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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Upholding the human rights guiding principle in the Global Compact for Migration

19 May 2022

Delivered by

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet


OHCHR Side Event to the International Migration Review Forum


New York


Thank you to the co-sponsors Bangladesh, Colombia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco for supporting this important discussion.

It is a pleasure to welcome you all.

Four years ago, when Member States adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, they recognised the importance of international cooperation for more humane and rights-based migration governance. They reaffirmed the commitment to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all migrants, regardless of status, across all stages of the migration cycle, and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against migrants and their families, including racism, xenophobia and intolerance.

This is the guiding principle on human rights, which is central to the effective implementation of the Global Compact. A human rights-based approach to migration governance recognizes that when we empower migrants as human beings and as rights-holders; when migrants can meaningfully participate in the design and implementation of the laws, policies and practices that affect them; and when our responses to migration are people-centred, gender-responsive and child-sensitive, we create better outcomes for everyone.

As we meet today during this first International Migration Review Forum, the need to prioritize the human rights guiding principle is more apparent than ever. We have faced considerable challenges, as well as opportunities, to achieve the aspirations and objectives set out in the Global Compact. The COVID pandemic, for instance, brought into stark relief the disproportionate impacts migrants face when they are excluded and discriminated against in national policies or when they are targeted by harmful narratives in the media or in political and public discourse.

Whether in transit, at borders or at destination, too many migrants are forced to live in the shadows, enduring persistent violations and abuses of their rights and dignity.

Many migrants and their families have worked tirelessly to ensure essential services remain available to everyone during the pandemic, yet they have often done so while putting themselves at heightened risk of infection and may be unable to access social protection due to their status.

Migrants in an irregular situation, in particular, are still unable to access health care, housing, or decent work in many countries due to fear of arrest, detention, deportation, or of other penalties that may be imposed due to their migration status.

And migrant domestic workers in many countries remain subject to discrimination and abuse, including sexual and gender based violence, often without recourse to justice.


As the leading UN agency on the human rights of migrants, my Office has pledged to address these challenges by advancing the GCM’s guiding principle on human rights.

I wish to focus on four of these pledges, which aim at translating the ambitions of the Global Compact into reality:

First, we pledge to support the protection of migrants in vulnerable situations, including by operationalizing the international best practices contained in the UN Principles and Guidelines on the Human Rights Protection of Migrants in Vulnerable Situations. To this end, we have committed to supporting the expansion of safe and dignified pathways for regular migration, particularly for those most at risk of being left behind.

My Office has been leading the work of the UN system to develop guidance on Regular Pathways for Admission and Stay for Migrants in Vulnerable Situations and I am pleased to present to you today a new publication prepared by my Office which maps relevant laws and policies on safe and dignified pathways for entry and stay of migrants in vulnerable situations across 17 countries in the Asia Pacific region. This work highlights that States have several options at their disposal to protect the human rights of migrants by expanding and diversifying pathways and that many States are already taking concrete measures to implement these pathways in practice.

Second, we pledge to support human rights-based border governance, by working with all States and stakeholders to implement OHCHR’s Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders and by ensuring that any return of migrants is safe and dignified and that their reintegration in countries of origin is sustainable.

To this end, we have co-led work within the UN system to develop a Common UN Position on ensuring safe and dignified return and sustainable reintegration, and are pleased to announce today that the Network has also developed a Mapping of Gaps and Promising Practices, as well as a practical Checklist to support States and stakeholders in ensuring that their efforts on return and reintegration are in compliance with international law.

Third, we pledge to support the development of ambitious and human rights-based GCM national implementation plans by providing technical and capacity-building support to Governments and relevant stakeholders.

In the spirit of the whole-of-system approach, my Office will continue strengthening coordination and cooperation to advance human rights mainstreaming throughout the UN system. We will also continue work to support the development of GCM national implementation plans using the publication we co-led within the UN Network on Migration, Implementing the GCM: Guidance for governments and all relevant stakeholders.

And finally, we pledge to help build more welcoming and inclusive societies by working to eliminate all forms of discrimination, including racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against migrants. We are convinced of the value of shifting narratives of fear, hate and division to those that uphold everyone’s human dignity. To this end, we will continue to promote stories for change through my Office’s #StandUp4Migrants campaign and toolbox.

I invite all Governments and partners to join us in these pledges, including by making joint or complementary pledges or by matching OHCHR’s pledges through contributions of financial, technical, or material support.


We each have a stake in making sure human rights are enjoyed by all.

I look forward to hearing from you how we can build on the lessons learned from the last four years to make the GCM and its guiding principle on human rights a reality.

We have an opportunity to meet the promise of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind, and to address and reduce vulnerabilities in contemporary migration.

We have an opportunity to renew our collective commitment to ensure human rights are at the centre of migration governance, and to achieve the protection of the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their status.

I wish you stimulating conversations, and hope that they will translate into many action-oriented next steps.

Watch the High Commissioner’s video message: