Press Release: The United Nations Agrees on a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

17 July 2018 07:36

Friday 13 July 2018 has been hailed as a historic day at the United Nations. For the first time ever, UN Member States have agreed on a multilateral framework for cooperation on the global governance of migration. They have endorsed the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after one year of preparatory thematic and regional consultations and multi-stakeholder dialogues, and six months of intense inter-governmental negotiations. 

"Given the importance for trade unions of a fair labour migration agenda at global, regional and national levels, we have been deeply engaged in this process from the outset," said Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI, and Chair of the Council of Global Unions Working Group on Migration (CGU-WGM). "We are pleased with a number of significant and positive outcomes for migrants," continued Yuson, "but we regret the counterproductive strategies of a number of Member States. These have resulted in the weakening of language in the text on access to services, justice and labour rights for migrants in irregular status. These are fundamental flaws in the Compact that we must work to overcome".

On the positive side, trade unions welcome the promotion of the ILO's Decent Work Agenda and Conventions addressing labour migration in the Compact. We appreciate the recognition of the role of trade unions in advancing decent work for migrant workers. We also appreciate the openness with which Special Representative Louise Arbour and the Co-facilitators, Ambassadors Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), and Juan José Ignacio Gómez Camacho (Mexico) created spaces for dialogue with trade unions and other civil society organizations, and received their inputs. We welcome the good collaboration with the Like-Minded Group (LMG) of Member States and the African Group who promoted the fair labour migration and the decent work agenda throughout the process. (Download the Like-Minded Group Statement here).

The outcome has been the forging of a consensus around a comprehensive migration policy agenda, organized into 23 Objectives. They include such critical issues as enhancing pathways for regular migration, promoting ethical recruitment and decent work, safeguarding labour rights, providing access to services, social protection and justice to migrants, (although, regrettably, with differential access for undocumented migrants), promoting skills recognition and development, promoting portability of social security, addressing vulnerabilities in migration, including climate-induced displacements, trafficking, smuggling, forced labour, child labour, and gender-based violence.

In our Statement delivered to the closing plenary of the Intergovernmental negotiations, trade unions reminded the Member States that according to its guiding principles, the Global Compact was founded on the universality of human rights and the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work which are enshrined in the Decent Work Agenda. Insistence on clear distinctions between regular and irregular migrants, and enumerating differential regimes for access to services, due process and coverage under human and labour rights provisions were unacceptable. This approach, evident in paragraph 22 i) of the Compact, contradicts protections in international human rights treaties and labour standards. This is a step backwards from decades of well-established ILO doctrine and human rights protections for all migrants. The Compact's failure to recognize the importance of firewalls between labour law and immigration enforcement is also a major departure from well-established protections for irregular migrant workers.

Trade unions are all the more determined to stay engaged with all relevant UN agencies in the process of Implementation, Follow-up and Review while working as a social partner within the tripartite consultative framework of the ILO. The aim is to ensure that migration policies at national, regional and global levels remain firmly rooted in the principles of decent work and core labour standards for all migrants, regardless of status, which the Member States have an obligation to uphold.

As regards Implementation, Follow-up and Review of the Compact, a UN Migration Network has been established, led by the Secretary General. This mechanism replaces the Global Migration Group (GMG). The Network will hold a Framing Conference in Geneva from 15 to 16 October 2018, to determine its terms of reference, including roles and responsibilities of the ILO and other specialized UN Agencies with competencies in the field of migration. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), will be the coordinating Secretariat for the Network.

The Global Compact will be formally adopted by the Member States at an Intergovernmental Conference to be held in Marrakesh, Morocco from 10-11 December 2018.

Download the UN Press Release of 13 July 2018.

You can find the ITUC press release here.

For further information, please contact Jin Sook Lee,, +41 79 962 4793 (Mobile)