GFMD Civil Society

GFMD Civil Society Days 2017 -
Results and next steps

Civil society action in the Global Forum on Migration and Development;
 moving towards the Global Compact for Migration
1. GFMD Civil Society Days 2017 

Snapshot and focus

The full programme of the 2017 Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD) took place in Berlin, Germany from 28 June to 1 July. Occurring only six months after the previous GFMD in Bangladesh in December 2016, this year’s Civil Society Days (CSD) fell on 29 June and 1 July, for the first time overlapping with the Government Days and on either side of Common Space Day on 30 June. See all the key information about the CSD in the Snapshot of the Civil Society Days

Under the title “Safe, Orderly, Regular Migration Now: the Mechanics of a Compact worth Agreeing to”, the Civil Society Days focused entirely on priorities for the Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration that all UN member States committed at last year’s Summit on Refugees and Migrants to develop by September 2018. Together with the German Chair of this year’s GFMD, civil society ensured that all of Common Space also focussed exclusively on the Global Compact.

In 3 days of break-out, focus, framing, special and plenary sessions, over 250 civil society delegates from 65 countries of every region of the world met to discuss what they envisioned such a Compact should look like, and how it should be implemented. They looked at how to build directly upon the rights and commitments reaffirmed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New York Declaration, not by simply restating them but by working out how they can be applied in real contexts; in short, moving from the “poetry” to the mechanics of implementing those commitments.

One of the key resources for participants in the Civil Society Days and Common Space was a Convergence Matrixthat identified a wide-range of common ground between civil society and governments on many of the issues that the New York Declaration suggested for possible inclusion in the Global Compact.  In this direction, the Matrix extracted and compared precise language regarding migrants and migration in civil society’s 5 Year 8 Point Plan of Action from the 2013 UN High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, the 2030 Agenda, principal recommendations of civil society at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants in 2016 (Act Now) and 2016 GFMD Civil Society Days in Bangladesh, the New York Declaration, and the Sutherland Report.

Key recommendations

At the opening of Common Space 30 June, GFMD 2017 Civil Society Chair Wies Maas presented governments with a report of key messages and recommendations from the first Civil Society Day. Speaking to roughly 450 government delegates from 140 states, together with the civil society delegates and high-level representatives from UN and international agencies, Ms. Maas challenged participants to consider how all of their work, and the Global Compact for Migration, could change the realities on the ground faced by refugees, migrants and societies. Drawing upon this report, as well as the report by the Grand Rapporteur for the second Civil Society Day, the special reports on women, on children, and from the outreach meetings, in the box below are the 10 main civil society recommendations from the 2017 GFMD Civil Society Days.
For a more detailed overview of the key outcomes of the Civil Society Days, see the 5-page booklet of 2017 CSD recommendations.

