Ms Ndioro Ndiaye 
Deputy Director General
International Organization for Migration (IOM)

World Summit for Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa
30 August 2002

The least developed countries and numerous developing countries, whether in Africa, Asia or more recently in Latin America, are witnessing a form of intense economic conflict between the will to development and burden of their debt on public finances.

To judge by the very appreciable aggregate amounts of all kinds of public development assistance, these countries have received much from their bilateral and multilateral partners, but the loans (considerably higher than grants), and their repayment schedules with which we are all familiar, have given rise to a sort of vicious circle that regularly turns the spotlight on the matter of simply wiping out or cancelling debt.
To cite some examples, the external debt of the Republic of the Congo is 4,887 million dollars, while the Gross National Product is only 1,735 million. Indonesia's cumulative debt is 141,803 million dollars, versus GDP of 119,871 million. Nicaragua's foreign debt represents more than three times its GDP.

Debt service therefore often represents a burden too onerous for sometimes ailing economies in countries that moreover have been encouraged to borrow... in order to repay earlier loans.
Bad governance has obviously compounded the situation in some countries where the majority of the population still lives in extreme poverty and is suffering from a chronic lack of infrastructure and basic services, this being especially visible in the education and health sectors, whilst the iniquitous distribution of wealth and rampant corruption have literally wiped out the middle classes and underscored the two-speed nature of the societies concerned.

With respect to Africa, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is undoubtedly an opportunity in this regard, and its favourable reception by development partners is in line with the hope it is generating, even though much planning and coordination still remains to be done.

Financial commitments are slow in materialising, although in high-profile emergency situations or in countries with appreciable natural resources, international mobilisation is rather prompt: encouraging a development process is in fact less appealing and entails repeated expenditures that are otherwise more consequential than a targeted action, whatever its scale.

This, to my mind, is the crux of sustainable development, which naturally entails voluntary national action involving all the players of civil society, as part of a larger coordinated whole, but also tangible accompaniment by developed countries: what is 0.7% of GDP when the central issue is building a world in which we must
together share a future that would be jeopardised by excessive imbalances? And yet, what a great many false pretences and broken promises have there been for more than ten years now!

Driven by the poor economic, political, educational and health conditions prevailing in their countries, many citizens of the least developed countries have looked elsewhere for a better quality of life, sometimes illusory, for themselves and for their families. In Africa, the worst-hit continent, their number could be put at over 5 million since 1970, and this involves qualified people in particular, of whom more than a third live outside their country of origin.
International migration, which is quantitatively and qualitatively substantial (affecting some 150 million people worldwide), has always existed. It even underlies the prosperity of some leading western countries, having enabled them to build up and "enrich" themselves in every possible sense of the word.

Short-term factors such as the upsurge in acts of terrorism, or more structural ones such as the economic crisis gripping many countries, developed or otherwise, are again fuelling the temptation to become closed and inward-looking, as it is so convenient to point the finger at the Other as the typical scapegoat.

We are now witnessing such a situation just about everywhere in the world, and IOM cannot but draw your attention to the political and economic risk attendant on strategies that excessively limit opportunities for legal migration, and are giving added momentum to irregular migration.

Moreover, migration flows are often pervaded by real ambiguity. Developed countries are now witnessing population trends - which will intensify in the decades ahead - that are obliging them to turn to qualified foreign labour in those fields where there are shortfalls.

They are therefore encouraging migration that conforms to the criteria they have set, and the aforementioned economic imbalances are being exacerbated accordingly. Whilst professional and personal mobility can only be encouraged, it would nonetheless be judicious to avoid reproducing a more subtle form of the plunder of human resources witnessed by many countries over past centuries. One of the fundamental prerequisites for development, which is having competent and mobilised human capital, cannot be fulfilled if migration is tantamount to the sapping of resources and if the poorest countries continue to lose their elites.

In fact, many migrants take the decision to leave their country only because they have no alternative and would be ready to contribute all or some of their skills and/or resources toward the development of their native country, provided that they are not forced to make a definitive choice between their host country and their country of origin.

Utilising the resources of migrants in the diaspora under development aid programmes based on their mobility offers numerous advantages that are decisive for sustainable development:

  • First, their familiarity with the situation and its features eases the initial diagnosis of malfunctioning and makes it possible to propose adapted remedial action, at a controlled cost. There are countless examples of missions entrusted to western experts that have failed, often owing to ignorance of the intercultural dimension, or because it is impossible to gain a really full understanding of the problems.
  •  The range of skills of migrants in the diaspora covers fields of specialisation urgently needed by the countries of origin, especially in the healthcare professions, in teaching and activities related to finance and investments. It is therefore relatively easy to determine the needs of countries in a methodical manner, for both the private and public sectors, and to match them using databases set up in host countries and countries of origin. It is in this spirit that IOM has promoted the MIDA programme (Migration for development), departing from the mold of definitive return, which has limited applications, and instead promoting physical mobility and computer-based exchanges thanks to the possibilities offered by the Internet.  Many countries have now included this programme amongst their development priorities and have adapted the concept to the specificities of their economic situation.
  • Financial remittances by migrants represent appreciable sums, at times amounting to as much as 20% of GDP for some countries... It is common knowledge that informal remittances are much more significant in developing countries owing to the lack of confidence in banking intermediaries and to deep-rooted cultural habits. In contrast, there is no documented study to date that estimates the actual amount involved. If coherent incentives are provided, it could reasonably be expected that some part of these transfers will be invested other than for household consumption or micro-investments in communities. This is also one of the pivotal issues for the future, and MIDA is mindful of this.
The international community has thrown its weight behind the Millennium Declaration and is endeavouring to translate its principles into action. But there's many a slip `twixt lip and cup, and no sustainable development can be founded on an overly unbalanced relationship.

Migration flows are a significant component of sustainable development, albeit misunderstood or underestimated, and IOM has done its utmost, at Monterrey and at the World Bank Conference on Development Economics, before the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and again at the Summit of ACP Countries in Fiji, to demonstrate that managed migration is decisive in many respects.

The free movement of persons and goods within common areas (African Union, Mercosur...) and between developing and developed countries is still far from being the norm, even if regulatory or legislative provisions do exist. Yet regional integration does entail freedom of establishment when the prerequisites are met. Promoting reciprocal information and orderly migration - given the established fact that migration is universal - is undoubtedly to best way to combat irregular migration, sanctions against which are now better understood by all the parties concerned.

Armed conflicts and civil wars have decimated entire regions and displaced millions of people. The restoration of peace and stability, without which it is impossible to consider "reconstruction", in the literal and figurative sense, let alone development, assumes that these populations can return home and be reintegrated into civil society. This applies also to ex-combatants, who must have the benefit of accompanying measures, if it is hoped to avoid upsetting fragile balances that cannot be struck by political decision making alone.

Proper integration of migrants will not be achieved if we cling to the mentality of the ghetto. It is only real cooperation between sending and receiving countries, in particular through co-development programmes that take account of the need to eradicate pockets of grinding poverty in the traditional areas of out-migration that can change what are sometimes explosive situations.

I could cite numerous examples of links between development and migration, but the fundamental problems thus posed are still coming up against institutional division of labour whereby mandates are spread over several international organisations and which prevents them being addressed in a coherent and voluntary manner.

IOM urges that migration, whose transversal dimension is obvious, be no longer addressed strictly from the viewpoint of control and repression, but be really incorporated into sustainable development by drawing on the skills and resources of the diaspora in a framework of mobility and exchange.

I call on all countries and all development partners to make these key issues the subject of genuine international coordination and a concrete action plan, so that common solutions can be found to these problems that affect us all.