11th Coordination Meeting on International Migration, HLD 2013: expectations and follow-up

Published Date: 
Thursday, February 21, 2013
William Lacy Swing, Director General

Your Excellencies and Representatives from the Diplomatic Missions, UN and CSO Representatives, Colleagues, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is an honour to be a part of today’s  11th UN DESA Coordination Meeting on International Migration and to share the podium with SRSG Sutherland and Ambassador de Alba. As the global lead agency on migration located  in more than 470 field locations, doing 3000 projects, IOM has a clear view of the tremendous and increasing importance of migration in all parts of the world.

Today’s meeting is significant: for one thing, we are all preparing for the Second UNGA High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (HLD); we are also (a) taking stock of how far we have come and, (b) we are trying, together, to identify the pragmatic measures we need to take to secure the future we want.

I would like to make three points: (1) the pertinence of the HLD; (2)  migration’s potential for development, and (3) the partnerships needed to realize this potential.

I. HLD’s Pertinence: The first of three points that I would like to make is that the 2013 HLD is both timely, necessary and highly pertinent to all that we do or plan. Even 7 years ago at the first HLD, international interest in migration was still in an early stage. We live in an era of unprecedented human mobility, with more people on the move now than at any other time in recorded history – one billion of seven billion people. Large scale migration is a 21st century mega-trend. The drivers of migration are numerous. These include: demographicsnorth-south disparity, the digital revolution, distance-shrinking technology, disasters and labor demand. As a result of this phenomenon, many countries are now simultaneously countries of origin, transit, and destination. Migration is therefore important to all countries and has become, with development, one of the major cross-cutting issues of our time.

Countries have not only come to realize the need for global migration dialogue-- as we have heard from Ali Masour – there has also been progress in dialogue and cooperation at the global level; this includes, importantly, the significant contributions of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, and the Secretary General Special Representative for Migration and Development. On the other hand, migration is inadequately reflected in development frameworks; in broader sectoral policies at local and national levels; and in global development agendasThis must change.

And this brings me to my second point.

II. Migration has immense development potential. The strong link between migration and the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development is widely accepted: I would like to go beyond this, however, to say that not enough has been done to remove the impediments to migration’s development contributions. These include the negative stereotypes and false and misleading myths about migrants and migration.

Migration is the world's oldest "poverty reduction strategy"; migration is also an indispensable engine for human development; a driver of economic growth; and a source of dynamic and innovative cultures.

Well-managed migration will be vital in overcoming development challenges -- among which are ageing populations in highly industrialized areas and booming youth populations and youth unemployment in others. IOM firmly believes that the HLD affords an important opportunity to improve migration governance: managing migration is, after all, about facilitating safe and orderly human mobility; this means reducing the risks and empowering migrants and host communities so that they can all benefit fully, and thereby enhancing the migration-development nexus. We hope to see the HLD progress in removing hurdles to migration’ development contributions by emphasizing and promoting six requirements:

1.     A fundamental shift in public perceptions of migrants and migration: migration is not a problem to be solved but a beneficial process to be managed – managed responsively and humanely. Xenophobic approaches and hate speech put migrants at risk and in danger; deprive them of their rights and dignity; and prevent them and us all from fully benefiting from the many contributions that migrants have historically made.  We need better fact-based dialogue between migrants, host communities and origin countries.

2.     Investment in fact-based migration policy. To do so, the quality of research and data collection on migration must be raised through more systematic data collection and evaluation of migration policies, migration and development initiatives, and the impact of migration in such important areas as international and regional labor mobility.

3.     The integration of migration and migrants into  society and the economy (“human mobility factors”) as a key element of development and broader sectoral planning at local, national and global levels, in developed and developing countries alike.  Migration is a proven driver for all three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental; migration must therefore be factored into national development plans as well as into the post-2015 UN development agenda.

4.       The protection of the human rights of all migrants, providing particular attention to identify the often-hidden vulnerabilities of undocumented, stranded, stateless or otherwise highly-vulnerable groups of migrants,  especially those vulnerabilities  related to gender, age and health. We must remember that practical protection is also about empowering migrants – not to the detriment of host communities, but rather to their mutual benefit.  (IOM’s IRIS initiative aims to address many of these vulnerabilities related to labor migration.)

5.     Managing migration in crisis situations. IOM’s Migration Crisis Operational Framework was developed and is now being implemented to provide a holistic, long-range analytical and operational approach to integrating human mobility concerns into disaster risk reduction, response and recovery. This approach is necessary to protect migrants because standard humanitarian approaches alone are too often inadequate when not linked to longer-term recovery and developments. IOM wishes to ensure proper consideration of human mobility not just in preparing for or responding to crises, but in climate change adaptation programmes and sustainable urban planning. 

6.     Policy coherence and capacity development: the vast and growing numbers of international migrants requires us to assess and coordinate development, trade, labor, health, environmental and many other policies through the lens of mobility. This means supporting inter-state, multi-party consultation, dialogue and cooperation on migration; it also means investing in capacity-building for the actors involved in managing migration to have the requisite technical and financial skills to perform their functions effectively and according to the relevant standards. To achieve this, we must work in partnership with a full range of governmental, inter-governmental, non-governmental, private sector and civil society actors.  

And this brings me to the third and final point.

Partnership is the key to our success: on behalf of IOM, I offer our full commitment to working together to ensure constructive preparations for and outcomes from the 2013 High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, and to further strengthening international partnerships and cooperation in this field.  We are at the cusp of a rare opportunity to come together and increase the benefits of international migration for migrants, host societies and countries. To do so, we must remove barriers that hinder migration from reaching its full development-driving potential. We can do more together than acting alone or vainly trying to duplicate each others’ strengths. Cooperation, dialogue and partnership are essential to safe, orderly and humane migration that benefits countries and migrants alike.

Some of the specific steps that IOM is taking to strengthen partnerships for migration and development include:

1-    Co-leading with UNFPA the UN system-wide effort to identify proposed outcomes and recommendations for the HLD. I will give a brief overview of this paper in a minute.

2-    Organizing with DESA and UNFPA a series of preparatory roundtables here in NY on HLD themes (the most recent was held yesterday on protecting all migrants’ human rights).

3-    Working with the Regional Commissions to organize regional preparatory discussions.

4-    Convening, with the Government of Peru, the fourth Global Meeting of Chairs and Secretariats of the Regional Consultative Processes on Migration in Lima in May.

5-    Hosting a Diaspora Ministerial Global Conference in June in Geneva.

6-     Dedicating this year’s World Migration Report (IOM’s flagship publication) to the theme “Migrants and Development, focusing on migrants’ well-being.

We will continue in these and other partnerships to advocate for migrants and migration. We hope you will join us in seeking decisive and constructive outcomes from the HLD: In support of the partnership concept, IOM is making available its Position Paper on the HLD – at the back of the room and on our website. And so, in conclusion, let our focus be on the three “P’s”:

(1) Migration’s pertinence in a globalized world;

(2) Migration’s potential for development in home and host countries; and,

(3) migration’s partners: You, and I, and all others who wish to  reap the benefits of migration.