2030 Agenda's promise of well-managed migration and mobility must become a reality – UN deputy chief

A young child, amongst other Afghan refugees, waits for a permission to cross the border to Serbia from Tabanovce in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Photo: UNICEF/UN010676/Georgiev

29 February 2016 – The promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is that well-managed migration and mobility will benefit migrants and their families as well as countries of origin and destination, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General said today, urging Member States to work together to “make sure this promise becomes a reality.”

“I cannot recall a time when the issue of mass displacement, refugees and migratory movements was as high on the agenda of the international community as it is today,” Mr. Eliasson told the 2016 International Dialogue on Migration, a two-day event organized at Headquarters by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and focused on the 2030 Agenda and its landmark Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

'The Numbers Speak for Themselves'

He said the number of international migrants who reside outside their country of birth or citizenship had risen from some 170 million in 2000 to nearly 250 million in 2015 – an increase of 41 per cent. Seven out of every 10 international migrants reside in high-income countries.

“Without migration, the population of Europe would have fallen in the past 15 years. Generally, we need to recognize what migrants and refugees contribute to our societies. We have an obligation to counter the negative narrative characterizing the present public discourse,” said Mr. Eliasson.

He went o note that more than 60 million people are currently displaced – the highest figure since the end of the Second World War. This includes 20 million refugees, which means that eight out of every 100 international migrants are now refugees. The large majority of these refugees are hosted by developing countries.

Bolster Human Rights; Prevent and Resolve Conflicts

The differing narratives of migrants and refugees have some very important points in common, Mr. Eliasson said, underscoring that irrespective of the motives people have for crossing international borders, all migrants have basic human rights. Further, migrants and refugees increasingly move together as part of mixed migratory flows.

“In the absence of channels for safe, orderly and regular migration, as stated in SDG 10, target number 10.7, smugglers and traffickers exact obscenely high fees and often take advantage of the migrants and refugees. Ultimately, “we must do more to prevent and resolve conflicts which give rise to forced displacement. Syria is the most blatant case in point.”

“We must also deliver on the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind. We must improve the conditions for a life of dignity and fulfilment at home. We must reduce inequalities, and promote peaceful and inclusive societies,” Mr. Eliasson emphasized, adding that all refugees are protected from forcible return by 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Humanitarian Financing and Ensuring 'No One is Left Behind'

Against this backdrop, there is a pressing need to increase humanitarian financing. The Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing has made proposals which will be taken further at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul 23-24 May, he said, urging governments to ensure high level attendance at the first-ever Humanitarian Summit, “placing the human being in the centre.”

Recalling that earlier this month at an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly on follow-up to the 2030 Agenda, he had presented several conditions for success, Mr. Eliasson said they equally applied to preparations for the High-Level meeting of the General Assembly on 19 September on large-scale refugee and migratory movements.

They were: leadership as Member States and other actors must be fully committed to develop predictable and equitable responses to mass population movements; ownership; partnerships; and collaboration, as a global approach at the United Nations must be complemented by regional and national contributions.

With this in mind he noted that as many countries are struggling to deal with issues of displacement, migration and refugees, the UN must not remain on the sidelines. And while the issues are complex, that would not prevent the Organization from developing responses, searching for solutions, identifying good practices, and putting well financing systems and institutions in place.

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