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Spotlight: Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees

  • Two intergovernmentally-negotiated agreements aiming to improve migration governance were ratified in December 2018 under the auspices of the United Nations (UN): (i) The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (often designated as Global Compact for Migration, GCM) which was adopted on December 10 during an Intergovernmental Conference held in Marrakech, Morocco – an event that the CMI attended – and then formally endorsed at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on December 19, 2018 in New York. (ii) The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) which was formally endorsed at the UNGA on December 17.


    Both documents emerged and were negotiated in parallel, as a concrete commitment of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted by the UNGA in September 2016, following the arrival of over a million of people into Europe.


    The need for two distinct documents was required by (i) the different category of people they target and (ii) the different legal foundations on which they rely: indeed, while the GCM targets international migrants for which there is no formal legal definition and no right protecting them in international law, the GCR targets refugees who are persons outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence and which benefit from international protection on the basis of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol.


    The GCR and the GCM are not legally binding documents, which means that they do not try to create a new right in international law. Nevertheless, they demonstrate a very strong political commitment of Member States to implement principles such as the upholding of human rights for all migrants, regardless of their migrant status, and concrete mechanisms such as a support platform for refugee-hosting countries. Read more about the GCM here and about the GCR there.