For the first time in history, in September 2016, Heads of State and Government discussed migration and refugee issues at a dedicated session of the UN General Assembly. This sent an important political message to the world: those matters are now high up the international agenda.
In the ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants’, adopted 19 September 2016, the 193 UN Member States recognised the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and improved cooperation at the global level. Member States specifically committed to:
• protect the safety, dignity and human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migratory status, and at all times;
• support countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants;
• integrate migrants – addressing their needs and
capacities as well as those of receiving communities – in humanitarian and development assistance frameworks and planning;
• combat xenophobia, racism and discrimination towards all migrants;
• develop, through a state-led process, non-binding principles and voluntary guidelines on the treatment of migrants in vulnerable situations;
• strengthen global governance of migration, including
by bringing IOM into the UN family and through the development of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration; and
• develop an additional global compact on refugees
By adopting the Declaration, the General Assembly committed itself to develop a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. This in turn led to a series of intergovernmental consultations, which began in early 2017 and which are set to culminate in the planned adoption of the compact at an intergovernmental conference, to be held in December 2018. The major elements and timeline of these negotiations are set out in a Modalities Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6 April 2017 (A/71/L.58).
The global compact is an opportunity to improve the governance of migration, while addressing the challenges of contemporary migration. It may also be used to reinforce and recognise the contribution of migrants – and of the migration process – to sustainable development. Produced through an open, transparent and inclusive process of consultations and negotiations, the global compact will draw from civil society, the private sector, academic institutions, parliaments, diaspora communities, and migrant organisations in both the intergovernmental conference and its preparatory process.
Against the backdrop of six informal thematic consultations, linked to different aspects of the global compact, the United Nations University (UNU) Office at the United Nations in New York and the UNU Migration Network jointly convened the ‘UNU Panel Series on Academic Thinking on Migration’, with the generous support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
The series brought together leading researchers in the field of migration from around the world to discuss current scholarly thinking on several topics: the rise of nationalist politics and policy implications for migration; the linkages between climate change and migration, including forced migration and community relocations; inclusion of migrants and refugees in urban areas; protection of women’s rights, with a focus on women migrant workers; and emerging research on migration for development.
Experts in each panel offered recommendations for policy makers working towards a global compact on migration. In the next section of the executive summary, each of these panels and their recommendations are briefly summarized. In the following section, more detailed summaries of each panel and associated recommendations are offered.