GFMD 2017 Civil Society Recommendations

Civil society has identified the following 10 issues as being of key urgency and importance to be addressed in the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and will continue advocacy on achieving rights-based, inclusive solutions for these issues above and beyond the Global Compact process.
  1. Governance and accountability
  • There are so many multilateral commitments to human rights, labour rights etc in existing conventions and treaties that are signed and binding, and apply to migrants of all kinds. The Migration Compact should focus on implementing these, not simply restating them.
  • For that reason, the Migration Compact should present a framework similar to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with goals and targets that are ambitious but achievable, on graduated timelines. The Compact should also provide for appropriate means of implementation and data collection, and inform and guide states in their development of National Implementation Plans to make these goals a reality.
  • The scope of implementation should be multi-sectoral, multi-lateral and engage every level of governance, from local to international. 
  • Meaningful civil society space and participation should be included at every stage of the process to develop, implement and monitor the Migration Compact. This should be part of a broader and conscious push-back by states and others against shrinking space for civil society – a goal which is emphasized in Point 6 of Civil Society’s 5 Year 8 Point Plan of Action.  
  1. Children on the Move: The Initiative of civil society organizations, UN agencies and states on Child Rights in the Global Compacts put forward practical mechanisms and achievable timelines for child rights across both Global Compacts. Recalling Point 4 of Civil Society’s 5 Year 8 Point Plan of Action, the Civil Society Days Children Rapporteur reiterated that all policies and decisions concerning migrant children, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, should ensure that the best interest of the child is always the primary consideration, and that ending the immigration detention of children is an absolute top priority; a priority that cannot wait. 
  2. Regularization and regular pathways for human mobility: Central to the drive for implementation of both Global Compacts should be the facilitation of human mobility with human rights for all. In line with Points 3 and 5 of Civil Society’s 5 Year 8 Point Plan of Action, more and better regular pathways for refugees and migrants need to be created, including increases in resettlement places, humanitarian visas, private sponsorship programs, family reunification, student visa, and labour mobility and matching at all skill levels. Such regular pathways reduce the vulnerabilities of migrants and refugees en route, in transit and at destination. The Migration Compact should develop principles and targets on regularization - a pathway to secure residency after having lived in the country of immigration for a certain number of years. This is in the interest of social cohesion, and lifts people out of vulnerable and exploitative situations.
  3. Women’s agency and protection: Following Point 4 of Civil Society’s 5 Year 8 Point Plan of Action, multiple working sessions of the Civil Society Days and the report of the civil society Rapporteur on Women emphasized that women are not by nature a vulnerable population in need of rescue, but often find themselves in vulnerable situations due to (migration) policies, values and the denial of rights. The Migration Compact should draw from the UN Women Recommendations on addressing the human rights of women in the Global Compact for Migration.
  4. Ethical recruitment, decent jobs and labour mobility: Recalling Points 6, 7 and 8 of Civil Society’s 5 Year 8 Point Plan of Action, and finding the need to reiterate critical issues raised in all previous Civil Society Days, the protection of the labour rights of migrants and reforms for ethical and transparent recruitment of migrant workers need to be stepped up urgently. As required under international labour rights conventions, recruitment fees should be borne by the employer, not the migrant worker. To end a huge arena of exploitation, migrant worker visas should never be tied to one employer. There can be no question about the rights of workers to join and form trade unions and workers organizations. Much more investment is needed in decent work and jobs “at home and abroad” as well as more efforts to harmonize qualifications and invest in skills and training, e.g. with vocational partnerships. To move these forward concretely, national consultations need to be set up for dialogue between governments, employers and workers, and to shed light on the areas that need to be improved in that country. The role of diaspora cannot be underestimated in advancing these issues, and with practical mechanisms for diaspora investment and entrepreneurship like diaspora development funds or other initiatives, can contribute to improving skills, qualification harmonization and job creation both home and abroad.
  5. Return and reintegration: The principle of non-refoulement must be respected. Return should be voluntary, not forced; the Global Compact for Migration should not become a Global Compact for Deportation. Voluntary return should be tailor-made and context specific, and involve a process with true choices and dignity, including choosing the moment of return. There should be no deportation of children in any circumstances without a proper best-interests determination first. Independent vulnerability and needs assessments by adequate professionals should be made before returning and upon arrival. For reintegration, programmes and support structures should be put in place for returning migrants and their communities, and these measures should be mainstreamed into other social programmes in order to ensure a parity of treatment between returnees and the local population.
  6. Alternatives to detention and criminalization: Policies are needed that put an end to the criminalisation of migrants. Citizens and organizations that help undocumented migrants in need should be admired and protected, not criminalized. International rights authorities are clear that detention of children on the basis of their or their family’s migration status is never in the child’s best interest and always a human rights abuse. For others, immigration detention should only be used when lawful, necessary and proportionate. There are many practical, available alternatives to detention, such as community housing and assigned case managers. States must start implementing these alternatives immediately, for the benefit of both migrants and societies. Contrary to some current practices, states and intergovernmental entities should refrain from making migration control or deterrence a condition for development aid.
  7. Firewalls and access to justice and other essential services: In line with Point 5 of Civil Society’s 5 Year 8 Point Plan of Action, the Global Compact on Migration and national policies should include the concept of firewalls; a strong separation between public services and penal and immigration authorities. This should ensure that migrants, regardless of status, can have access to justice, to essential services like health and education, and to mechanisms for complaints and labour standards, all without fear that this will result in their detention or deportation on the basis of their migration status.
  8. Social inclusion and anti-xenophobia: Given that xenophobia cannot be fought if policies and political narratives feed and foster it, national governments should address racism and xenophobia across the full spectrum of social, economic and political rights of migrants regardless of migratory status – in both policy and practice. Perpetrators of xenophobic violence, racism and discrimination – including islamophobia - should be held to account. While global campaigns such as the UN Together Campaign are important to gather good practices and increase positive public messaging, these must be done in conjunction with other activities, such as a comprehensive study on the manifestations and multiple dimensions of racism, xenophobia and intolerance conducted in the context of the Migration Compact, and efforts to align national laws to obligations under international conventions. Local governments, national human rights institutions, the media, civil society including migrants and communities and the private sector should all be recognized as stakeholders in this.
  9. Drivers of forced displacement: Finally, recalling Point 3 of Civil Society’s 5 Year 8 Point Plan of Action, the drivers of displacement and of migrants into vulnerable situations, including poverty, unemployment, corruption and the lack of good governance, need to be addressed urgently. Climate change impacts are inextricably linked to conflicts across the world, causing so much suffering and displacement and obliterating livelihoods and dignity. These realities need to be recognized and integrated into global and national economic and development strategies. National planning for resilience and emergency response must be developed urgently, and be comprehensive, inclusive and across all policy domains.

Participant evaluation

An evaluation of the Civil Society Days and Common Space by participants each year has become an important way for civil society's International Steering Committee for the GFMD and ICMC’s GFMD Civil Society Coordinating Office to adapt, fine-tune and improve the preparations towards the next GFMD.
In that direction, a survey was sent to all participants in the Civil Society Days shortly after the GFMD. Of the 254 civil society delegates at the GFMD this year, 62 responded to the survey [24%], with another 2 respondents representing international organizations and 1 a government.
Some key conclusions drawn from the surveys are below. See the full table of evaluation results here.

