"The IOM's new status as a 'UN Related Organization' and the potential consequences for 'climate refugees'", University of London

Activity: Talk or presentation typesLecture and oral contribution

Miriam Cullen - Other

On 8 July 2016, the UN General Assembly (GA) adopted by consensus the Agreement Concerning the Relationship between the UN and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) (the UN-IOM Agreement) to ensure better coordination between UN agencies. Shortly after the Agreement was finalised, the General Assembly charged the IOM with facilitating the negotiation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration through the provision of “technical and policy expertise”. The agreed Compact provides that the IOM will serve as secretariat and coordinator of the new “UN Network on Migration” which is responsible for follow-up and review of the Compact commitments, and provides support for the implementation of those commitments, including capacity-building.

The IOM is a non-normative independent institution that provides migration management services to states. Operationally, the IOM is more comparable to a private subcontractor than a traditional intergovernmental organization. That it can prioritise projects without normative constraints makes it more competitive: it does not critique government policy against any normative standards. It assists with migration management in various forms, including the return of migrants and the prevention of unauthorised migration. Capital flows into the IOM are secured through ad hoc donations to fund specific projects.

Not qualifying as refugees under the 1951 Convention together with the new status of the IOM means that people who move for climate-related reasons migrants are more likely to be fall under IOM management. Yet the IOM’s commercial interest combined with its institutional independence and non-normative mandate at most constitutes, or at least risks, a direct conflict of interest with human rights principles. Compounding this risk is the lack of accountability mechanisms in the UN-IOM Agreement. This presentation will address these and other concerns associated with the IOM’s new UN-related status and the provision of migration services to states.
6 Jun 2019

External organisation (Academic)

NameRoyal Holloway University of London
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

    Research areas

  • Climate change, Migration, IOM, UNHCR, United Nations

ID: 222691960