Briefing paper

Making the Global Compacts work: what future for refugees and migrants?

24 Apr 2018

In September 2016, a High-Level Meeting on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants (HLM) in New York City yielded a commitment by States to develop and adopt two Global Compacts: the Global Compacts on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). Though both Compacts are intended to be nonlegally binding, they each articulate States’ common understandings and commitments to addressing challenges and the need for cooperation in the management of large-scale flows of refugees and migrants. At the time of writing, zero drafts of both Compacts have been revised following early discussions, but consultations and negotiations remain ongoing.

The aims of the GCR are: to improve burden- and responsibility-sharing for refugee protection among States; strengthen national protection systems and response capacities worldwide; enhance social and economic conditions for refugees and host communities; and resolve protracted situations of displacement through the achievement of durable solutions. To achieve these aims, the GCR proposes several new structures for international cooperation, including the convening of global refugee summits and the establishment of a Global Support Platform. It also endorses, albeit in a limited way, increasing the scope of international protection to include persons other than refugees who are without the protection of their own country. These would be welcome contributions to the international protection of refugees. However, other challenges remain. This policy brief provides a number of additional recommendations for how the GCR could further strengthen the rights of refugees and others in need of international protection. These relate to enhancing access to asylum, expanding opportunities for durable solutions, increasing funding and accountability, and ensuring the full participation of refugees in relevant processes.

The chief aim of the GCM is to express the collective commitment of States to improving cooperation on international migration. The current draft of the GCM expresses the intention that it be people-centred, build on human rights and sustainable development principles, and promote whole-of-society and whole-of-government approaches to migration. To achieve these goals, the GCM sets out 22 objectives, which could be usefully grouped into six main areas. These are: improvement of data and information; mechanisms to address the drivers of migration; measures to protect migrant rights; avenues of regular migration; steps to curtail irregular migration and provide border security; and options to encourage (re)integration of migrants and promotion of development.

This policy brief provides our recommendations for how the GCM could be further improved. This includes through: better protection for persons fleeing life-threatening situations; expanding pathways to legal admission for migrants; defining more precisely the term ‘vulnerable migrants’; and strengthening monitoring and accountability processes. This policy brief also identifies gaps and overlaps between the two Compacts, particularly with regard to internal movements of people and situations involving mixed migration flows

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Policy Brief 6
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