GCM From a Gender Perspective

Reflections on the Global Compact for Migration

Joint Statement Published by Members of the Expert Working Group for Addressing Women’s Human Rights in the Global Compact for Migration


The Expert Working Group for addressing women’s human rights in the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration (EWG), is composed of individual experts from UN human rights treaty bodies, special procedure mandate holders, UN agencies, civil society organisations and academic institutions. It was established in 2017 to help ensure that the rights of the estimated 120 million migrant women and girls around the world are fully promoted and protected in the creation and implementation of the Global Compact for Migration. UN-Women serves as the substantive Secretariat of the Expert Working Group.

We welcome the agreement reached by United Nations Member States on the final draft of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) as a major milestone in international migration governance. We are pleased to note that the GCM enshrines gender-responsive, human rights, people-centered and child-sensitive approaches as cross-cutting and interdependent guiding principles, and we recognise the hard work and dedication of Member States to achieve this. However, we regret that the text does not include references to certain issues critical for realising the human rights of all migrants, and in particular women and girls. These missing issues include:

  • The principle of non-refoulement
  • Avoidance of any hierarchy of human rights, including access to public services, labour rights and justice, due to migration status
  • Access to sexual and reproductive health services
  • Recognizing the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by migrant women on the grounds of sex and other relevant characteristics (inter alia, income, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location)
  • The specific needs and challenges faced by pregnant migrant women and nursing mothers
  • Recognizing the various forms of families that exist
  • Providing individual documentation for migrant women
  • The role of women’s organizations/migrant women’s organizations
  • Affirmation of freedom of association and full labour rights for all women migrant workers, including domestic workers, and not limiting this to ‘contractual workers’

Despite this, we recognize that with the text agreed, the real work begins now. Together we can and must ensure that the implementation of the GCM works for all migrants, upholding the key principles of non-discrimination and non-regression. While the GCM is gender-responsive on paper, we need to work to ensure that it is also gender-responsive in practice, which means understanding and responding to the realities of all women and girls in migration by addressing their specific needs, challenges, and situations of vulnerability through national policies, programmes and laws. To support these efforts, we would urge the new UN Network on Migration to take on gender equality as a cross cutting concern in the work of the core group and of the working groups. Further, we call for the creation of a gender-responsive GCM multi-stakeholder global taskforce to focus specifically on ensuring gender-responsive policy coherence and communication to collectively support, monitor and evaluate GCM implementation and outcomes going forward.[1]

The EWG is committed to providing support to Member States and other key stakeholders in the design and implementation of national migration policies which effectively promote gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. To this end, we firmly believe that a multi-stakeholder approach, enriched by the participation of migrant women and representatives of their organizations should be prioritised.

Building on our expert Recommendations for addressing women’s human rights in the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, we will soon be developing a practical guide entitled ‘Policies and Practice: A Guide to Gender-Responsive Implementation of the GCM’. This tool will provide concrete guidance to Member States, UN agencies, civil society organizations, regional bodies, and the private sector on implementing a GCM that contributes to the achievement of SDG 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. With this guide, we will contribute to ensuring that the human rights of all women and girls in migration are respected, protected and fulfilled in national, regional and global migration governance.

The implementation of the GCM is an unmissable opportunity to ensure that migration policies advance gender equality and the ability of all women and girls to enjoy their full human rights. There are more than 120 million migrant women and girls around the world, and every one of them should live a life free from all forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse whether in countries of origin, transit or destination. To achieve this, we are ready to work with Member States and other stakeholders to fully implement the GCM and turn commitments into action for all migrant women and girls.

Read the official statement here!

WIMN Statement on Conclusion of GCM

WIMN Official Statement on Final GCM (English)

WIMN Official Statement on Final GCM (Spanish)

Women in Migration Network Statement On Conclusion of Negotiations

On the UN Global Compact For Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration 

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Women in Migration Network (WIMN) recognizes the immense effort invested by the Co-Facilitators, States, UN Agencies, and civil society in the new UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, at this conclusion of negotiations at the UN in New York today. We particularly welcome the process bringing migration back into the work of the UN and affirming a human-rights based approach to migration. 

