10 Key Takeaways from the GCM on Environmental Migration


This blog entry was originally published here

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 ofglobal 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.



Dina Ionesco

Mariam Traore Chazalnoë.

Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division of IOM.


In a distant country, Erick daydreams - #MigrantsDay

In a distant country, Erick daydreams - #MigrantsDay
Categoria: Return and Reintegration
Autor: Laura Manzi

Story based on the testimony of Erick Galeas, a returnee.

The outbound journey

The heat was suffocating, as if the breaths of fresh air had forgotten that point in the world, where an immense dryness permeated every corner. The ground burned, the sun gave no truce. And this was no small matter: Erick hated the heat, which only made him feel tired and weak.

On those long days with his skin so exposed to the sun, he would try to find some place in the shade to relax for a little while, alone with his thoughts. It may seem absurd, but at that moment, instead of worrying and being overcome by fear and agitation due to the long-awaited trip, the only thing he could think of was that sweater that he intended to buy once arrived in the United States. He wanted to live in a cold place, this was clear to him, to buy a lot of coats and scarves, and to have frozen hands. Wasn't that part of the American dream too? To be able to escape that dryness and have a closet full of sweaters?

The city of Tijuana, in Mexico, served as the setting for Erick's mental wanderings. It had been also his temporary residence for almost a month. Residence, not home. Erick had been living far away from home for nine months, since he left Honduras and began his journey: one day in Guatemala, one month in Chiapas, six months in Veracruz, then Ciudad Juárez and now there, Tijuana. Nine long months treasuring the desire to be able to find better economic opportunities and support his family that he left behind, which was enthusiastic about the idea of being able to receive some remittances.

To fight for his wish, Erick had to pay for his trip by working, doing whatever job he could find, often up to sixteen hours a day for a paltry salary. But that was not a time to be discouraged, because the next day Erick was going to cross the Mexican border into the United States, after having paid 7 thousand dollars  to a smuggler who promised to finally take him to his destination. This is how Erick's last trip to the north began: early in the morning, on any given Tuesday.

You may have noticed that Erick's imagination led him to daydreaming very often, and at the beginning of his journey, after months of malnutrition, he was wondering what his first meal in the US would have tasted like. Surely it would have been the most delicious meal of the last nine months, a meal that tastes of success ... And then wham!, his reverie was suddenly interrupted. An immigration police officer instantly nullified all of Erick's efforts, who was arrested shortly after. But that was not the end of his journey; little did he know that he still had six months to spend in detention: first in California, then in Arizona, Ohio, Louisiana, and Michigan. In his fantasy there were no police officers or detainees; however, this was the only image that Erick could capture from the United States.

How angry he felt when the comments of people who said "it is easy to get to the United States" and "it is a matter of one, maximum two weeks" came to mind. The lack of truthful and adequate information had been an accomplice to his misadventure. Erick was tired, disappointed, and alone. He was also afraid, because in the detention centers there were not only migrants seeking a better life, but also some common criminals who intimidated others, exacerbating their feelings of discomfort. For Erick, the only chance for peace was those few minutes of calls that he could share with his family. He told them that he was afraid that the US authorities would deport him to Honduras, and on the 175th day of his arrest, that was precisely what happened.

The return journey 

A bittersweet taste marked Erick's return. Not being able to fulfill his long-awaited American dream made him feel frustrated, almost ashamed and humiliated. His overwhelming sense of failure disappeared for a moment when, after almost a year and a half, he could finally hug his son. "Children grow up so fast," Erick thought. But the little boy was not the only one who had grown up in all that time; Erick had also gone through an enormous process of personal growth, and he had acquired an incredible strength.

Oh, and there was also the Honduran food. That really made his return happy!

It was not easy, it was not quick, but after a long path, on a day like today we can imagine Erick dealing with his daily tasks at his handicraft company in Honduras. His small family-run atelier became a company that sells its products nationwide: souvenir-type crafts that include a large sample of boats, helicopters and airplanes, all made of wood. It is a business that allows him and his family to live with better economic conditions than when Erick decided to venture to the United States.

His work activity was also able to flourish thanks to the help of the IOM (International Organization for Migration), which provided him with the necessary machinery for his work, and also to the CASM (Mennonite Social Action Commission), whose course on entrepreneurship strengthened Erick's management skills. The feeling of frustration that he experienced when he returned to Honduras has been transformed step by step into a feeling of satisfaction and happiness a he saw his business growing and gained greater confidence in himself, in his talent and ability. The training courses and the support provided helped him through a difficult process of return and reintegration, and empowered the young migrant on his return home.

Erick was able to build his economic subsistence and his professional fulfillment in Honduras, and among so many complex and unfortunate stories, this is a story with a happy ending. Even so, from time to time, he cannot help but daydream, thinking about what it would be like to travel to the United States again, this time legally, and stay there, even just for one day: to eat at a different restaurant and buy a thick winter sweater.