6 June 2006
General Assembly
GA/10476

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixtieth General Assembly

Plenary

88th Meeting* (PM)


International migration can benefit countries of origin and destination,


says Secretary-General, presenting new report to General Assembly


Submitted in Preparation for 14 – 15 September High-Level Dialogue;

Proposes Establishment of Permanent Forum to Share Experiences on Issue


In a wide-ranging new report presented to Member States this afternoon, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that international migration, supported by the right policies, could be highly beneficial for the development both of countries of origin and destination, and proposed the establishment of a permanent forum for the sharing of experiences and ideas on the issue.


He said the report on international migration and development, submitted in preparation for the High-Level Dialogue on the issue to be held by the General Assembly on 14 and 15 September, showed very clearly that the world was in the midst of a new migration era, and that international migration today was indeed a global phenomenon.  Large numbers of people migrated in search of a better life, not only between neighbouring countries or within a region, but to and from the uttermost ends of the earth.


Benefits both to countries of origin and to countries of destination were highly relevant to development, since both categories included many developing countries.  Yet, it would clearly be naïve to pretend that all was well, he said, referring to the abuses to which many migrants were subjected, as well as with the social and cultural tensions that had arisen in many countries where there were large and recently established populations of foreign origin.  The benefits that migrants brought to the country as a whole, and over time, were often eclipsed by more immediate and local grievances, whether well-founded or not.


It seemed clear that few, if any, countries would be willing to “lie back” and enjoy the benefits of migration, without seeking to manage it, he added.  But it would be equally foolish to try to stop it altogether, since that could be achieved only by an application of State power so draconian that it would threaten the freedom, as well as the prosperity, of any country that resorted to it.  Therefore, it was not surprising that more and more Governments were seeking to channel the flow of migrants, whether out of or into their countries, in ways that maximized the benefits while minimizing the adverse side effects.


He added that international migration was likely to be around for as long as human societies continued to develop, and both the opportunities and the challenges associated with it would continue to evolve.  That was why he suggested, in his report, that Governments might wish the High-Level Dialogue to mark, not the end, but the beginning of serious global cooperation on the issue.  “I do not for one minute suggest, or imagine, that Governments would relinquish any control of their borders, or of their policies in an area so central to national identity and sovereignty.”  But, he did suggest that they might wish to establish a permanent forum for continuing the debate.


General Assembly President Jan Eliasson ( Sweden) recalled that, during the 2005 World Summit, Heads of State and Government had acknowledged the important nexus between international migration and development, as well as the need to deal with the challenges and opportunities that migration presented to origin, destination and transit countries.  They had welcomed the High-Level Dialogue as an opportunity to discuss the multidimensional aspects of international migration and development in order to identify appropriate ways to maximize their development benefits, while minimizing their negative impact.


He drew the Assembly’s attention to a number of upcoming events to prepare for the High-Level Dialogue, saying that on Thursday, 8 June, the first of two panel discussions on international migration and development would take place in New York.  On 4 July, the second panel discussion would take place in Geneva and, on 12 July, informal interactive hearings would be held with representatives from non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector in New York.


Also this afternoon, acting on the recommendation of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), the Assembly adopted a resolution on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, by which it endorsed the proposals, recommendations and conclusions of the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, and urged Member States, the Secretariat and relevant organs of the United Nations to take all necessary steps to implement them.


In addition, the Assembly adopted a decision on the establishment of an open-ended working group to consider the objectives and agenda, including the possible establishment of a preparatory committee, for the fourth special session of the Assembly devoted to disarmament.


Introducing that text, the representative of Indonesia said that, in accordance with Assembly resolution 59/71 of 3 December 2004, the open-ended working group on that special session should have held an organizational session to be followed by three substantive sessions on dates that had been scheduled for 2006.  However, because the Chair of the open-ended working group could not be found at the time that the substantive session was to start, it had been decided to postpone the group’s work to a later date.


In other action, the Assembly, on the proposal of the Secretary-General, decided to include in the agenda of the current session an additional item on the extension of the term of the permanent judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and to consider the item directly in a plenary meeting.


The next meeting of the Assembly will be announced.


Background


The General Assembly met this afternoon to hear the presentation by the Secretary-General of his report on international migration and development (document A/60/871).


The Assembly was also expected to take up the report of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), which contains a draft resolution on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.  The text would have the Assembly endorse the proposals, recommendations and conclusions of the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, and urge Member States, the Secretariat and relevant organs of the United Nations to take all necessary steps to implement them.


The text would also have the Assembly decide that the Special Committee, in accordance with its mandate, shall continue its efforts for a comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects and shall review the implementation of its previous proposals and consider any new proposals so as to enhance the capacity of the United Nations to fulfil its responsibilities in this field.


Also before the Assembly is a draft decision (document A/60/L.55), submitted by Indonesia, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, which would have the Assembly decide to establish, at a later date, an open-ended working group to consider the objectives and agenda, including the possible establishment of a preparatory committee, for the fourth special session of the Assembly devoted to disarmament.


In addition, the Assembly had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/60/238) requesting the inclusion of an additional item in the agenda of the sixtieth session.  The Secretary-General states that the current term of the permanent judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda comes to an end on 24 May 2007.  The Statute of the Tribunal does not provide for extending the term of office of the permanent judges.  In the absence of such a provision, the approval of the Security Council, as the parent organ of the Tribunal, and of the Assembly, as the organ that elects its judges, would be needed in order to extend the term of office of the judges until 31 December 2008.


In order for the Assembly to consider the above-mentioned matter, the Secretary-General requests the inclusion, in the agenda of the sixtieth session, of an additional item of an important and urgent character entitled “Extension of the term of the permanent judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwandan Citizens Responsible for Genocide and Other Such Violations Committed in the Territory of Neighbouring States between 1 January and 31 December 1994”.  He also requests that the item be considered directly in plenary meeting.


