Report of the Global Commission on International Migration


In December 2003, “acting on the encouragement of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan,” the Global Commission on International Migration was established as an independent body, consisting of 19 Commissioners co-chaired by Jan O. Carlsson, former Minister for Migration and Development, Sweden, and Mamphela Ramphele, formerly the World Bank's Managing Director, from South Africa. The mandate of the Commission was to “provide the framework for the formulation of a coherent, comprehensive and global response to the issue of international migration.” The work of the Commission was assisted by a Geneva-based Secretariat and a “Core Group of States,” eventually including 32 governments from all world regions, that acted as an informal consultative body to the Commission. (The United States, the most important host country to immigrants, was not among the 32.) In October 2005, in New York, the Commission presented its Report to Kofi Annan, the UN member states, and other interested bodies. The Report is also intended as an input to intergovernmental discussion of international migration issues at the UN General Assembly in the Fall of 2006.

The Report, an 88-page document, is accessible at «». That web site also provides access to extensive background materials on selected topics concerning international migration, regional studies of international migration prepared for the Commission, and reports of the regional hearings, consultations with “stakeholders,” and expert meetings held by the Commission. Reproduced below are three sections of the Report: its Introduction (titled “Dimensions and dynamics of international migration”) and two of its four Annexes: “Principles for Action and Recommendations,” and a compendium of data: “Migration at a glance.”

Under the impact of globalization, international migration, long an important element of demographic change as experienced by individual states, has acquired increasing salience in international relations and in domestic politics. National sovereignty in deciding about immigration policy (probably the key determinant of contemporary international migration flows) remains an established principle in international law, subject only to treaty obligations to admit bonafide refugees. Increasingly in recent years, however, demands have surfaced to treat such policies as matters to be decided bilaterally between sending and receiving countries, or even to be regulated by an international or supranational body. (For earlier voices discussing this topic see the Archives section of this issue and the Archives section of the December 1983 issue of PDR:“On the international control of migration.”) Unexpectedly to some observers, the Report of the Global Commission fell short of recommending establishment of a new, WTO-like, international organization within the UN system with responsibility for international migration. It recommends, instead, steps to be taken toward an Inter-agency Global Migration Facility. Whether or not such arrangements will materialize and be influential, the Commission clearly sees international migration flows, primarily from less developed to more developed countries, as increasing in the future. While not quantified, this vision contrasts with the assumptions incorporated in the often-cited projections of the UN Population Division, which envisage future net migratory flows as either constant in size or even decreasing. The Report's argument rests primarily on the perceived economic benefits of migration to both receiving and sending countries, fueled by persisting income differentials and by contrasting demographic configurations between migrants' places of origin and destination. It gives short shrift to arguments that question the economic gains of mass migration to receiving countries, or that see such gains at best as minor and likely to be counterbalanced by noneconomic considerations. Nor does the Report gauge the likelihood that heeding its strictures for a more welcoming treatment of migrants would increase the incentives to migrate.