17 July 2018


Agreement on a Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration


Dear Members, Dear Partners, 


On 13 July, the UN member states agreed on a Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular Migration (GCM) following six intense rounds of negotiations at the UN headquarters in New York. Ronnie Goldberg, Chair of the IOE Policy Working Group on international labour migration, made a statement on behalf of the IOE and the GFMD Business Mechanism at the official presentation ceremony. (GCM and Ronnie’s statement in the side panel.)


What is the GCM?

The GCM is a non-legally binding instrument negotiated, and for implementation, by governments, prepared under the auspices of the UN, covering all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner. Its aim is to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration, while reducing the incidence and negative impact of irregular/illegal migration through international cooperation. The process ran in parallel to the negotiation of a global compact for refugees in which the IOE did not take part.


General assessment

The GCM includes innovative language (for a UN document), which comprises the recognition of labour market needs, predictable labour mobility schemes, and the appreciation of the role and expertise of the private sector, in particular in identifying skills needs. Following UN humanitarian traditions, the document focuses on the protection of migrants’ rights, rather than on the good governance of international migration; the line between regular and irregular migrants is thereby not always clearly defined.


IOE’s recommendations

During the six rounds of negotiations, the IOE observed the process, while actively advocating for employers’ interests. Most of the IOE’s suggestions relating to skills mobility, responsible recruitment and skills development were adopted in the text, including:

  • General language on predictable and transparent migration policies that reflect demographic realities and labour market needs 
  • Specific language on flexible labour mobility schemes, which include fast-track programmes in areas of labour shortages, and facilitated visa and permit processing for employers with a track record of compliance (Objective 5)
  • Numerous references to the need to cooperate with the private sector and employers, to benefit from their technical expertise and on-the-ground experience, one of which makes special reference to the GFMD Business Mechanism, coordinated by the IOE
  • A focus on skills development and recognition of foreign qualifications (Objective 18).


Hard fought battles

We closely followed these matters of concern:  

  • On supply chain transparency: the initial draft of February 2018 included strong language on holding employers accountable for violations in their supply chains. The final draft language is acceptable as it calls for cooperation with the private sector to build partnerships that promote conditions for decent work and ensure that the roles and responsibilities are clearly outlined, thereby enhancing supply chain transparency. (Objective 6e). Although supply chains transparency is still referenced, we regard this as benign.
  • A reference to “equal pay for work of equal value” was added at a late stage of the negotiations (Objective 6i). This language begins to appear regularly in ILO documents. Moreover, ILO Conventions 97 and 143, which employers consider outdated and not reflecting current realities, were also added at a late stage. We were unsuccessful in deleting these references.
  • The initial draft included a provision aimed at ending the practice of tying work visas to employers. We were successful in deleting this, while recognizing the migrant workers’ right to change employers (Objective 6g).


Next steps

The GCM will be formally adopted at a global Conference in Marrakesh on 10 and 11 December, after the GFMD Summit. Governments are now considering a process to sign off on the document.

In the meantime, stakeholders will put in place frameworks for the implementation of the GCM. The IOM will take a leading role. The ILO will battle to find its place on topics related to fair recruitment and skills mobility; in November it will host a tripartite meeting of experts to agree on a definition of recruitment fees and related costs, to which Objective 6c refers. 


Follow up on IOE’s side

The IOE will work on a position paper, the draft of which will be submitted to members and partners for discussion. We will convene a Webex meeting of the IOE Policy Working Group on labour migration towards the end of September to consult members and partners on the position paper and on the way forward in preparation for the GCM adoption conference. 

In addition, the GFMD Business Mechanism will convene its annual thematic conference on 23 October in Kuala Lumpur. The GCM will be on the agenda. We look forward to IOE members’ active engagement.


Yours sincerely,


Stéphanie Winet

Head of Stakeholder Engagement,
GFMD Business Mechanism

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