70th Session of the UN General Assembly High Level Side Event on Streghtening Cooperation on Migration and Refugee Movements in the Perspective of the New Development Agenda

Published Date: 
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Speaker: 
William Lacy Swing, Director General

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Secretary General, Deputy-Secretary General, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m pleased and honored to participate in this very important event today, and I’d like to thank the Secretary-General for helping to draw attention to this crucial issue.

I wanted to emphasize three points that I hope will be amongst the outcomes of this meeting. These points are too often forgotten in the global and national debates about migration, but are critical if we are to promote dignified, orderly and safe migration for the benefit of all.

1. Migration is inevitable

First, we can no longer hide from the fact that migration is inevitable. We are living in an era of unprecedented human mobility with more people on the move than ever before: one billion people – one in every 7 on the planet.

The steady flow of people moving around the world is nothing new, and nor is it isolated to particular countries or regions. It is a global reality driven by a diversity of factors:

  • Demographic imbalances;
  • Disasters and crises;
  • Socio-economic inequalities within and between countries;
  • Environmental degradation and climate change;
  • The basic human desire to have security and a better life.

Migration and human mobility can too often be governed by knee-jerk reactions, and short-term, populist approaches to migration that ignore its realities and that undermine its potential benefits. The reality is that migration is not a problem to be solved but a process to be managed, and if managed well it can have huge benefits. That means governments need to manage migration in a balanced, comprehensive and coherent way, addressing both the immediate and the longer term.

2. Migration is necessary

Second, migration is necessary if skills are to be available, jobs filled, and nations are to flourish. While migration was absent from the original MDGs, the 2030 Development Agenda now recognizes migration as an enabler of inclusive growth and sustainable development. Target 10.7 in particular says it well: that we need to be aiming to “facilitate orderly safe regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well managed migration policies”.

Labour market transformation in both developing and developed countries will lead to an increased need to match people with jobs at all skill levels. For instance, by mid-century, the EU alone will have a labour force shortage of tens of millions of people. Even China is an aging society in need of many skilled workers. In short, we need migrants’ skills, know-how and talents if our economies are to function.

3. Migration is desirable

Third, migration is desirable – if well-managed through sensible, humane and responsible policies.

This, however, is where we too often fail. Our political leaders frequently opt for short-term, populist approaches to migration that ignore its realities and that undermine – rather than enhance – its potential benefits.

The inclusion of migration in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in the SDGs could help us do just that. But we need political leadership and commitment to do so, recognizing that migration is inevitable, necessary and desirable.

We at IOM have come up with a migration governance framework which sets out what we see as being the “essential elements for facilitating orderly safe regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well managed migration policies”. It suggests that policies should be designed to reach three objectives: advancing the socio-economic wellbeing of migrants and society; managing effectively forced migration and the mobility dimensions of crises; and ensuring that migration is safe, orderly and dignified. We believe this framework can be a valuable tool for governments striving to do the right things in the right ways, and for measuring progress towards achieving planned and well managed migration policies.

In all of this, IOM is firmly committed to supporting you in addressing these migratory flows. You have our support. That is why we are here today, and I hope that you will join us on a new path to dignified, orderly and safe migration for the benefit of all.

Thank you.