The Global Compact for Migration (GCM): Well Governed Migration as an Essential Element of Effective COVID-19 Response

The United Nations Network on Migration is committed to supporting all partners in pursuit of the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), recognizing that this cooperative framework provides an invaluable tool for ensuring all in society can contribute to a collective response to COVID-19 and are protected equally against its impact.

The newly released policy brief - The Global Compact for Migration (GCM): Well Governed Migration as an Essential Element of Effective COVID-19 Response - outlines the applicability of the Global Compact in responding to COVID-19, for States, the UN system and other stakeholders, highlighting good practices which can serve as useful models from which to draw. The GCM provides an effective framework for international cooperation on the governance of international migration in all its dimensions, which can be leveraged by states to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Building on the Secretary General’s call to reimagine human mobility, this brief demonstrates how the GCM can guide Member States, the UN and other stakeholders in developing inclusive COVID-19 preparedness, prevention, response and recovery measures that protect human rights and enhance the positive development effects of human mobility.

The policy brief includes key messages, analysis of COVID-19’s impacts on human mobility and suggestions for how the GCM can be a blueprint for COVID-19 response through policy recommendations and concrete examples of positive COVID-19 initiatives and responses enacted by states.

This policy brief is part of a series by the Network looking at different aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they relate to migrants and their communities. To find out more, go to the Network’s dedicated COVID-19 hub and find the latest updates on the UN Network for Migration website.



Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages


Including migrants in health coverage. The SDGs call for universal health coverage; it is important to proactively include migrants under schemes and guarantee continuity of quality services throughout the whole migration cycle.

Including migrants across health targets. Migrants face disproportionate health vulnerabilities in some contexts. For example, migrant women and girls often lack access to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education, and as a result experience negative outcomes. Some migrants may be susceptible to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria and others, due to limited hygiene, nutrition and living conditions, lack of access to health care, and heightened exposure to other risk factors. Others may be more at risk for non-communicable diseases and mental health issues. Therefore, it is important to proactively include migrants in implementation of various health targets.

Improving the distribution of the global health workforce. Migration of health workers has impacts on health systems in different countries, and the SDGs call for improved management of human resource development and deployment in the health sector. Implementing well-designed skill policies, including ethical recruitment codes such as the WHO ethical code of recruitment for medical staff, would help alleviate health worker shortages.

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all


Protecting migrant labour rights and promoting decent work. This would help migrant workers by addressing common challenges including those relating to working conditions, wages, social protection, occupational safety, access to health care, and migration status. By strengthening ethical recruitment practices and helping eliminate recruitment fees, this would also address human trafficking, debt bondage and forced labour.

Combatting forced labour, trafficking for forced labour, child labour, and all other types of labour exploitation. This can help work towards strengthening protection of exploited and trafficked individuals, prevention of trafficking and exploitation, prosecution and redress related to these crimes, promoting dialogue and cooperation on counter-trafficking, boosting human trafficking data collection and analysis, and more.

Reduce inequality within and among countries


Facilitating orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility, and encouraging the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies. This would help govern migration for the benefit of all. Target 10.7 acknowledges that effective migration governance is key for safer, more orderly and more regular migration. This includes promoting regular migration that respects the rights of all migrants, and leveraging the positive development impact of migration for migrants themselves as well as for all communities and countries.

Lowering remittance transaction costs. This would help strengthen the positive impacts of remittances, benefiting migrants, and their families and communities. Transfer costs can be high, burdening migrants, discouraging using formal channels for remittances, and hampering the development potential of remittances. Addressing this often involves increasing competition and transparency in the transfer market, helping migrants make informed decisions. 

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable


Working towards making cities inclusive for migrants. Migrants are often especially vulnerable within cities. They may have low knowledge of local contexts, and/or multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, reducing their ability to access resources and opportunities such as housing, employment and basic services. Proactively including migrants across city-related targets, such as in affordable housing, would benefit migrants. Further, the SDGs promote a participatory and inclusive approach to city planning and management, and this should include migrant participation.

Including migrants in urban disaster risk reduction (DRR) and disaster risk management (DRM). Migrants are often more vulnerable to disasters in urban areas. For example, as informal settlements in peri-urban areas of less developed countries are often hazard-prone, migrants may be among the first and worst affected by hazards and consequently disasters, as well as less able to cope when these occur. The SDGs call to reduce deaths and mitigate negative impacts of disasters, and migrants should be proactively included in mechanisms around this.

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


Improving migration data and increasing disaggregation of data by migratory status. Addressing gaps in quantity, accuracy, timeliness, comparability and accessibility of migration data will help decision-makers create evidence-based policy. Strengthened disaggregation will yield data on different dimensions of migrants’ situations to understand better their living conditions and how migration impacts on health, income and other areas, and ultimately help serve certain vulnerable groups.

Mobilising migrant partnerships for development. The SDGs call to use innovative, multi-stakeholder development partnerships and mechanisms. It is important to promote and improve migrant partnerships in this context; through remittances, knowledge and skill transfer, diaspora investment, philanthropy and other activities migrants are agents of development.