  • 86% of respondents thought that the GFMD 2017 Civil Society Days programme was good or excellent.  5% believed it was poor or very poor.
  • 65% of respondents said that they had interaction with governments during this year’s GFMD that could to some extent lead to significant policy change.
  • 56% of respondents thought that the unusual schedule of the CSD this year (i.e., before and after Common Space) was effective; but 44% thought it made no difference or was not effective.
  • In the highest rating on the survey, 97% of those who attended civil society's prelude rally at the Brandenburg Gate on 28 June found it inspirational.
  • Among other notably high ratings of the survey:
    • 87% thought the opening speeches of CSD Chair Wies Maas and Co-Chair Berenice Valdez Rivera were good or excellent.
    • 84% of respondents said the “Convergence Matrix” was useful for the Working sessions.
    • Over 80% thought that Common Space structure, themes and civil society involvement as discussion starters and moderators were good or excellent; but 51% thought the interaction between governments and civil society in Common Space was only average or poor.
2. What next? Linking advocacy towards the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), and GFMD 2018 in Morocco 
Timeline of the process to develop a Global Compact for Migration
The GFMD this year took place in the midst of a 2 year process to develop a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. In line with the Modalities of that process, development of the Compact is divided into 3 phases: the Consultation Phase until November of 2017, the Stocktaking Phase in December 2017 and January 2018, and the Negotiations Phase from February until September 2018, when the new Compact is expected to be adopted by the UN General Assembly.
MADE and wider civil society advocacy towards the Global Compact on Migration

The outcomes and recommendations from the 2017 GFMD Civil Society Days will inform civil society advocacy towards the Migration Compact. Among other things, the Core Group of civil society’s International Steering Committee (ISC) for the GFMD will be putting those recommendations together in a consolidated document, expected to be finalised in September 2017, as an advocacy tool towards the Migration Compact. Drawn from the full range of sessions during the GFMD Civil Society Days, all of which focussed on goals and targets for the Compact (including the Green Room that focused specifically on particular civil society priorities and strategies), civil society baselines, redlines and vision for how the Global Compact can be implemented will be central to this document. This document will join others for advocacy directly with states and the office of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for International Migration. It will also provide a contribution to the civil society Stocktaking on the Global Compact, scheduled to take place immediately before the Inter-Governmental Stocktaking in Mexico in December 2017.
Other key advocacy activities of civil society in the lead-up to this Stocktaking are, among others, the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts and the regional civil society consultations (RCSCs).

Led by a Steering Committee of 34 NGOs, UN agencies and experts, the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts aims to ensure that the rights of children who are on the move or impacted by migration and forced displacement are reflected, respected and fulfilled in both the Refugee and Migration Compacts.  The Initiative organized a Global Conference for Children on the Move in Berlin in June 2017, where it presented a working document on “Child Rights in the Global Compacts: Recommendations for protecting, promoting and implementing the human rights of children on the move in the proposed Global Compacts”.  The document presents goals, targets and timelines for achievement and accountability in six key areas of child rights outlined in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants: non-discrimination and integration; ensuring the priority of the best interests of the child; ensuring children’s access to services; ending child immigration detention; promoting durable solutions; and child protection.
A series of 6 regional civil society consultations (RCSCs) are taking place in the second half of 2017, which plan to unite civil society stakeholders in the respective regions. The consultations will reach out to a wide range of organisations at regional, local and grassroots level to discuss particular migration issues and good practices in their region, but also strategize as civil society to provide joint inputs for the GCM consultation process. ICMC-MADE (Migration and Development Civil Society Network) is the co-organizer of the European consultation, which will take place on 2-3 October, along with PICUM – Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants.

3. Resources

Keep up with the process to develop a Global Compact for Migration

Updates about this GCM process can be found on the MADE page dedicated to the Global Compact for Migration.

As the pace of the process picks up in the coming months towards the stocktaking process, subscribe to the MADE newsletter to receive up-to-date information about civil society advocacy towards the Global Compact process, and updates on the official consultations and meetings.
For updates on the processes related to other commitments in the New York Declaration, such as the Global Compact on Refugees, check out the work of the Civil Society Action Committee on the MADE-facilitated website

In the News


The following documents have been referred to this newsletter for sharing and are offered simply for information purposes. Inclusion here does not necessarily mean that they are endorsed here.

GFMD CS Website
GFMD CS Website

The coordination of 
GFMD civil society activities has become part of the Migration and Development Civil Society Network (MADE) activities. MADE is both an open space and an expanding movement of civil society organizations and networks that connect: for international, regional and national change with and for migrants and migration.
Participation in MADE is open to all who share its mission. It includes channels to exchange information, mobilise advocacy and policy-building strategies, as well as participate in a range of regional, thematic and international meetings and actions. 
The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) acts as the global Coordinating Office for MADE and the GFMD Civil Society Days. Find out more on the MADE network website.
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