UN Summit to Adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda Interactive Dialogue 2: Tackling Inequalities, Empowering Women and Girls and Living No One Behind

Published Date: 
Friday, September 25, 2015
Speaker: 
William Lacy Swing, Director General

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Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’d like to make three points today on why migration is an important factor in our efforts to address inequality. Two points on the relationship between migration and inequality, and lastly, concrete suggestions on what can be done to improve positive development outcomes.

  1. Origins

First, migration is important to inequality because it is a result of inequality. Migration is driven, at least in part, by income and wealth inequalities and lack of opportunities.

In a globalized world, migration is also a result of differences in labour market conditions and requirements – between the skills and jobs needed in one place, and those available in another.

The reality we must face is that as long as inequalities exist and there are significant skills gaps in labour markets, people will migrate, we are currently seeing with our own eyes the most extreme risks migrants are willing to take. This is even more pertinent for migrant women and girls who face specific vulnerabilities and are more exposed to the risk of exploitation and gender-based violence. More generally, we have long said that migration is one of the world’s oldest poverty eradication strategies, and this will continue to be the case, no matter what barriers governments put up to prevent it.  

      2. Outcomes

Second, the migration process itself can result in various vulnerabilities. Many new arrivals struggle to find their feet as a result of limited access to health and education, or to social safety nets.

Often, this is driven or compounded by discrimination and xenophobia, or by a disregard for migrants’ fundamental human rights and freedoms. Many migrants in a vulnerable situation become the victims of abuse and exploitation, or of human trafficking.

Because of this, IOM is delighted that migration has been included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and has been incorporated as part of Goal 10 on inequality which includes a target on facilitating orderly and safe migration through well-managed migration policies. 

     3. Opportunities

This leads to my third point, on what we can concretely do in order for migration to be an even stronger force for lowering inequalities and how we can implement the ambition of the new agenda.

For IOM, the answer lies in what I call a “high road scenario” on migration. This could encompass many different policy interventions, but is focused on best practice measures to leverage the opportunities that migration offers, including an empowering experience for women and girls. To improve migrant and host population wellbeing through safe, orderly, dignified and humane migration – the very core of target 10.7.

It could include measures to:

  • Lower the cost of the migration process and cost of remittances;
  • Promote portability of social security benefits and rights;
  • Enhance the recognition of skills and educational qualifications;
  • Provide access to health services and education for migrants;
  • De-criminalize irregular migrants;
  • Tackle discrimination and xenophobia; or
  • Provide additional legal avenues for people to migrate.

These are just a few examples of what governments can do to address the challenges facing migrants and host communities, but there are many more.

IOM stands ready to assist governments to develop and implement such policies in the pursuit of the 2030 Agenda and a world free of poverty. We are developing a Migration Governance Index to help monitor and build capacity in planning and implementation of governments’ migration policies, and IOM has a unique capacity to gather migration policy data from its Member States which could facilitate monitoring of the new agenda.

We are here to help you. Together we can make a difference.

Thank you.