Originally convened at the regional and interregional levels, the proliferation of Inter-State Consultation Mechanisms on Migration (ICSMs) has paved the way for the emergence of the first global level ISCMs – the global processes on migration.

Global processes on migration are international policy dialogue forums on migration at the global level, usually facilitated by an intergovernmental organization, and focusing either on overall migration governance at the global level, or specific themes, or interlinkages between migration and other areas, such as development.

Characteristics of Global Processes on Migration

Global processes on migration have the same general features of ISCMs.  The particular characteristics of global processes on migration are:

  • Global coverage
  • Non-homogeneous constituency
  • Advisory nature of discussions
  • Greater reach of impact

The past decades have witnessed an expansion of inter-governmental and other initiatives to develop joint approaches to migration. Dialogue and debate on international migration have proliferated, demonstrating that the subject is very much on the international public policy agenda. Migration is more regularly being incorporated into the development agendas of international actors. These processes have one principal thing in common. They resulted in non-binding agreements on principles and action, not the type of binding conventions that have more typically emerged from UN initiatives. 

Global processes on migration are distinct from global initiatives addressing migration. Global processes on migration are inter-State consultation mechanisms on migration at the global-level; they are ongoing forums for informal and non-binding dialogue that address a broad range of issues in regular meetings. Global initiatives addressing migration are the quasi-legal international instruments without legally binding force (“soft law”) that either address migration in all its dimensions or certain aspects of migration and their interrelations with other domains.

Global processes on migration provide an opportunity for RCPs and IRFs to contribute to their discussions to ensure that regional interests and priorities are being properly considered at the global level. For example, regional consultative processes on migration and interregional forums on migration contribute to the GFMD discussions, through side events or roundtables with particular themes related to regional migration governance.

Due to their international nature global processes and dialogues are usually facilitated by intergovernmental organizations. 

For a long time there were no global forums to address migration governance issues and cooperation on migration. Much of inter-State dialogue on was taking place at the bilateral, regional or interregional levels. Gradually, the importance of cooperating on migration matters in order to address migration flows through a coordinated and effective approach as well as the relevance of migration to sustainable development became more and more recognized. 

The IOM Council, the governing body of IOM, was the main international platform to address migration governance among IOM Member and Observers since 1955 (until 2016 IOM was an independent IGO and joined the UN system only in 2016). 

Migration has been on the UN's agenda much later, since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994 recognized that “orderly international migration can have positive effects on both communities of origin and those of destination.”  Notwithstanding the unsuccessful efforts to convene in 1997 a United Nations conference on international migration and development, until the early 2000s there was no global venue for discussing migration issues. In 2001, the establishment of the International Dialogue on Migration (IDM) can be viewed as the first foundation block in the global migration governance architecture. The Berne Initiative was also launched in 2001.

The first UN High-level Dialogue (HLD) on international migration and development was held in 2006, which in turn led to establishment of the annual Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD), a State-owned, informal and non-decision-making vehicle for further consultation. The success of the GFMD led, in turn, to a second HLD, held in 2013, followed by the High Level Meeting on Large Movements of Migrants and Refugees in 2016, which produced the New York Declaration, which, in turn, led to negotiations over the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees.

State-led global processes on migration

The currently active State-led global process on migration is the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). It is a global-level ISCM focusing on migration and development.

Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD)
The GFMD is a voluntary, informal, non-binding and government-led process open to all States Members and Observers of the United Nations, to advance understanding and cooperation on the mutually reinforcing relationship between migration and development and to foster practical and action-oriented outcomes. 

IGO-facilitated global processes addressing migration
There are global dialogues, which are not technically led by States, but still address migration and are important bricks in global governance of migration. Among these only the International Dialogue on Migration (IDM) focuses on overall migration governance at the global level. Others address or specific themes or inter-linkages between migration and other areas. These processes are global but not State-led.

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