The GFMD is a voluntary, inter-governmental, non-binding and informal consultative process open to all States Members and Observers of the United Nations, a platform where governments can share their national, regional and global experiences in migration and development. UN agencies and other international and regional bodies are invited as observers. It is intended to 1) enhance dialogue and international cooperation and 2) foster practical and action-oriented outcomes.
The annual GFMD is chaired and hosted alternately by a developed country and a developing country, and has therefore no permanent location. The annual Chair’s work plan may be implemented in different places – most preparatory meetings are held in Geneva, while the final meeting is usually held in the host county. But it has a light administrative support structure – the Geneva-based GFMD Support Unit which provides essential administrative, financial and logistical support to the Chair-in-Office. The Support Unit is hosted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The GFMD is a recent initiative of the international community to address the migration and development interconnections in practical and action-oriented ways. It was created at the September 2006 General Assembly High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, upon the proposal of the UN Secretary-General and by the majority agreement of UN Member States. It thus marked the culmination of more than a decade (following the 1994 UN Conference on Population and Development in Cairo) of international discussion on the growing importance of these linkages, and the progressive acknowledgement of the need to address the policy implications and responses in a multilateral framework.
The Forum does not form part of the United Nations system, but it is open to all States Members and Observers of the United Nations. The annual GFMD outcomes and reports of proceeding are conveyed by the respective Chairs-in-Office to the UN Secretary-General.
The GFMD maintains strong links with the UN through the Special Representative of the Secretary General on International Migration and Development and the inter-agency Global Migration Group (GMG), comprised of 15 UN agencies dealing with migration and development issues as well as IOM.
Under the Operating Modalities of the GFMD adopted in 2007, the Forum meets every year for an inter-active and practice-oriented dialogue. It is attended by high-level and senior government policy-makers, and its deliberations are held under Chatham House Rules. A Report of Proceedings is prepared at the end of each Forum.
The supporting framework of the GFMD includes the following:
- The Chair-in-Office: the host government which assumes responsibility for the preparatory process and the implementation of each Forum. The Chair also supervises the GFMD Support Unit.
- The Troika: comprised of the outgoing Chair, the current Chair, and the forthcoming Chair.
- The Steering Group- comprised of a smaller number of governments that are firmly committed to offer sustained political and conceptual support to the Forum process and to the Chair-in-Office, and to ensure continuity of the process. The Steering Group meets at regular intervals in Geneva to consider and advise on all relevant policy issues pertaining to the smooth running of the Forum process. It may also create thematic follow-up working groups.
- The Friends of the Forum: open to all UN Member States and Observers. It acts as a sounding board by ensuring that all Members States and Observers of the UN are kept abreast of Forum-related developments; and advises on the agenda, structure and format of the GFMD meeting. Friends of the Forum Meetings are held, in principle, at least twice in between each Forum meeting at a venue to be determined by the Chair-in-Office.
- The Chair’s Taskforce: gives political, conceptual and operational advice to the Chair, comprised of:
- national government staff from different ministries and departments and
- a limited number of international advisers sponsored by other governments or international organizations.
- The GFMD Support Unit: created in 2008 to perform administrative, financial and logistical functions; manage GFMD-related data and information; manage internationally contributed funds; and operate the GFMD website and the GFMD Platform for Partnerships (the latter since 2010).
- The Global Network of GFMD Focal Points: created in 2007 to facilitate further dialogue at the national level, as well as networking at the global level between GFMD governments.
- The GFMD government-led ad-hoc Working Groups, established by the Steering Group, which prioritize and follow up on outcomes of previous GFMD meetings and link these to current and future thematic priorities.
- The UNSG’s Special Representative on International Migration and Development- appointed in 2006, who played a key role in the creation of the GFMD and provides a link between the United Nations and the Global Forum.
Owing to its state-led nature, the primary purpose of the Forum is to facilitate a constructive dialogue among governments. However, it also benefits from the expertise and inputs of international organizations and civil society (together referred to as non-governmental partners).
