Assessment Overview

In November 2011, MacArthur launched an external examination of its investments in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), with a particular emphasis on its civil society dimension. The Global Forum is a voluntary states-led process dedicated to informal, non-binding dialogue, with the goal of enhancing the benefits of migration to countries of origin, countries of destination, and to migrants themselves. The GFMD emerged following the UN General Assembly’s first High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development in September 2006. The first Global Forum was hosted by Belgium in July 2007, and the GFMD has been hosted in subsequent years by the Philippines, Greece, Mexico, Switzerland, and Mauritius). Each two-day intergovernmental GFMD meeting is preceded by Civil Society Days (CSD), a two-day gathering of civil society actors.

MacArthur is the largest nongovernmental donor to the GFMD. The Foundation has provided a cumulative total of more than $3.3 million in grants for the six meetings of the GFMD. This includes support to host governments and host NGO/foundations, as well as support (to the UN) for the GFMD-related activities of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration and Development.

The Foundation had two primary purposes for conducting its evaluation:

  1. To assess the impact of the GFMD on policies, practices, framing, and government-civil society cooperation regarding migration issues 
  2. To draw lessons from the GFMD experience to inform future efforts related to global cooperation on international migration.

While the MacArthur assessment includes findings and recommendations relevant to the GFMD as a whole, its primary focus is the GFMD’s Civil Society Days. 


The evaluation was conducted using a mixed-method approach, combining the following:  quantitative survey data from Forum members and participants, in-depth, qualitative interviews with key informants, participant observation of the GFMD meeting in 2011, and a case study of Mexico.


Key findings drawn directly from the evaluation report include:

  • Different expectations among and between civil society and government actors stem largely from the lack of a clearly defined and generally accepted set of objectives and assumptions for the Civil Society Days, which has caused a good deal of frustration on the part of government and civil society representatives.
  • Networking and knowledge building efforts among civil society actors have been largely successful within the CSD framework, while capacity building and access to government by CSOs have enjoyed a far lesser degree of success. Given the presence of additional processes and organizations that also provide networking and knowledge building to CSOs, some civil society actors question the value added of the CSD.
  • Data regarding the impact of the CSD and GFMD on civil society and government collaboration are mixed. While there are specific examples of collaboration between civil society actors and member states, resulting at least in part from participation in the forum – and more than 30% of surveyed participants believe the CSD/GFMD collaboration has been fairly or very impactful – nearly the same percentage believe there had been very little evidence of impact. This is predominantly due to the fact that the ability of the CSD and GFMD to contribute to collaboration depends largely on external factors, such as the political, economic, and social context within each member state.
  • Much of the ability of civil society to influence the agenda of the GFMD occurs during preparatory meetings, while their ability to influence the migration agenda occurs largely at the national level outside of the GFMD process. While most civil society representatives do not feel their issues are adequately incorporated into the states-led discussion, the perspective does seem be improving in recent years.
  • A few distinct policies and projects are reported to have benefited from the CSD/GFMD, however the ability of the meetings to produce finite policy and project outcomes is a source of both debate and frustration due to differing expectations regarding the goals of the CSD and GFMD.
  • While 2012 marked a significant positive development in the institutional structure of the Civil Society Days, there remains considerable room for improvement. In particular, there is a need for enhanced sustainability, continuity, and dialogue between different actors (both through enhanced representation between different types of civil society representatives and increased dialogue between government, civil society, and private sector actors). The ideal structure of the CSD cannot be specified however, as it needs to advance an identified theory for how change is expected to happen as a result of the process.

Next Steps

Findings and recommendations presented in this report will be used to inform the Foundation’s further development of its Migration grantmaking strategy


Download the executive summary ›

Download the full report ›

For more information regarding this assessment, please contact John Slocum, Director, Migration.

Migration, Migration/Immigration