The UN Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees: A New Solution to Migration Management, or More of the Same?

On 22 and 23 May 2017, the UN hosted its second informal thematic session of the Global Compact on Migration. Designed to gather information, the sessions provide an informal setting for sharing experiences among UN member states, together with civil society members. This particular session focused on addressing human-made crises as drivers of migration and understanding the challenges facing countries that host migrants. The first session, held in Geneva on 8 and 9 May 2017, focused on social inclusion, intolerance and the human rights of migrants. The informal sessions form part of Phase I of the Global Compacts process, which will hopefully create a guiding framework to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration for the international community. This paper examines the Migration Compact in light of existing tensions among UN member states, what it hopes to achieve, and how it differs from the Global Compact on Refugees. It discusses the lack of African member states’ participation in the Migration Compact’s process to date, and what this means for the continent’s ability to inform the migration discussions in a way that benefits its citizens and addresses African-specific migration challenges. It also highlights potential challenges that could hinder the implementation of a successful global migration management framework, and suggests what the Migration Compact needs to tackle if it is to have long-lasting impact at a multilateral level.