Since 2007, representatives of some 160 Member-States and UN Observers, as well as over 30 international organizations, have participated in the annual government meetings of the GFMD; while between 200 to 500 various actors have participated in the Civil Society Days. The civil society process runs parallel with the government process. Each year, Civil Society Days (CSD) are held before the final GFMD meeting of governments. The results of the CSD are presented at the start of the government meeting in order to feed into the government debates. Since 2010, a “common space” between governments and civil society has been organized to promote a more effective interaction and cross-fertilization of knowledge and action between the governments and civil society.
International organizations, especially the members of the Global Migration Group (GMG), provide relevant technical support to the GFMD Chair-in-Office in preparing the substantive work program of the annual GFMD, and in organizing roundtables or thematic meetings.
As informal and non-binding process the GFMD does not take formal decisions on the thematic issues it addresses. However, its outcomes and recommendations on innovative policies, and on practices that have proven effective in one country or region, can inspire appropriate actions in other places, from which all can benefit.
The Forum produces several types of concrete outcomes and impacts, ranging from policy changes at national, regional and international levels; specific recommendations taken further by governments or other stakeholders; projects and initiatives at national, bilateral or multilateral level emerging from GFMD discussions; to new partnerships between governments and between governments and other stakeholders.
As an non-operational body, the GFMD does not implement the concrete action proposals and recommendations it produces. Most outcomes are addressed directly to participating States, which may take these forward at the national, regional and international levels.
In 2007, GFMD examined the impact of migration on social and economic development, in terms of human capital development and labour mobility on the one hand and the contribution of migrant resources (financial as well as skills) on the other hand. Policy coherence between migration and development policies and related tools to factor migration into development planning were other key issues addressed, together with institutional coherence and a ‘whole-of-government’ approach to better harness the migration and development nexus. Cross-cutting topics, such as human rights, gender and root causes of migration, were also discussed.
GFMD 2008 emphasized the human face of migration and the protection of migrants' rights and sought to examine the impact of such protection in reinforcing development. It also introduced for the first time the concept of "shared responsibility" of governments and other concerned actors in protecting and empowering migrants and their families.
GFMD 2009 discussions focused on mainstreaming migration in development planning and achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the impact of the economic crisis for the migration and development nexus, as well as policy coherence and the relationship between migrant integration, reintegration and development.
GFMD 2010 focused on the concept of partnerships, introduced the new Common Space format of debates in plenary between governments and civil society, and brought a new or renewed focus of the Roundtables on irregular migration, family, gender and climate change. It also included a working session on the Platform for Partnerships (PfP), a support mechanism to facilitate partnerships on current and past GFMD outcomes and follow-up activities, and a Future of the Forum session focused on the GFMD assessment exercise to be undertaken in 2011-2013.
GFMD 2011 introduced a new format of engagement by moving to the field, to the regions and countries where governments and other partners seek to make policies and programs work “on the ground”. A series of 14 small, focused and action-oriented meetings under three thematic clusters – labour mobility and development (cluster I), addressing irregular migration through coherent migration and development strategies (cluster II) and tools for evidence-based migration and development policies (cluster III) were organized by the Swiss GFMD Taskforce in partnership with other governments, the Global Migration Group and other international organizations, as well as civil society and the private sector. The results of these thematic meetings were pulled together at the final meeting – the GFMD 2011 Concluding Debate held in Geneva on 1-2 December 2011. In addition, GFMD 2011 completed the first phase of the GFMD assessment exercise, which showed general satisfaction of UN Member States about the GFMD process.
Development was a central focus for GFMD 2012, as demonstrated by the fact that the Forum was chaired for the first time by a national development agency (Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mauritius). In recognition of the linkage between human development and migrant rights, the protection of migrants featured directly in two Roundtables, in regard to mixed flows and persons in distress, and to international domestic workers. Several thematic and preparatory meetings were held in Mauritius throughout the year. The overall work agenda of GFMD 2012 also included the organization of a series of brainstorming debates and workshops on key migration and development themes.Mauritius also engaged with civil society from the earliest stages. The GFMD 2012 Common Space introduced a different and more interactive format, with more break-out sessions and the use of social media via Twitter in one of the Common Space panels.
