Keynote Speech, Arab Labour Organization Ministerial Conference: 1st Session: “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, Safe, and Regular Migration”

Date Publish: 
Sunday, April 9, 2017 - 13:30
Mr. William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration
Cairo, Egypt


Distinguished Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is an honor and a pleasure to be here with you today at the Arab Labour Organization’s (ALO), 44th Labour Conference. IOM is proud of its long-standing relations with the ALO. Thank you for the invitation and congratulations on all you are doing to address migration opportunities and challenges.

From Morocco’s efforts to regularise and integrate migrants into their society, to the countless Syrian refugees being given opportunities to secure livelihoods for themselves and their families in Jordan, and Lebanon – Arab States are taking on the challenges of migration and turning them into positive opportunities for sustainable development and growth.

If migration is to benefit migrants and society, migrants and host communities must have the skills to spur innovation and economic growth. I wish to offer warm congratulations to the ALO Director General for his impressive report on “Vocational Trainings” as a “cornerstone” for  sustainable development (2030) in the Arab World.

There must be professional and vocational training programmes to meet the needs of domestic and international labour markets – such programmes offer the growing youth population in many Arab countries opportunities for a better future both at home and abroad.

Training in turn provides alternatives to irregular migration. Training reduces the risk of exploitation and abuse of our young men and women at the hands of unscrupulous smugglers and traffickers. Training also facilitates efforts to integrate migrants so that they can contribute to the sustainable development of their host countries.

People move for a variety of reasons. Some may need to be re-skilled to access the labour market in their new home. It is, therefore, critical that states work together, with the private sector, to identify the skills needed to fill gaps in priority growth sectors. Together, we need to plan professional and vocational training for young men and women so they can fulfil their aspirations at home or abroad in a safe and dignified manner. The ALO Director General described very compellingly the challenge of providing vocational training for Arab youth. Strengthening the link between training employment and migration helps create more resilient and equitable societies. But too many people are embarking on dangerous migration journeys. Too many are dying. Too many are languishing in detention centers.

Six months ago, an important event took place – an event which has the potential to reshape the future of migration: I refer to the adoption of the “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants” on 19 September 2016. This event at the UN General Assembly also marked IOM’s entry into the UN system after 65 years of independence. Above all else, the 19 September Summit was a watershed moment, it initiated a process of intergovernmental consultations and negotiations aimed at the adoption of a global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018. The Summit laid the foundation for improved global migration governance.  The New York Declaration underscores the political will of world leaders to work towards a world in which migration is well governed. 

I thank you for your invitation to speak to you today on IOM’s perspective and involvement in the GCM process and would like to highlight three central points:

  • IOM’s vision for the global compact on migration;
  • IOM’s role; and
  • IOM’s contribution.

1. IOM’s vision for the GCM

IOM’s vision is for a world in which (1) migrants move as a matter of genuine choice and not desperate necessity; (2) in which the rights of migrants are protected throughout their migratory cycle, and in which (3) migration is well-governed so it is a positive force for all the world’s peoples and societies – as migration, historically, has always been. My country, for example, was built on the backs of migrants, and with their brains and talents.

IOM fully recognizes and respects the sovereign right of governments to determine which foreigners may enter and stay on their territories, consistent with their obligations under international law.  Rather than limiting state sovereignty, the Global Compact on Migration is expected to foster more robust collaboration and cooperation on migration-related issues.

Our vision for the global compact on migration is for it to become a unifying framework guiding global migration governance through a set of common principles, commitments and understandings. First, the Global Compact needs to have the rights, needs, capacities and contributions of migrants at its core; second, it needs to safeguard migrant’s safety, dignity and human rights. Third, the Compact will seek to help all key actors realize the development potential of migration and the benefits of migration for both home and host societies.

