69th Session of the UN General Assembly Agenda Item 21A: Globalization and Interdependence: International Migration and Development

Published Date: 
Friday, October 31, 2014
Michele Klein Solomon, Permanent Observer to the United Nations

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In his foundational report on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda – Realizing the future we want for all – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that although globalization offers great opportunities for development, its benefits are unevenly shared. The central challenge, he states, is ‘to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world’s peoples of present and future generations’.

There is no clearer example of this challenge than with respect to the issue of migration.

We know, for example, that migration is, and always has been, one of the most powerful and immediate strategies for poverty reduction. It transforms societies by helping to meet labor demands and ensuring the availability of skills, and by improving the vibrancy of economies and societies. It creates benefits for migrants and their families, who tend to realize large average gains in terms of income, as well as in health and education.

However, the potential benefits created by migration can only be realized if it is governed humanely and fairly as a path to enhanced human capital. Migrants and their families often bear exorbitant economic, human and social costs, which tend to affect poorer and lower skilled migrants the most and which prevent migrants from realizing their full potential.

At the same time, migration creates challenges for governments and societies in terms of how to manage increasing social and cultural diversity. In the future, multicultural societies are likely to become the norm rather than the exception, if current trends prevail. And there is no reason to believe they will not. Therefore, governments will need to demonstrate leadership by helping their people to manage increasing diversity as a source of great richness and vibrancy and to address fears associated with the changing composition of the nation-state and perceived threats to national and personal identity.

How do we ensure that migration and human mobility become a positive force for all the world’s peoples? The answer to this question lies to a large extent in partnerships. Ensuring positive outcomes from migration requires strong partnerships at all levels and with diverse stakeholders, focusing on improving the quality of migration for migrants, their families, local communities and countries.

Governments have a clear role to play, as their policy settings can mean the difference between positive and negative outcomes. Governments can dispel the myths and destructive stereotypes associated with migration by educating the public about the overwhelmingly positive contributions of migrants, and by creating policies that allow and embrace orderly migration. They can ease the transition from tension to tolerance by — for example — promoting cultural diversity in communities and by facilitating managed labor migration schemes that contemplate appropriate integration, even for temporary periods of stay. NGOs and the private sector are also essential actors in this realm.

NGOs can help shape national debates on migration by informing and educating the public about the overwhelmingly positive contributions of migrants. They can help protect migrants’ rights, and assist migrants and communities alike to deal with the realities of increasingly multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural societies. The private sector is essential to promoting migration policies that appropriately match labor supply and demand, in upholding labor standards for migrant workers and in helping to combat unethical and corrupt recruitment practices.

There is a growing recognition that transnational communities also have an important role. They facilitate increased trade, investment and cultural linkages between the different countries they are connected to, and are important development actors. Partnerships with and between these communities can also be vital to maximizing the potential of migration for development. For example, IOM has formulated a comprehensive strategic approach to enable, engage and empower transnational communities as agents for development – in partnership with governments and other stakeholders.

In short, the many complex challenges associated with migration require the combined efforts of multiple stakeholders, brought together through partnerships.

Building on these ideas, the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda should include migration as part of the new global partnership for development. It should aim to build a more collaborative approach among states and other relevant stakeholders to enhance the benefits of migration for human development. Such a target could be given effect through a range of partnerships to promote skills recognition and portability of social security benefits, and to reduce labor recruitment costs and remittance transfer fees, amongst others. And of course, we must ensure that no one is left behind, including migrants, as one litmus test of the inclusivity of the new agenda.

We must now fully come to terms with the fact that migration is part and parcel of the inter-connected world we have created. It is inevitable, in view of demographic, economic, environmental and other globalization factors. It is necessary to meet labor needs and ensure the availability of skills. It is desirable for migrants and societies alike – if governed humanely and fairly. It is high time to work together to develop national and international dialogues, policies and practices to address migration in a humane and orderly manner, respecting the rights of citizens and non-citizens alike.