Environment and Climate Change in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM)

The Global Compact on Migration (GCM) represents a strategic and significant opportunity for the international community to progress in terms of overall international migration governance and management through inter-governmental dialogue, identification of existing migration policy good practices and state commitments on migration. The GCM offers an opportunity to anchor the environmental and climatic dimensions in the international migration governance agenda. It offers a space to fully acknowledge the importance of climatic and environmental drivers, the multi-causality of migration and the impacts of migration on the environment.

Watch experts and political leaders give their input:


IOM's Engagement and Action in the GCM on Environment and Climate Change 

IOM has engaged in the field of migration, environment and climate change since the early 90s and advocated for the integration of migration issues in climate change policy, contributing to the inclusion of human mobility questions in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The GCM represents a key opportunity to mirror this mainstreaming work by bringing climatic and environmental factors in a migration-focused policy process, in line with IOM’s vision and work. IOM’s action is focused on minimizing forced forms of migration due to climate change and environmental degradation as well as supporting policies that recognize migrants and diasporas as positive actors of climate change mitigation and adaptation action and as contributors to sustainable development efforts.

IOM’s overall role in the GCM is defined in the "Resolution for the intergovernmental negotiations of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration” as jointly servicing the negotiations and providing technical and policy expertise; supporting the Secretary General to prepare inter-agency issue briefs; supporting the Secretary General to develop a work plan, supporting to organization of discussions on regional aspects; and providing contributions through IOM’s International Dialogue on Migration and IOM's work on Regional Consultative Processes on Migration (RCPs). Finally IOM will provide inputs to the zero draft of the Global Compact that will be presented by the United Nations Secretary General.


The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM)
- Perspectives on Environmental Migration - 

an analysis by Dina Ionesco and Mariam Traore Chazalnoël,
Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division, IOM
Following the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016, United Nations Member States, for the first time of their history, committed to develop, negotiate and adopt a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The GCM is a non-binding cooperation framework that articulates a common set of commitments, on the basis of 23 objectives, for states to respond to the challenges and opportunities of contemporary international migration, and formulates provisions for implementation, follow up and review.

On 13 July 2018, the final text of the GCM was finalized and presented at the United Nations Headquarters at the end of the 6th round of intergovernmental negotiations. This finalized text offers a set of guiding principles, but also articulates concrete measures for action related to border management, documentation, migrant services, capacity building for states, consular protection, skills recognition, mechanisms of portability and building environments for migrants and diasporas to be actors of development.

The text also contains multiple references to environmental migration, articulating a wide and comprehensive understanding of the challenges linked to the environment-migration nexus. Most of the references related to environmental migration are made under Objective 2: Minimizing the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin, which contains a section specifically dedicated to the subject and entitled "Natural disasters, the adverse effects of climate change, and environmental degradation" (Objective 2, paragraphs 19.h-19.l). Furthermore, a few important references can be found under Objective 5: Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration.

10 Key Takeaways from the GCM on Environmental Migration

1. The GCM clearly identifies slow onset environmental degradation, natural disasters and climate change impacts as drivers of contemporary migration.

2. The text acknowledges the multi-causality of migration as environmental drivers interact with political, economic and demographic drivers.

3. The text articulates comprehensive potential responses to address these drivers: design of appropriate measures in the countries of origin to make migration a choice rather than a desperate necessity; disaster preparedness, disaster risk reduction and disaster response; and facilitation of population movements.

4. The GCM recognizes that climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in countries of origin need to be prioritized to minimize drivers of migration.

5. The text also acknowledges that adaptation in situ or return of migrants might not be possible in some cases and that the strengthening of regular migration pathways (planned relocation and visa options) need to be part of migration management tools.

6. The GCM outlines the need for states to cooperate to identify, develop and strengthen solutions for people migrating in the context of slow-onset environmental degradation (in particular desertification, land degradation and sea level rise) and slow-onset disasters (drought).

7. The GCM outlines the importance of working at the regional level to address environmental drivers of migration.

8. The text encourages policy coherence by highlighting that the GCM rests on a number of global instruments related to climate change, disaster and environmental governance: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Climate Agreement, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

9. The text also highlights the need to take into account recommendations stemming from state-led initiatives with a focus on mobility linked to natural disasters outside of the UN context: the Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change, and its follow up, the Platform on Disaster Displacement, as well as the Migrants in Countries in Crisis Initiative (MICIC).

10. The GCM recognizes the need for more investments in strengthened evidence, data and research to address environmental migration challenges.

The finalization of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration represents an exciting and important achievement for the governance and management of international environmental migration, both now and in the future. Yet the challenges of translating global policy into national and regional practices should not be underestimated. Environmental migration remains a relatively newly emerged topic, with little stocktaking and evaluation of the effectiveness of existing practices, especially those experiences that pertain to the most innovative commitments outlined in the GCM. What is certain is that achieving the ambitious commitments set out in the Global Compact will be contingent on robust political will, adequate funding resources and successful development of pioneering coalitions of actors.


Further Information on Migration, Environment and Climate Change Policy

IOM action on migration and climate change in the climate negotiations (UNFCCC)

IOM action on disaster displacement in Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD)

IOM action on migration, environment, climate change and human rights

​IOM statement on migration, environment, and climate change - GCM Thematic Session II

IOM action on environmental migration in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (forthcoming)