#Migration and #Development in times of #COVID-19: #GFMD13 starts this Monday – all online

There were plans for hybrid participation (some in person, some online) being discussed until late last year, but in the end, “Zoomification” has now also reached the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). This Monday, January 18, the 13th edition of the summit – theme: “The Future of Human Mobility: Innovative Partnerships for Sustainable Development” – will be held as an “online only” event. An understandable decision, but regrettable nonetheless, since the organizing Chair, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had announced that for the first time (almost) all sessions would be open to all participants, i.e. no separate Civil Society and Government Days. This principle is now being applied to the online program. In several preparatory events, civil society representatives have already picked their four advocacy priorities for the GFMD summit; these are:

social protection, regularization, fighting xenophobia, access to services.

Making good use of the online format, the priorities were picked out of a more comprehensive list by a poll held during the final zoom meeting.

You can watch the recording of the closing ceremony of the GFMD Civil Society Preparatory Meeting Closing Plenary here:


But let’s get back to the chronological order of things:

 Almost exactly a year ago (although it feels much longer for obvious reasons…)  the last GFMD summit took place in Quito, Ecuador. Here, the UAE announced an ambitious program: The most inclusive GFMD so far with almost all events being open to all stakeholders. Additionally, 5 clusters of regional consultations were being held, most of them linked either to regional organisations (i.e. African Union) or Regional Consultative Processes (among them the Abu Dhabi Dialogue and, a rather odd choice, the Bali process which usually deals with “People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime”).

You can find reports, statements and some videos of these meetings here:


As most previous meetings, the Quito GFMD was preceded by the People’s Global Action on Migration, development and Human Rights (PGA):


Apparently, there were discussions on organizing a PGA in the UAE, but these were scrapped at some point; one source referred to the “challenging political environment” for civil society activism in the hosting country. It might have been possible to hold an independent online PGA, though; in any case, civil society ended up having its own meeting with the preparatory sessions. (However, unlike the PGA, these were open only to registered delegates, so it felt closer to the civil society days of previous GFMDs).

The four-day-program was spread over a little more than a week and started on January 7. There were opening and closing plenary session (for the recordings see the link above) and two days with breakout sessions that focused on the four themes considered to be most relevant for civil society:

•             Theme 1 (Governance of Labour Migration, and Skilling of Migrants)

•             Theme 2 (Gaps in Migrant Protection) 

•             Theme 3:  Irregular Migration

•             Theme 4:  COVID-19 – Building Back Better for Migrants

I enjoyed the open discussions in smaller groups and the moderators did an admirable job distilling these into advocacy points. Here you can read more about the four priorities that were finally selected:


The actual summit will take place January 18-22 and 25-26. That is seven days, making it look like an XXL edition of the GFMD. However, the program is less cramped than the previous in-person meetings, taking also into considerations that participants are based in a variety of timezones.

As you can see in the overview below (taken from the GFMD preliminary overview, so there have been some changes it seems, but it gives you an idea), the centrepiece of each days are the roundtable sessions, with numerous side events and network meetings taking place before and afterwards. Most meeting will be held via Zoom and you need to be a registered delegate in order to participate; some like the business and mayoral mechanism have further restricted attendance.

As in the previous year, there will be a Dialogue on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) / the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF). Unlike the previous year, , several meetings will tackle the impact of COVID-19, such as “The Impact of COVID-19 on Migration and Remittances” or “Building Back Better after COVID-19: Regular Pathways and Solutions for Recovery”. The Mayoral Mechanism will also adress this topic under the heading “Enabling local solutions for inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery”

There will The opening and closing ceremony will be prerecorded and made available for streaming.

I will make the links to those and any other unrestricted session available via my Twitter account: @srother https://twitter.com/srother .

As those who have followed my blog since its inception during the Mexican GFMD in late 2010 might have noticed, in previous years I have increasingly switched over to Twitter for immediate impressions from the global events I am attending. (I was about to write that there was no Twitter back when I started, but that’s not true – apparently I’ve joined the service already in February 2009…) I will still continue to provide some more substantial assessments on this blog.

In any case, let’s see and discuss how the current Zoomification will affect the deliberations and outcomes of the GFMD!


About Dr. Stefan Rother

Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institute at the University of Freiburg -- Freelance journalist -- You can find my CV at the links below:
This entry was posted in Gfmd, GFMD Civil Society Days, GFMD Government Meeting, GFMD in General, Migration, PGA and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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