However, we regret the many missed opportunities for strengthening gender justice, labor rights and human rights in the context of migration. Such omissions set back efforts by Member States and civil society to create the conditions where migrants—including migrant women and girls—can fully enjoy their rights as established in international law.  We extend thanks to Member States that enthusiastically responded to our concerns throughout the process. 

“Gender-responsive” goes well beyond repetition of words.  It must be reflected in the Global Compact’s objectives in tangible ways that will change the lived experience of women in migration in all their diversity, in countries of origin, transit, destination, and upon return. As we have stated throughout the process, a gender-responsive Compact recognizes the right to access public services, labor rights and justice regardless of status. It entails extending these rights to all migrants, without creating hierarchies of rights due to migrant status or any other factors.  

Access to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health care services as affirmed in the New York Declaration, (one of the foundations for the Global Compact process) is essential for gender-responsive migration policy.[1]  

The failure of the Global Compact to affirm long-standing human rights guidance on the non-criminalisation of irregular entry or stay, another issue States addressed in the New York Declaration, harms migrants’ rights and is a gender issue.[2]

Gender-responsive means providing specific protections for migrant women and their families in vulnerable situations and at international borders.  

It means recognising that gender is not binary and that pervasive language linking women with children risks infantilising women and must be avoided where possible.

It means affirming in practice, freedom of association and full labor rights for migrant women and for all migrant workers, including domestic workers. Limiting reference to these established rights to only “contractual workers” is discriminatory, leaving many migrant workers, in particular women, outside of the protections of labour law. Under established human rights and International Labour Organization (ILO) standards, all workers, regardless of status are entitled to such protections.

It means affirming in practice the right to family unity (in a diversity of families) while also recognizing that detention is never in the best interest of the child.  

It means NEVER sending migrant women, children and families back to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or other serious human rights abuses in their home or third countries. Again, this is an area where the Global Compact falls short of the promise of the New York Declaration.[3]

Thus, it is with deep regret that we see areas where States have agreed to an approach in the Global Compact that has not reaffirmed commitments approved two years ago in the New York Declaration, as well as identified in ILO labor standards and human rights treaties.  

While this has been a generally positive process of great significance for the global community, we hope for a strengthened implementation, follow up and review process, which will warrant even broader inclusion and full and meaningful participation from migrant communities and civil society. We salute the Co-Facilitators for ably shepherding the negotiations and bringing to consensus a document that opens the way for cooperation and shared responsibility in global migration policy-making. We see the Global Compact as a transitional step, but not yet transformative. 

We look forward to the formal adoption of the Compact in Marrakesh in December, to further working on these areas with Member States, the UN System and civil society, in the implementation, follow-up and review of the Global Compact.  We commit to work for the transformation of global migration governance and policy with migrants’ human rights, including women’s human rights, at the center. On our part, this means strengthened organizing and advocacy at national and regional levels as well as a strong role in international spaces, including implementation of the Global Compact – at national, regional and international levels.

EDD18 Women and Girls on the Move

At this years European Development Day, the International Organization for Migration focused on promoting the safety and empowerment of migrant girls and women.

“Migration is one of the defining features of the 21st century contributing significantly to all aspects of economic and social development, and as such will be key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Safe, orderly and regular migration, allow women to develop their skills, flourish as entrepreneurs, and contribute to economic growth. The 2030 Agenda explicitly recognizes the economic value of migrants; but women and girls, representing 48 per cent of all international migrants, are still exposed to gender specific vulnerabilities. This High Level Panel, moderated by the Swiss Agency for development and cooperation, discusses how the EU and its partners can empower women and girls to improve their socioeconomic status.”

“Women and girls on the Move: Towards Safer Work and Migration for Women” –the panelists are set to discuss how safe, orderly and regular migration can mitigate vulnerable situations and allow women to develop new skills, flourish as entrepreneurs, and contribute more to the growth of their host and home countries. On the High-level Panel, Ambassador Thompson will join Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator; Isatou Touray, Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment of the Republic of the Gambia; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director; Audrey Le Guével, Director of the Brussels office, ILO; and Esther Nakajjigo, EDD Youth Representative from Uganda. Discussions will be moderated by Ambassador Thomas Gass, Assistant Director General of the SDC.

To watch the full video, “Women and Girls on the Move: Towards Safer Work and Migration for Women”: