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Next week world leaders descend on Marrakesh, Morocco to put the finishing touches on a long-awaited, and by now controversial, new framework for managing international migration. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, as it is officially called, will be discussed at the intergovernmental conference on December 10-11, after which the UN General Assembly is expected to formally adopt it before the end of the year. The Global Compact for Migration (you can read the full 30-page document here) is a voluntary pact negotiated by UN member states over the last two years. It is not a treaty, therefore not binding on participating states, and has no means of enforcement. During the negotiation process the United States, Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, and Poland have made it clear they do not support the compact as it presumably encourages migration.

Here are the eight things you need to know about this groundbreaking yet controversial agreement. 

1. The Global Compact aims to improve international cooperation on migration among all relevant actors, acknowledging that no state can address migration alone. It also approaches migration as a source of prosperity, innovation, and sustainable development in our globalized world, and that these positive consequences can be optimized by improving migration governance.

2. It emphasizes the importance of information for governments, policy makers, migrants, and all other citizens. Governments are encouraged to collect and disseminate quality data about all aspects of migration. They are also tasked with ensuring that current and future migrants are fully informed about their rights, obligations, and options for safe, orderly, and regular migration, and are aware of the risks of irregular migration. The Global Compact advises governments to provide “all our citizens with access to objective, evidence-based, clear information about the benefits and challenges of migration, with a view to dispelling misleading narratives that generate negative perceptions about migrants.”

3. The Global Compact aims to mitigate the structural factors that prevent people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods and compel them to seek a future elsewhere. It intends to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration by respecting, protecting, and fulfilling their human rights and providing them with care and assistance.

4. The Global Compact advises governments to ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation. It guarantees all citizens have identity documents and, in order to prevent statelessness, ensures all births are registered and that women and men can equally confer their nationality on their children.

5. It encourages availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration. It does so in a manner that facilitates labor mobility and decent work reflecting demographic and labor market realities, optimizes education opportunities, upholds the right to family life, and responds to the needs of migrants in a situation of vulnerability, by, for example, improving the transnational response to trafficking and smuggling of migrants.

6. Governments that sign on to the Global Compact will take measures to promote integration of migrants. But they will also cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration in their countries of origin.

7. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is not binding, which is explicitly stated in the text itself. Yet some governments and parliaments in Europe (Denmark, Netherlands, and Belgium) recently got cold feet and are still debating whether to sign the compact next week.

8. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will coordinate all activities under the Global Compact. The UN Secretary General will report every two years on the implementation and progress of the proposed measures under the Global Compact. In addition, an International Migration Review Forum will take place every four years, beginning in 2022.

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