Photo: NorwayUN/Marte Fløan Beisvåg.Photo: NorwayUN/Marte Fløan Beisvåg

Making Migration Work

Last updated: 10/4/2013 // In 2013, 232 million people, or 3, 2 percent of the world’s population were international migrants. Migration poses great opportunities, but also challenges. 3-4 October, The High-level Dialogue on Migration and Development gathered UN member states and civil society to discuss how to make migration work. The Norwegian delegation was led by Minister of International Development Heikki Holmås.

The High-level Dialogue is an important milestone in the follow-up of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development and in discussions on the development agenda after 2015. The report of the UN System Task Team, Realizing the Future We Want for All, affirmed that “the central challenge of the post 2015 UN development agenda is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the worlds’ people of present and future generations”. The aim of the Dialogue was to identify concrete measures to strengthen coherence and cooperation at all levels, with a view to enhance the benefits of international migration for migrants and countries alike and its important links to development, while reducing its negative implications.

Our common responsibility
The High-level Dialogue consisted of a plenary meeting and four round tables. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Minister of International Development Heikki Holmås began their statements by giving their condolences to the many affected by the tragic shipwreck in Lampedusa where hundreds of African migrants died. “The rising global phenomenon of migrants fleeing conflict or persecution, and perishing at sea, underscores the importance of the topic at this High-level Dialogue on Migration”, said Holmås in his speech at the plenary meeting. Adding; “in a world when more people are on the move than ever before, I believe that it is our common responsibility to maximize the positive impact of international migration on development”. 

Holmås pointed to human mobility as a key driver of human progress and development. Migration brings opportunities, but it also entails challenges and risks. He argued for the implementation of appropriate and coherent policies so international migration can be a better tool for poverty reduction. Policies should include measures to ensure a safe, humane and orderly migration – in accordance with Human Rights, mechanisms for protecting migrants during times of environmental disasters and crises, and measures to help integrate migrants into their new host communities, with particular attention to women and children.

Holmås also argued for the inclusion of migrants in the labor market; “if we invest in migrants’ access to education and labor, we know that they will give back much more, both to their home land and their host nation”. The member states should therefore adopt policies that are making it easier for people to contribute in both countries, and he emphasized the importance that the potentially positive role of international migration in eradicating poverty and fostering human development is reflected in the new post 2015 development agenda.     

“We cannot remain silent”
In his opening speech at the plenary, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon  encouraged the audience to take action on the issue of migration. He emphasized the problems associated with migration and said that “we should not ignore these problems”, and that “we cannot remain silent”. Many migrants sacrifice a lot when moving to another country, not only their life savings – too often it’s their lives that are at stake. “We must do more to protect the human rights of all migrants”, the Secretary General said. He also emphasized women and children migrants who are particularly vulnerable, and expressed a strong wish for the international community to end exploitation of these particular groups of people. Women migrants are too often victims of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and the Secretary General said that we need to need to eliminate all forms of discrimination against migrants, including those related to working conditions and wages.

The Secretary General also said that we should work for an improvement of the public apprehension of international migrants and focus on the positive benefits of migration. He argued for the inclusion of migration in the post 2015 agenda saying that migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future, and that it “has become a fundamental part of our globalized world”.

Watch minister Heikki Homås’ speech here (at 23.30)

Photos from the meeting (flickr).

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