Bus driving away in rural Ethiopia

The Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees: taking stock of progress and the way forward in the Horn of Africa

Felicity A. Okoth

Four years after the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM) at the UN General Assembly, the environment in which donors, UN agencies and governments in the Horn of Africa (HoA) are expected to translate commitments into action has remained unstable. New and intensified challenges, including those linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and the increasingly severe impacts of climate change in the region, have heightened the need to critically review the extent to which the compacts are changing conversations on migration and displacement in the region.

This desk review analyses and compares the progress made towards the commitments of the GCR and GCM in the HoA. It examines two critical aspects of the potential contributions made by these global compacts: the direct impact in terms of stimulating new programmes supported by new funding; and the indirect impact of changing the dialogue around migration and displacement in the region to bring the principles enshrined in the two compacts into the foundations of policy. The study focuses on how the compacts have influenced programming undertaken by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa (EUTF) in the region. For comparative purposes, the study also explores how the compacts have been adopted into policy and programming by other actors, such as national governments, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and international organisations.

Key findings

Overall, the study finds that the GCR and GCM have lived up to some of the expectations placed upon them and fallen short on others. Commendably, the compacts have stimulated policy discussions at regional and country levels.

The following key findings have emerged from the review:

  1. Although the EUTF’s work in the HoA has been greatly influenced by the GCR– Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) and GCM, the GCR and the CRRF are more visible in EUTF documents than the GCM. Interventions related to the GCR–CRRF are particularly favoured in terms of EUTF funding and overall programming compared to the GCM.
  2. The IGAD, and UN bodies like the UNHCR and IOM, are also driving the GCR and GCM agenda, respectively, in the HoA through various programmes and consultative processes at the national and regional levels. A lack of coordination and collaboration among the various stakeholders in the implementation of the two compacts, however, appears to pose a significant barrier to progress.
  3. There is a disparity in the adoption and implementation of the GCR and GCM by countries in the region. The GCR’s grounding in existing norms and its actionable, centralised process (led by the UNHCR) has made progress toward its implementation (in comparison with the GCM) more visible and practical.
  4. States in the region have uneven implementation capacities when it comes to the two compacts. Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti, considered to be on the development trajectory, have greater capacity to implement the compacts than other countries in the region such as Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.
  5. CRRF rollout countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda) have made significant progress in the implementation of the GCR. This can be attributed to the EUTF and other international partners, which have commissioned and funded programmes geared towards the implementation of the CRRF in these countries.
  6. Unlike the bottom-up approach that the implementation of GCR has taken, the GCM is being adopted and implemented in a top-down manner, thus hindering local ownership. Discussions on the GCM are being held at the national level, hindering an awareness of the compact at the local level, which is not the case with the GCR–CRRF.
  7. Donor fatigue and loss of momentum in implementing the two compacts are significant barriers to their implementation. Competing national priorities, funding gaps and Covid- 19 and other crises are additional reasons found to have slowed the momentum of the compacts.

Key recommendations

  1. Donors should set up mechanisms for assessing and determining how best to streamline GCM objectives in their interventions in the region. This will ensure adequate attention is paid to challenges and opportunities present in the GCM cooperation framework at country levels.
  2. The EU and other major donors should advocate and support improved coordination between key stakeholders implementing programmes or policy action related to the two compacts. GCR and GCM working groups (by country) should be set up where key stakeholders can share experiences, opinions and ideas for contributing to the progress of the compacts.
  3. The IGAD should invest in an open access database/repository – managed by its Migration Programme – where documents on lessons learned, good practices and other knowledge products on the GCM and GCR are aggregated for use by all stakeholders. This will facilitate accessible and long-term peer exchange, as well as institutional knowledge, beyond the regional consultative processes.
  4. International partners should lobby states to develop and share their Progress Declaration on the Implementation of the GCM, as well as progress on their 2019 Global Refugee Forum (GRF) pledges, in line with the GCR. This will enable donors and key migration stakeholders to clearly identify country-specific migration and forced displacement and governance gaps that can be addressed through various interventions.
  5. The EU and other major donors should support the IOM to formulate and revise Migration Governance Indicators (MGI) for all countries in the region in light of evolving migration dynamics. This will provide an opportunity for governments to take an in-depth look at their migration policies and identify good practice, as well as areas of potential growth, in line with the GCM. The MGI profiles will also guide international partners’ interventions within these countries.
  6. The EU and other major donors should support long-term, impact-oriented programmes that emphasise whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches to migration governance. This will ensure stakeholder buy-in at local and national levels, and the overall sustainability of GCM and GCR objectives.
  7. The EU and other major donors should support governments and UN Network on Migration organisations to contextualise the GCR and GCM in line with country- specific development priorities to attract sustained interest in the region. This can be done by identifying governments’ priorities and initiatives, which can then be scaled up to address the relevant objectives of the twin compacts.
  8. International partners should advocate and support – both technically and financially – the revision of IGAD’s Migration Policy Framework, so that it aligns with GCM and GCR objectives. Regional frameworks are likely to elicit more action from member states than do the global compacts.

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Image source: UNHCR Ethiopia/ Somali refugees / J. Ose / May 2011

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