COVID-19 and the Global Compact for Migration - MMC Discussion Paper, September 2020

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1. Introduction

What does a less than two-year old global agreement offer against three sudden globe-shaking crises?

This report is a check-in on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration1: two-thirds of the way into the year, are the trio of linked crises this year—the COVID pandemic plus the economic and protection crises it has generated—being seen as a Compact cemetery, or a proving ground?

On the one hand, this report offers a kind of energy check just ahead of the Compact’s two-year anniversary at the end of 2020. On the other hand, almost a validity test,

too. That is, in a world where north, south, east and west, countries and people everywhere reel from not one, but these three crises fully global: where does the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration matter for people across or crossing borders, and the communities and countries from, through and to which they move?

Born itself out of a crisis—the so-called migration crisis of 2015, is this Global Compact actually fit for responding to new crises?

As they wrestle with today’s three crises, are States and others looking to the GCM before they take action, as a kind of dynamic global positioning system that points the way to practical alternatives and solutions in the three crises? Do they cite the connection of their action(s) to the GCM later, in reports or other exchange of practice?
Or not at all—and if not, why not? Does it really matter if States and other actors cite the Compact as long as their practices match it?

But most important to everyone consulted for this report: is the Compact making a difference for people on the ground, or is it just one more paper and set of processes?
How do leaders active in international migration at the front-lines answer these questions?

Reflections from the front-lines. Nearly two years on from the near-universal agreement to adopt the Global Compact, and in the middle of not one but three crises wreaking havoc worldwide, this is a gathering of reflections from a mix of 34 direct interviews and inputs among leaders in States, cities and local authorities, business, civil society and stakeholders across a diversity of geography and on front-lines of all kinds at local, national, regional and international, levels. Listed in Annex 2, 21 are themselves current or former migrants or refugees.

To be clear, the report is not an international perspective developed in isolation from migration policy centers in Geneva, New York or elsewhere. Nor at the other end of the spectrum is this a full global mapping, either of policy, practice or of actors.

Straight from leaders and actors in the center of international migration in a time of three crises, these are their reflections. They are presented directly, and not on the part of the author or the Mixed Migration Centre publishing this report.

Perspectives from interviews and inputs are reflected here under Chatham House rules of confidentiality. As such, the content of interviews and inputs is neither attributed nor is identifying information provided, other than in a few exceptions, where authorization was expressly provided by the source, either directly to the writer or in a context that was public.