Next year’s UN-backed forum on migration to focus on rights protection

Briefing on migrant workers

27 November 2007 – Protecting the rights of the world’s 200 million migrants – a vital issue for countries of origin, transit and destination – will take centre stage at a United Nations-backed meeting to be held next year in the Philippines, officials associated with the event said today.

Briefing reporters at UN Headquarters in New York on the preparations for the second meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, the Under-Secretary for Migrant Worker Affairs of the Philippines said that discussions would focus on “migrant protection and empowerment for development,” issues that are particularly important for countries of origin such as his.

“The Manila meeting seeks to discuss practical ways to advance the cause of migrant protection,” Esteban B. Conejos Jr. said, adding that the Forum, to be held next October, is not expected to issue recommendations but rather to foster an exchange of ideas on the issue.

Mr. Conejos said the Forum is inviting States to share experiences on how countries of both origin and destination can work together to come up with common solutions to common problems. He stressed the need for countries of origin to come up with imaginative ways to address protection issues, stating that “the first line of defence for our workers is not the host country. The first obligation is ours.”

Over 120 Governments, 200 civil society representatives, and numerous international organizations and UN institutions took part in the Forum’s first meeting in Brussels in July.

Ambassador Régine de Clercq of Belgium, who served as Executive Director of that meeting, recalled that participants had identified 57 “concrete outcomes” ranging from establishing a compendium of best practices on temporary labour migration to looking at ethical recruitment practices.

More importantly, the meeting “yielded a new approach to the whole migration debate itself by putting development so much in the centre and really looking at how these inter-linkages work and can be improved,” she said.

Ms. de Clercq added that over 120 States have appointed focal points to coordinate positions at the national level across different ministerial departments. “These focal points have proven to be an excellent vehicle not only for us to communicate with the countries but also, within the countries, to start inter-governmental dialogue on international migration and development issues.”

Asked about recent trends in migration, Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said that a lot of attention is being paid to legal migration to the United States, which is expected to remain high.

She noted that because of fears that the economies of the US and other developed countries might not be doing well in a year’s time, coupled with measures being taken in many countries to reduce illegal migration, she is already starting to hear of people going back to their countries of origin or having more difficulties getting into developed countries.

“I expect that the number of migrants that are successful in establishing themselves in the developed world might not be as high as it would have been if things had continued to be as rosy as they were in the early part of this decade,” said Ms. Zlotnik.

The Forum was set up by Member States as an informal mechanism to continue the talks on migration and development issues that began at the 2006 General Assembly High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development.

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