Published on People Move

On Global Governance of Migration

This page in:

In observance of the International Migrants Day, Dec 18

Formalization of global governance requires a set of globally agreed guidelines, a lead agency in charge of implementation, and funding. Discussions on global governance of migration often get drowned in noisy, chaotic discussion of issues. However, the issues to be addressed are well-known. Indeed, they are now well-documented in the Global Compact on Migration. Since the adoption of the GCM in Marrakesh two years ago, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) has become a UN-related agency, well positioned to play the role of the lead agency. A continuing problem is a lack of consensus on a set of globally agreed guidelines on the governance of migration.

This is different in the case of global governance of refugees. For much of history since the Second World War, there was agreement about the definition of refugees, a set of guidelines (the Geneva convention), and a lead agency, the UNHCR (see World Bank 2016 for a short history of governance arrangements). Progress on the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) has been smoother. 

While the adoption of the GCR and the GCM marks progress, it has not been as smooth in the case of the GCM. Even from the start many countries opposed (or did not agree to endorse) the GCM. One stumbling block was the issue of sovereignty: Why should an issue that affects my country be discussed in a multilateral forum or by an international treaty? Why should foreigners have the same rights as citizens? 

Sovereignty, citizenship and citizens’ rights depend on a clear definition of national boundaries, some argue. However, these very concepts require strict enforcement of national borders, which, in turn, invariably, creates developmental gaps between peoples and places and, thereby, increases migration. In other words, the denial of a global governance architecture can lead to disorderly migration pressures.

A second stumbling block was the perceived impact of (im)migration on citizens, especially as it affects jobs and earnings. The good news is that there is a significant body of literature now pointing out that large benefits accrue from immigration to citizens. More recently, the benefits of migration are visible in the fight against COVID-19. 

A third stumbling block is a lack of concessional financing. Faced with financial and political constraints, most host countries need concessional financing from external sources for public spending associated with migrant populations. Origin countries also need financing to address developmental gaps. And in both cases, migration programs need to be aligned with the national development strategies.

Financing facilities have been created with some degrees of success to support countries hosting refugees. For example, the Global Concessional Financing Facility combines grants from donor countries with loans from multilateral development banks to provide concessional financing to middle-income countries (such as Jordan, Lebanon or Colombia) hosting a large number of refugees and displaced persons from other countries. The creation of refugee windows under IDA18 and IDA19 has been successful in scaling up activities addressing refugees and forced displacement. 

There are no such large-scale financing facilities dedicated to addressing migration. To be more effective, migration governance must embrace the power of partnerships and leverage available financial resources. Funds are not necessarily scarce but are presently spent in a piecemeal and uncoordinated manner. On the one hand, there is a need to channel resources in a more efficient and coherent manner. On the other hand, making partnerships between host and origin countries effective, innovative and adaptable to changing circumstances requires adequate funding. In other words, effective partnerships need to be supported by a Concessional Financing Facility for Migration with a carefully designed governance structure to ensure equal and voluntary participation. 

A proposal for a Concessional Financing Facility for Migration has been presented in a background paper for the upcoming summit of the Global Forum on Migration and Development


Dilip Ratha

Lead Economist and Economic Adviser to the Vice President of Operations, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, World Bank

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000