The refugee and migration compacts: Cooperation in an era of nationalism

February 28, 2019

Signed in December 2018, the Global Refugee and Global Migration Compacts are an admission that the challenges of migration are best approached through cooperation and collective action. The Compact on Refugees recognizes the unequal burden placed on Global South states, which host refugees, and rich Global North states, which pay to keep them in regions of origin. Recognizing that most refugees will not return home or be resettled, the Compact proposes new solidarity, development, and finance mechanisms to foster the inclusion and development of displaced people and host populations alike. While promising, displacement crises continue to proliferate, host states remain under-funded, and programming faces major delivery challenges.

In terms of the Migration Compact, scholars have long argued that state interests are largely incompatible with attempts at global migration governance. Yet, in 2016 the International Organization for Migration became a UN agency, and the vast majority of states supported the Compact with a goal of facilitating safe, orderly, and legal migration. At the same time, right-wing parties in liberal democracies rallied against the Compact, arguing it would erode state sovereignty, and several prominent states “pulled out”.

This panel unpacked the potential for global migration governance, responsibility-sharing, and addressed collective action problems in the face of burden-shifting, populism, and a growing desire to assert control.


  • Jennifer Hyndman (discussant) Director of the Centre for Refugees Studies, York University

  • Randall Hansen Interim Director at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

  • James Milner Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton University

  • Anne Balke Staver senior researcher at the Oslo Metropolitan University, focusing on migration and integration policies