Some outcomes of the GFMD require multilateral follow-up action by interested governments working together or in cooperation with international organizations and agencies with technical and operational capacities -in particular the members of the Global Migration Group (GMG) - or with non-governmental experts.
In addition, the two GFMD ad hoc thematic Working Groups (WGs) – one on “Protecting and empowering migrants for development” and the other on “Policy coherence, data and research” with government and non-state expert members – help governments prioritize and sharpen the focus on key GFMD outcomes and recommendations. These ad hoc WGs also promote a commonality of understanding within the GFMD about migrant rights’ and governments’ shared responsibility in protecting and empowering migrants, and the importance of policy coherence and related data and research findings, respectively. They are a useful and informal mechanism for interested governments to keep abreast of GFMD outcomes, discuss follow-up actions and agree on how and by whom these could be taken forward for implementation.
Information about GFMD outcomes is of strategic importance, since it can demonstrate the degree to which the Forum usefully contributes to the creation of more effective policies at different levels. It is also important for the viability of the Forum itself. To this end, the GFMD Platform for Partnerships (PfP) was established in 2010 to put the GFMD spotlight on programs and policies that governments have undertaken as a follow-up to GFMD recommendations, or in support of the current GFMD substantive agenda. The PfP is an on-line (see www.gfmd.org/pfp) and off-line tool intended to promote the exchange of practices on migration and development, calls for action, and networking. It is administered by the GFMD Support Unit. GFMD participating governments and observers are thus encouraged to inform the GFMD Support Unit about their actions and initiative as a follow-up to GFMD discussions, for these to be posted on the GFMD web portal, in particular on the PfP. The GFMD could also organize information sessions where Friends of the Forum can continue sharing information and lessons learned in tackling the inter-linked issues of migration and development.
Each Chair-in-Office prepares a comprehensive budget for the respective Forum, indicating the part it will cover through its own resources and the part for which it will require external funding. Provisions for the possible transfer of left-over funds from one Chair-in-Office to the succeeding Chair-in-Office are also made.
Financial contributions to the GFMD process are made on a voluntary basis. Governments’ responses to calls for financial and in-kind contributions have varied from one year to another. But the number of governments that have provided financial and in-kind contributions has grown steadily through the years –from only 5 in Belgium (2007) to 11 in the Philippines (2008), 12 in Greece (2009), 16 in Mexico (2010), 12 in Switzerland (2011), 21 in Mauritius (2012) and 17 in Sweden (2013-2014).
Financial contributions are paid to a GFMD account managed by the GFMD Support Unit under the supervision of the Chair-in-Office. The Chair-in-Office incurs expenditures in accordance with the budget and ensures the efficient management of all funds received, including controlling and auditing.
Now in its 9th year of activity, the GFMD is regarded as a well established global consultative process. At the GFMD Concluding Debate in Geneva in December 2011, which was the culmination of the fifth GFMD under the Chairmanship of Switzerland, governments reaffirmed the value-added of the process. In doing so, they confirmed the principal findings of a comprehensive survey conducted in 2011 under phase 1 of the GFMD Assessment.
The results of phase 1 of the GFMD assessment exercise showed the general appreciation of responding governments about how the GFMD has helped promote the sharing of best practices and capacity-building among governments and other relevant stakeholders in managing international migration; harnessing its beneficial effects on development while addressing its attendant challenges; and building partnerships and informal governance systems for migration at the national, regional and global levels.
The consolidated assessment report (2011-2012) outlined the vision of Global Forum and identified areas for further improvement in order to ensure the sustainability of the GFMD and to enhance its delivery power. Also in line with the GFMD 2012 report, a thematic recollection highlighting the achievements of the GFMD summit meetings from 2007 until 2012 was submitted as an input to the October 2013 High Level Dialogue (UN HLD).
The GFMD received resounding support at the 2013 UN HLD, with the Declaration adopted at the meeting acknowledging that the GFMD has proved to be a valuable forum for holding frank and open discussions, and that it has helped to build trust among participating stakeholders through the exchange of experiences and good practices, and by virtue of its voluntary, informal State-led character. The Declaration further acknowledged that the United Nations system can benefit from the discussions and outcomes of the GFMD in order to maximize the benefits of international migration for development.