Statement by General Assembly President


JAN ELIASSON ( Sweden), President of the General Assembly, said that today marked the beginning of a series of events in preparation for the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development that would take place from 14 to 15 September at the beginning of the Assembly’s sixty-first session.  With more than 191 million migrants in the world today, international migration had an impact on both destination and origin countries, developing and developed alike.  During the 2005 World Summit, Heads of State and Government had acknowledged the important nexus between international migration and development, as well as the need to deal with the challenges and opportunities that migration presented to origin, destination and transit countries.  They had welcomed the High-Level Dialogue as an opportunity to discuss the multidimensional aspects of international migration and development in order to identify appropriate ways to maximize their development benefits while minimizing their negative impact.


International migration in relation to development had begun to gain visibility at the time of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo, he said.  One year later, the General Assembly’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial) had considered the first report on international migration and development.  Most subsequent conferences and summits had devoted attention to international migration and development and, as a result, the United Nations already had a fairly comprehensive set of principles, objectives and recommendations.  In addition, the Global Commission on International Migration had issued a report just last year and presented a set of principles and recommendations.


He then listed a number of upcoming General Assembly events to prepare for the High-Level Dialogue, saying that on Thursday, 8 June, the first of two panel discussions on international migration and development would take place in New York.  On 4 July, the second panel discussion would take place in Geneva and on 12 July, informal interactive hearings would be held with representatives from non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector in New York.


Statement by Secretary-General


Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that his report on international migration and development offered a comprehensive review of recent trends in international migration, focusing particularly on the impact that it had on both countries of destination and countries of origin.  It drew on many previous studies, including the very valuable one undertaken by the Global Commission on International Migration, which presented its report and recommendations last year.  In today’s report, he focused on the aspects of international migration that were most relevant to development.


The report, he said, made a strong case that international migration, supported by the right policies, could be highly beneficial for the development both of the countries they came from and of those where they arrived.  But it also stressed that those benefits were contingent on the rights of the migrants themselves being respected and upheld.  It showed that, contrary to some received opinion, migration involved women and men in almost equal numbers.  And it, therefore, considered the role of gender in international migration and its impact on gender-related issues.


Perhaps most important, the report explored the many new ways in which Governments were seeking to manage the flows and skills of people, in order to make the greatest use of migration’s development potential.  It surveyed existing intergovernmental cooperation in that field, including the normative framework, the various global and regional initiatives that had been taken, and the bilateral approaches that were being tried, such as agreements on the portability of pensions and health benefits.  And it pointed out that international cooperation was also crucial in the struggle to protect people against the odious crime of human trafficking.


Congratulating the Assembly’s decision to hold a High-Level Dialogue on the subject, he said the report showed very clearly that the world was in the midst of a new migration era, and that international migration today was indeed a global phenomenon.  Large numbers of people migrated in search of a better life, not only between neighbouring countries or within a region, but to and from the uttermost ends of the earth.  “If anyone harbours doubts on that point, a stroll through this city should quickly put them right.”  There could be very few countries that were not affected by international migration in one way or other, and policymakers were increasingly recognizing its importance for development.  Thus, a global discussion on international migration and development could hardly be more timely.


He said that evidence of the benefits brought by international migration was accumulating.  It was no coincidence, and should be no surprise, that many countries which not so long ago were primary sources of migrants –- for instance, Ireland, several countries in southern Europe, the Republic of Korea and Chile –- had developed spectacularly, and now boasted thriving economies which made them an attractive destination for migrants.  Benefits both to countries of origin and to countries of destination were highly relevant to development, since both categories included many developing countries.


Yet, he continued, it would clearly be naïve to pretend that all was for the best in the best of all migratory worlds.  Everyone was familiar with the abuses to which many migrants were subjected, as well as with the social and cultural tensions that had arisen in many countries where there were large and recently established populations of foreign origin.  The benefits that migrants brought to the country as a whole, and over time, were often eclipsed by more immediate and local grievances, whether well founded or not.  And most people were also aware of negative effects felt in some countries of origin, particularly when workers with badly needed skills, for instance in the health sector, were “drained” away by better conditions and higher salaries abroad.


For all those reasons, it seemed clear that few, if any, countries would be willing to “lie back” and enjoy the benefits of migration, without seeking to manage it.  But it would be equally foolish to try to stop it altogether, since that could be achieved only by an application of State power so draconian that it would threaten the freedom, as well as the prosperity, of any country that resorted to it.  Therefore, it was not surprising that more and more Governments were seeking to channel the flow of migrants, whether out of or into their countries, in ways that maximized the benefits while minimizing the adverse side effects.


There was much to be gained from sharing experiences, both positive and negative, and exchanging ideas, he said.  That was precisely the point of the High-Level Dialogue to be held in September.  Those two days and the preparation for them promised to be a very rich learning experience for all concerned.  “My only fear ... is that two days will not be enough.  It seems to me that this topic will not soon be exhausted.”  International migration was likely to be around for as long as human societies continued to develop, and both the opportunities and the challenges associated with it would continue to evolve.


That was why he had suggested, in his report, that Governments might wish the High-Level Dialogue to mark, not the end, but the beginning of serious global cooperation on the issue.  “I do not for one minute suggest, or imagine, that Governments would relinquish any control of their borders, or of their policies in an area so central to national identity and sovereignty.”  But he did suggest that they might wish to establish a permanent forum, of a voluntary and consultative nature, with a view to continuing the debate, the sharing of experience, and the exchange of ideas.  If they did wish to do so, he added, the United Nations was available as a venue, and its staff was ready to give Member States whatever assistance they might require in organizing and servicing such a forum.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record