Closing Session of the Global Migration Group (GMG)

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

President of the General Assembly Mr. Joseph Deiss,
Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mr. Peter Sutherland,
Ambassador Heller,
Ambassador Lake,
Ambassador Swing,

Dear colleagues,

First, let me congratulate you, Ambassador Lake and UNICEF, for organizing this Symposium. Under your leadership, the Global Migration Group has proven that it continues to mature.

It is appropriate that, in the middle of the International Year of Youth, we have put our efforts together to highlight the role of young people in international migration. As head of DESA, I want to thank UNICEF for urging the Population Division to focus on age – a crucial demographic variable.

As I understand, it was because of UNICEF colleagues that DESA embarked on the systematic analysis of the distribution of international migrants by age. And thanks to the financial support of UNICEF and UNDP, we are now in a position to inform the world about both global and national migration levels… as well as trends regarding young migrants. We have thus documented that young migrants constitute high proportions of migration flows and that the number of migrants aged 15 to 29 in developed countries is similar to that in developing countries. Women and girls tend to be more underrepresented among young migrants than among the overall migrant population. All these findings help frame the discussion on youth and migration.

This work is just one example of fruitful collaboration among members of the Global Migration Group. This Symposium has provided ample evidence that, working together, we can make important contributions and provide reliable information for Governments.

I also want to thank President Deiss for his active engagement with the Global Migration Group and to commend the leaders of the Global Forum for Migration and Development─ Ambassador Gnesa, Ambassador Heller and the Special Representative, Mr. Peter Sutherland. You have all been fostering fruitful synergies between the work of GMG and the ongoing intergovernmental dialogue on migration and development.

For example, this Symposium is linked with the Informal Thematic Debate that the General Assembly will hold tomorrow. Effectively, this extends the period for thoughtful reflection on the complex ways that migration shapes the lives of millions.

Let me focus on a few of them that have important implications for how we view migration and foster international cooperation. The first concerns the implications of the globalization of higher education. For at least two decades, Western universities have been establishing branches in developing countries. As a result, the mobility of students between developing countries has increased sharply… while the number of foreign students in developed countries has also continued to rise.

These trends have far reaching implications. Training abroad enriches minds, opens horizons and changes perspectives. If young people today are to succeed in addressing the challenges of tomorrow, bridges across borders are needed. Migration for education builds the foundations for those bridges. Furthermore, the international community has the opportunity to garner the knowledge-base that mobile students represent if we develop the right programmes.

My second point concerns the globalization of the family. We heard that trans-national families are increasingly common. Parents working abroad leave their children behind. Children studying abroad leave their parents behind. Some young people migrate, meet and marry others marry, then migrate. These developments are not new. But they are occurring in more countries and with higher frequency, thereby contributing to change in societies and young people’s expectations. Again, we need to understand the implications of these processes better to foster their beneficial aspects and develop the strategies to address their not so beneficial consequences.

As the Symposium has rightly underscored, migration can open up many opportunities for youth and inspire their creative energy. Governments can do much to ensure this energy is not wasted.

As we look forward to tomorrow’s thematic debate, let me encourage you to remain forward looking and to keep in mind the perspective of youth.

Next year in Brazil, the UN will convene a summit-level Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20. In the preparatory process, member States have identified population dynamics as an emerging challenge. As the Conference Secretary-General, I welcome ideas and proposals on how to address this emerging challenge and look forward to your contributions.

Thank you, Ambassador Lake.