ).    



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