The Global Compact on Migration is expected to provide States and other actors a set of tools and practical solutions (a) to govern migration effectively and humanely; (b) to encourage regular migration, and (c) to reduce the incidence and impacts of irregular migration. In order to achieve this, we believe the global compact on migration should:

  • Recognize that safe, orderly and regular international migration is beneficial for States and migrants alike;
  • Recognize that the principles underpinning safe, orderly and regular international migration should be based on relevant international norms, principles and standards; 
  • Comprehensively address all aspects of international migration that require cooperation among States, including migration’s humanitarian, development, human rights-related and other aspects;
  • Recognize the obligations of all and the commitments and understandings required from them in the field of international migration;
  • Take stock of and analyze effective policies and practices regarding migration-related issues at local, national, regional and global levels;
  • Identify ways and means of translating principles, commitments and understandings into practical and actionable objectives; laying out options for the governance of mobility, encouraging regular migration, addressing the mobility dimensions of crises, and offering innovative and practical solutions that can be applied widely;
  • Be practical in its recommendations; point to remaining gaps in commitments and understandings and identify the barriers and challenges that both cause those gaps and result from them;
  • Provide the basis for stakeholders to track and review progress.

2. IOM’s role

The modalities resolution agreed by Member States for the preparatory process of the GCM sets forth a robust role for IOM to  support you, the Member States:

  • IOM will jointly service the full GCM process, specifically through providing its technical and policy expertise. To that end, and as one of many measures that IOM has taken to support the development of the GCM, I have seconded two IOM officials to the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on International Migration to support her work;
  • The President of the General Assembly will organize six informal thematic sessions, drawing on the expertise of IOM in particular and of other organizations as well.  IOM seconded an official to the PGA’s Office as well;
  • Supported by IOM, and drawing upon the expertise of the GMG and other relevant entities, the Secretary General will  prepare inter-agency papers for the thematic sessions;
  • The Secretary General is also developing a work plan, in close consultation with IOM, to make use of existing processes, mechanisms and initiatives on migration. 
    • These include the convening of regional consultations with the Regional Economic Commissions and sub-regional bodies to generate regional and sub-regional experiences and priorities;
    • The convening of IOM’s International Dialogue on Migration, which in 2017 is dedicated to the GCM: (1) next week, on 18–19 April 2017 at the UN in NY on strengthening cooperation and governance of international migration, and (2) 18–19 July in Geneva on protecting and assisting migrants in vulnerable situations;
    • The GFMD, in June, ably chaired this year by Germany and Morocco; and
    • Drawing on the many 18 Regional Inter-State Consultative Processes on Migration.
    • The convening by IOM of the 7th Global RCP meeting on 10–11 October 2017 in Geneva, to bring together all regional consultative and other dedicated migration processes.
  • Finally, The Secretary General, in close consultation with IOM, will present a report as input to the zero draft of the global compact.

3. IOM’s contribution

In addition to the International Dialogue on Migration and Global RCP meetings just mentioned, IOM is using its global footprint, close relationships with governments, and its ability to bring different actors in the migration landscape to the table to contribute to achieving a principled and practical global compact.

More than 40 IOM country offices across the globe are already in touch with their host governments on holding national multi-stakeholder consultations, bringing together at the national level multiple ministries in government working on migration or matters affecting or affected by migration, as well as critical non-governmental actors from civil society, the private sector, migrants, and diaspora organizations, amongst others.

Our organization is drafting thematic papers, derived from our thematic, technical and operational expertise and global footprint. These address the 24 elements listed in Annex II of the New York Declaration. These papers are intended to help inform the overall consultation process and will be provided to Member States and other stakeholders.

We have established a Migration Research Leaders Syndicate to tap into the wealth of expertise from academic experts to help ensure an evidence-based, and well-grounded discussion on all thematic aspects of the GCM.

In addition, to help ensure that civil society organizations across the globe have a voice in the process, IOM has established a dedicated civil society liaison function, which will help IOM in convening five regional civil society consultations to precede and feed into the regional consultations.


The decision by Member States to develop a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration provides a once in a generation opportunity to frame and determine the way the international community governs migration. We must seize this opportunity fully, notwithstanding the challenging, anti-migrant context in which it arises. 

This opportunity is unlikely to present itself again anytime soon and we must all do our utmost to ensure that it succeeds:  for the migrants and their families whose lives are directly impacted by migration, and for all of our societies – societies of origin, transit and destination. 

A holistic approach is vital to addressing the challenges and reaping the benefits of migration. Together, we must pursue tangible outcomes built on robust evidence, and do so based on strong partnerships between Member States and others in the field of migration. Regional organizations such as the ALO have a key role to play in ensuring that the principles enshrined in the global compact reflect universal values that will benefit all.

The GCM presents a critical opportunity for the international community to move away from reactive approaches, to look forward to a common future in which migration is safe, orderly and regular.

Speaker Type: