This article has been written by Alexandra Ricard-Guay who is based at the European University Institute in Italy.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is a worldwide organization in the field of migration that has played an increasingly important role in international migration governance. First established in 1951, the IOM finally joined the United Nations System in September 2016.
The organization is inter-governmental by status, which means it represents its member states. With 166 nations as members, the IOM has offices in more than 100 countries. Its activities are broad and revolve around four areas: migration and development, facilitating migration, regulating migration and addressing forced migration.
The core of the IOM’s mission is to promote international cooperation alongside a ‘humane and orderly management’ of migration. It is committed to encouraging social and economic development through migration and to upholding the well-being and human rights of migrants.
The organization provides support, services and advice to governments, migrants and numerous partners, including NGOs. The following are two examples of the assistance it provides:1.
Since 1979, IOM has assisted returnees and governments through its Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programmes both in countries of origin, transit and destination. Albania is the country with the highest number of return migrants who are beneficiaries of this programme. The Special Programme for the Reintegration of Returnees to Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia is aimed at undocumented migrants and rejected asylum seekers. AVRR assistance includes not only the facilitation of travel arrangements, but also reintegration assistance such as vocational training, and support for setting up small businesses.2.
The Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance and Reintegration provides support to stranded migrants in Libya. During the first half of 2017, more than 5,000 migrants were assisted with their return trips home. The IOM has also developed various counter-trafficking programmes that supports victims of trafficking and provides awareness raising, training and capacity building.
The IOM is involved with conducting research, collecting data and sharing best practices. In 2015 it created the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, which brings together its various efforts to compile, analyse and share data on international migration. It has also developed the Displacement Tracking Matrix that monitors displacement and has become a critical tool used by the humanitarian community in coordinating its assistance.
Finally, the IOM actively informs policy debates and provides guidance at the international level. For example, since 2005, it has coordinated the ‘Global Consultations of Chairs and Secretariats of Principal Regional Consultative Processes on Migration’ (also known as Global RCP Meetings for short). This meeting brings together regional, intra-regional and global agencies to share information, to encourage greater coherence between policies and to make policy recommendations, for example, to the UN General Assembly.
On 19 September 2016, the IOM joined the UN System to become the first UN agency dedicated to migration. This took place on the same day that UN member states adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, and agreed to develop two Global Compacts (essentially a set of international key principles): the first on refugees and the second on migration.
These recent developments illustrate the increasingly important place of migration on international agendas. Moreover, in becoming a new UN agency, the IOM has confirmed its central role in migration governance.