Marrakech… What for and What Next?

Helvetas and the Swiss Civil Platform on Migration and Development are just back from Marrakech. What are the main takeaways? What role does the civil society have in the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration?
FROM: Pascal Fendrich – 12. December 2018

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) was formally adopted by 164 United Nation members states in Marrakech on December 10th, 2018. The compact offers a new framework for improved international collaboration on migration governance and shared principles to develop migration policies that assure the respect of human and children’s rights. While Switzerland played a central and widely appreciated role in facilitating the negotiations and formulation of the Compact, it has not adopted the compact… (yet?).  Switzerland’s absence in Marrakech was well noticed.  

The Swiss Civil Society Platform on Migration and Development ( – a network of 80 civil society organizations active on Migration and Development (M&D) and facilitated by Helvetas and Caritas Switzerland was engaged during the migration week in Marrakech which gathered thousands of civil society, academia and government representatives for joint reflections. The delegation actively participated in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society Days and in the many workshops taking place in the context of the adoption of the GCM. The 4-people delegation comprised representatives of Caritas Switzerland, Service Social International – Projet Communauté Tunisienne Résidente en Suisse, Diaspora TV Switzerland and Helvetas. Discussions focused on the follow-up of Marrakech: the implementation of the Global Compact, the role of civil society and modalities for collaboration with other stakeholders.

Having crossed the border in “Genève Cointrin” to return home, what do we take back from Marrakech? What shall we retain from these discussions for our work and the understanding of our mission as civil society and development actors? A few impressions and highlights...

A reminder – Migration is and will remain a human reality: 258 million people are considered international migrants today.  Did you know though, that migration is most dynamic between developing countries and at regional level? And that more than 80% of these migrants move in a regular manner? The remaining ones are, however, much more at risk. Since 2000, 60’000 migrants have lost their lives during the journey.

The demand for workforce coupled with global inequalities, unemployment and low wages in countries of origin, will continue to trigger migration. Conflicts but also climate change will force migration. In today’s world, every second a person is forced to leave his or her home as a result of a disaster.

Another reminder – “Migration has contributed to global wealth, development and prosperity”: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres evoked this evidence, which is often forgotten in the public discourse on migration. Do we recall that several economic sectors of advanced economies would not operate without a foreign workforce? In parallel, and according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), one out of seven human beings is today involved in the USD 610 billion worth global flow of remittances, either on the sending or receiving end. More than two-thirds of these financial transfers flow into the developing world. This represents three times more than official development aid.

Rethinking the theory of change? Trade, investment and migration are complementary. The classical assumption according to which trade acts as a substitute to migration is not evidenced. According to Jennifer Gordon, researcher at the Fordham University in New York, trade creates both work opportunities and geographic “dislocation”. Trade influences expectations and resources to migrate. The argument that it reduces migration in the short run is not verified. She also added that we lack evidence on the longer-term effect of growth and a possible “tipping point” after which migration would reduce.

“The GCM, another political declaration… or a real game changer?” The question is raised by Antonio Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization for Migration. The GCM does not affect but confirms states’ sovereignty on migration governance. This however underlines their “sovereign” responsibility to act.  States are invited to work in partnership with other stakeholders, academia and civil society to formulate adequate policies to deliver on their commitments.

The GCM is not a migration document for migration practitioners – the need for a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach: A major contribution of the GCM is to include a “360 degrees” vision of migration and its linkages with other policy fields. Did you know that the migration compact proposes principles for collaboration on disaster and climate change induced migration? On labor migration - linking mobility and skills? On decent work? A successful implementation of the compact will need the collaboration of the different sectors and actors.

What is the phone number of civil society and why to call? Civil society organizations have the advantage of being active on the ground and witness the concrete implications of policies. They see what is being done, what works or does not. And this knowledge helps inform actual and future policies. The diversity of civil society is a strength. It has experience in recruitment, decent work, but also on protection needs during transit, on integration and inclusion. Its know-how and arguments might not always be easily appreciated, but they are a key source of information for those developing strategies for improved migration governance. Civil society needs to continue to play the role of a critical but constructive interlocutor – a partner in development. As underlined by Michelle Levoy, Director of PICUM (the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants), the challenge for civil society now is to be able to push governments in the implementation of the most progressive aspects of the GCM.

“We shall not succumb to fears or false narratives”, emphasized Antonio Guterres in the opening speech of the conference, after having taken the time to dispel some of the most heard myths about the GCM on what it is and what it is not. The current narrative on migration is partial and detached from economic and social realities. It is further counter-intuitive that a document designed to regulate and protect could be used to further increase fears.

A safer and more dignified journey for all migrants tops the agenda at the global conference in Marrakesh. This is the minimal requirement, where all interests need to meet. members and Helvetas will continue supporting their partners in the formulation of concrete measures to better protect and maximize the development potential of migration. Good practices and field experience shall feed into a dialogue with all relevant stakeholders. Successes and evidence of migrants’ contribution to sustainable development coupled with serene analyses of migration human, social and economic implications can be the base of a changed narrative on migration.



The delegation of shared its impressions and wrote daily “take-aways” from Marrakech on its website. All posts are available here:

See Antonio Guterres speech for the Opening of the GCM Adoption Conference here:

The full text of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is available at: , in all official UN languages.

Senior Advisor Migration & Development