Being a migrant may mean opportunities and hope.
Being a migrant may also mean losing your home and all that you once had and thought was safe.
Nineteen years after the adoption of the Cairo action plan, increased migration has given rise to new opportunities, but also to new challenges.
We all have a stake in this issue, as nearly all countries are a point of departure, a place of transit and a final destination for migrants.
Women and girls of reproductive age constitute about half of all international migrants. Migration can be empowering for women, providing them with new opportunities.
But migration can also entail huge risks for women, for young people and children who are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, violence and abuse.
This is especially true for those fleeing for their lives or crossing borders illegally. People who no longer have social safety nets, or are afraid of government institutions, can easily be preyed upon with impunity.
It is precisely people in these situations who need our protection against illegal activities, such as smuggling and/or trafficking.
Human trafficking is a billion dollar industry and a major form of organised crime. Profits are huge and the risks to the perpetrators are limited. Like all business – whether legal or illegal – human trafficking is driven by supply and demand, and the financial crisis has created incentives for even more exploitative practices.
For more than a decade, Norway has been engaged in a wide range of efforts to combat human trafficking. We have supported initiatives and projects worldwide, cooperating with UN agencies and intergovernmental organisations such as the IOM, as well as collaborating with other governments and civil society. We should all take the opportunities that arise in regional forums to urge states to strengthen the international frameworks and intensify international cooperation. In this connection, I would like to emphasise the importance of ratifying and implementing the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol on trafficking.
Young people make up a high proportion of migrants. Many are migrating to follow their hopes, aspirations and dreams for a better future, while others are migrating because they have to. These young people are already undergoing a period of transition in their lives, involving questions related to identity and sexuality, and this is a period where many become sexually active. It is important therefore that they have access to evidence-based information on sexuality, contraception and sexual and reproductive health services so they can protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection.
But let us not forget, Mr. Chair, that migration can also be an opportunity for many, including unskilled or semi-skilled migrants, to find a way out of poverty. If we look back 150 years in time to the age of mass migration (1850–1913), Norway had one of the highest out-migration rates from Europe, with over a quarter of its population (around 600 000 individuals) migrating to the US. During this period, Norwegians with poor economic prospects left their homeland, to try their luck and seek a better life in a foreign country.
Skilled people may also seek better opportunities in labour markets abroad. For countries of origin, however, the brain drain can have obvious negative consequences – highlighting the need to create opportunities at home.
For instance, Africa bears 27 % of the global burden of disease but has only 3 % of the world’s health workers. Norway therefore pursues a policy of not recruiting health workers from developing countries that need them themselves. Norway also actively promotes the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel.
We also attach importance to securing safe transfers of remittances from migrants to their families in their country of origin. Remittances to developing countries amounted to an estimated USD 406 billion in 2012 – almost four times more than total ODA that year– and are a significant source of foreign exchange earnings for a number of countries. In Norway we have established a remittance database so that immigrants to Norway can compare the prices of remittance transfers. This gives them an overview of actors in the market and enables them to choose the best channel for transferring money. The goal is to foster competition among suppliers of these services, and thus reduce the high costs of sending money from Norway to developing countries. In February 2012 the database “Sending Money Home” was certified by the World Bank.
Let me conclude by saying that the diversity and complexity of the issue of migration means that we face a challenging task in this year’s CPD negotiations. It is all the more important, however, that we continue our discussions with a view to foster the High Level Dialogue in October. Let us join forces now – to ensure a good outcome document from these negotiations.