Civil society input crucial to global talks on migration, Deputy Secretary-General says

Mark Malloch Brown

12 July 2006 – As delegates from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society and the private sector gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York today for hearings on international migration and development, Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown hailed their input as crucial to the intergovernmental approach to the issue.

“The role of civil society is to warn us, and to make sure that we don’t overlook, the real risks of international migration, particularly in the area of human rights,” he told participants.

Mr. Malloch Brown pointed to the fact that migrants “are often the victims of unscrupulous employers without protection in the workplace,” who are “denied rights in new host States – not just political and civil rights, but also through the denial of access to education and healthcare for their families.”

Mr. Malloch Brown also called attention to other issues that could benefit from civil society input, including the problem of “brain drain” and the need for banking systems to protect remittances sent by migrants to their home countries.

The informal, interactive hearings come after the release in June of a major report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on international migration and development and ahead of a “high-level dialogue” to be held by the General Assembly on 14 and 15 September.

Mr. Malloch Brown said the September high-level dialogue would aim to raise awareness of the general subject while spelling out the linkages between international migration and poverty reduction. It would also “highlight the best practices and best policies being used by countries to tackle these issues,” he said.

In his report, the Secretary-General proposed a standing forum led by all UN Member States which governments could use to share ideas and discuss best practices and policies related to international migration and how it ties in with development.

The consultative forum, Mr. Malloch Brown said, “reflects a feeling that work on migration policy at the national and international level is much too divided between different domestic ministries, between Ministries of Labour, Interior, Refugee Affairs, Social Affairs and Foreign Ministries.”

Forming an international and consultative forum “will force countries to assign responsibility for this issue, and then to engage with their counterparts in the North and South around the world to start getting the right trade-offs between the issues of those countries from which migrants come, and those countries to which migrants go,” he said, noting that “it is no longer a simple North-South division; there is a lot of inter-regional migration and other flows, which have largely got lost in the debate so far.”

States, UN agencies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) should all play a part, the Deputy Secretary-General said, voicing hope that governments “would allow space for civil society participation at the appropriate moments in their discussions as well.”

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