Fifty-eighth session of the Commission for Social Development

Published Date: 
Tuesday, February 18, 2020

International Organization for Migration

General Discussion Item 3 (a, b)

Fifty-eighth session of the Commission for Social Development

10 – 19 February 2020


Excellencies, distinguished delegates, guests,


It is an honour to address the fifty-eighth session of the Commission for Social Development. In 1995, United Nations member states adopted the Copenhagen Declaration on social development. It was an international framework based on the idea that economic growth alone is insufficient to meet human needs, without also considering social and environmental concerns. In what at the time was a forward-looking outcome, the Declaration included references to the protection of rights of migrants.


The Copenhagen conference was the first of its kind in history. It was the moment that social development found a permanent place on the international agenda. But twenty-five years later, there are significant doubts about how well we are meeting the ambitions it put forward. Globalization, the process of an increasingly free flow of ideas, people, goods, services and capital is seen as a contributing factor to rising inequality.


Among all, international migration has become a key feature of globalization and a central issue on the international agenda. 3.5 per cent of the world’s inhabitants, 272 million people were international migrants in 2019. The number of forcibly displaced people as a result of persecution, conflict, or generalized violence has grown by over 50 per cent in the last 10 years.


Migrants, who experience heightened vulnerability, increasingly find themselves in crisis situations without protection, or forced into unpredictable journeys without safe and legal pathways. We are also living in a time of escalating anti-migrant sentiment and declining public confidence in governments’ ability to manage migration.


Today, migrants and refugees are among the most excluded from even basic coverage by social protection instruments and schemes. 22 per cent of migrants have no access to official coverage, and less than 1 per cent of migrants moving between low-income countries are entitled to this coverage (Hagen-Zanker et al. 2017a).


The 2020 report of the Secretary-General “Affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness” has rightly pointed out the need to pay attention to migrants, highlighting unaccompanied migrant adolescents experiencing homelessness as a growing concern.


It is therefore vitally important to take migration into consideration when addressing the gaps that are inhibiting progress towards the Copenhagen Declaration as well as the 2030 Agenda. Policies and strategies should be grounded in an understanding of three areas: conflict-induced displacement; impacts of environmental and climate change on human mobility: and migration and urbanization.


According to the World Migration Report 2020, the number of internally displaced persons due to violence and conflict reached 41.3 million. During 2017 and 2018, IOM supported some 40 States in carrying out resettlement, humanitarian admission and relocation initiatives in over 138 countries of departure.


There has also been growing evidence and recognition of the impacts of climate change on human mobility, such as planned migration/relocation and displacement. The references to human mobility within the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 (SFDRR) show an evolution in the way this issue is considered. There is a need to look into finding durable solutions in getting the homeless back to their neighbourhoods in safe housing, as part of the global efforts and international policy mechanisms to address the impacts of climate change.


Importantly, migration is essentially an urban affair: many migrants, both internal and international, move to cities and urban areas. Social protection benefits often do not reach undocumented migrants and their families. This firstly creates a need for new approaches to urban governance and migration. We should better link the two areas of public policy, including in the context of housing. It is also crucial to improve the national public social protection schemes, particularly ensure protection of women and children, victims of gender-based violence and domestic violence leading to homelessness.


In view of the issues discussed, I would like to offer three important frameworks that policy makers and social workers can leverage as a base to collaborate to develop social policies for the protection and inclusion of homeless families.


First, the international community is now implementing the 2030 Agenda. Given its cross-cutting nature, migration and migration related considerations should be featured in concrete action plans addressing not only through goal 10 on reducing inequalities, but also through many others such as the SDG target 11.1 aims to ensure access for all to housing and basic services; target 8.7 on eradication of forced labour and slavery; SDG 1 on poverty, SDG 5 on gender, SDG 13 on climate, among others.


Second, the world has witnessed historic change at the global level with two global compacts: the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). It is important to mention that GCM’s commitment in objective 2 (drivers and structural factors) provides the strong argument to invest in quality public services in both countries of origin and destination. Also, objective 15 focused on provide access to basic services for migrants. Implementation of social protection policies and programs is fundamental in implementing the GCM, and there is a need to ensure systematic and robust approach to the four-year review cycle.


Last and not least, IOM was very pleased to see that migration was included in the New Urban Agenda (NUA). By giving special attention to the challenges faced by migrants in urban areas and by being committed to “ensuring safe, orderly and regular migration through planned and well managed polices”, the NUA is extremely relevant to the migration discussions that are taking place at the global level. National governments should also enable cities to take on more responsibilities in international migration. IOM is helping to create an enabling environment for the implementation of the NUA at the local level by supporting cities’ engagement on migration issues through the Migration Governance Indicators (MGI).


I would like to conclude by advocating that various legal and international frameworks associated with different phases of the migration journey are important structural determinants of migrant rights and well-being. It is important to mitigate the adverse drivers that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods, and reduce risks and vulnerabilities that migrants face. After all, migration has always been part of the human story and will continue to be so.


I thank you.