27 November 2007
Press Conference

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

PRESS CONFERENCE ON GLOBAL FORUM ON MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT


The second Global Forum on Migration and Development will be held in Manila in October 2008 with a focus on migrants, protection and empowerment for development, correspondents were told this morning by the Under-Secretary for Migrant Worker Affairs of the Philippines, Esteban Conejos Jr.


He was speaking at a Headquarters press conference which included the Executive Director of the first Forum, Régine de Clercq, the Ambassador for Migration and Asylum Policy of Belgium, and Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.


Continuing, Mr. Conejos said his country had assumed chairmanship of the Forum from Belgium on 1 September and the second meeting of the newly established steering committee had taken place on 19 November.  With the organization and agenda now complete, the first Friends of the Forum meeting would be held on 17 December in Geneva.


Two principal elements had guided the formulation of the agenda, he went on.  First, there were to be direct links to the first Forum agenda, so as to maintain continuity and a report on implementation of the first Forum outcome would be part of the second.  Also, the new issues to be taken up would be in line with the expectation that the perspective on the migration and development dialogue in Philippines, as primarily a country of origin, would be different, or rather, complementary, to that of the event in Belgium.


Briefing on the first Forum, which was held in Brussels from 9 to 11 July, Ms. de Clercq recalled that the Forum had grown out of the 2006 high-level dialogue on migration and development at Headquarters, where Governments had been asked to systematically discuss ways to enhance the contribution of migration to development and reduce its negative consequences.  She said her country had responded to the proposal by taking the lead in organizing the Forum that had developed into a State-led, informal, consultative process open to all United Nations Member States.  It was established by an international task force that had identified five major points to be addressed, with 124 Governments responding to a questionnaire on practices and 156 taking part in the Forum.  Governments had also been asked to nominate focal points at levels high enough to conduct inter-governmental dialogue and to improve internal coherence on migration related issues.


She said the Forum’s outcome was a list of 50 concrete recommendations centred on the consideration of how migration could best contribute to development from the perspectives of employment and remittances.  The recommendations were voluntary steps that Governments could take to strengthen institutions for migrant affairs and reduce the cost of remittances, as examples.  Other concrete outcomes included a compendium of best practice on work migration, a guideline on ethical recruitment policies and recommendations for dealing with “brain drain and gain”.


The result of the Forum was an entirely new approach to migration, she stated.  By putting development at the centre of the issue, a list of triple-win solutions had emerged in which everybody came out ahead, including receiving countries, countries of origin and the migrants themselves.


Based on that foundation, Mr. Conegos said, the next Forum would focus on the human rights situations of migrants on the ground, both from the perspective of the country of origin and the country of destination.  For example, his country had set up Philippine Worker Centres to act as shelters for abused Philippine migrants in every major area in which they were located.  Also, the rights and payments of Philippine migrant workers were covered by contracts between Governments.  Those were the kind of practices that would be exchanged at the next Forum, in recognition of that fact that the responsibility for the first line of protection of migrants belonged to the country of origin.  The destination country had obligations to provide services.


Asked to comment on the sensitivity of the migrant issue and what Governments could do about anti-migrant sentiments, he said the Forum was an informal, consultative process precisely because the issue was so sensitive.  It enabled Governments to learn about steps that could be taken to protect migrant workers, without having to conform to strict standards.  For example, domestic worker desks could be set up in areas densely populated by nationals.  Governments could then address grievances among each other.  The process left Governments with the freedom to make their own arrangements and it eased concerns about ratifying some complex instrument, such as a convention.  Like a ripple in a lake, the effect of the process would spread and build.


In response to a question on whether the trends in migration were still on the upswing, Ms. Skolnik said recent numbers were up, but not in all locations.  The United States was of particular interest, at the moment.  Legal migration to the United States was high and no doubt lists were oversubscribed.  But, there were great fears that the economy in that country, and the rest of the developed world, would not be doing as well a year from now, as it had over the past five.  Due to the shrinking job market and unemployment, and also to measures being taken to reduce migration, there were indications already that people were going back, or having more trouble entering the developed world.  That indicated that the number of migrants establishing themselves in the western world was expected to go down, but the picture would be clearer in a year.


Asked about the role of remittances in migration and development, Ms. de Clercq recalled that remittances had been a major focus of the first Forum.  All angles had been considered, including how to reduce the costs of remittances and how to educate workers for better returns than merely spending.  Recommendations included making microfinance funds available in connection with remittances, either through diversification of projects or better management of the process.  A collective approach to remittance funding could channel some of the money directly into development.


Other angles on remittances that had been examined at the first Forum, she said, were the inflationary impact of remittances in some areas and challenges in security of remittance flows in others.  Governments had been urged to conduct research on migration patterns and remittances, to create diaspora maps and to form triangular partnerships to arrange for the return of high-skilled migrant workers to the country of origin, at least temporarily or periodically.


In conclusion, she said one major point that had emerged from the exchange on remittances was the need for Governments to allow some form of legitimization for migrants, so that the flow of remittances contributed to development and reduced migration rates.  A pilot project on the promotion of circular migration was in development, for example.  And while companies were developing mechanisms for better remittance management through technologies -- such as a transfer of funds by mobile phones to make the process more secure and manageable than cash -- concerns about the misuse of financial transfers had led to measures that inhibited progress, at the moment.


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For information media • not an official record