AGREED POLICIES NEEDED TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF MIGRANTS, GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S ECONOMIC COMMITTEE TOLD

5 October 2001
GA/EF/2958

AGREED POLICIES NEEDED TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF MIGRANTS, GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S ECONOMIC COMMITTEE TOLD

05/10/2001
Press ReleaseGA/EF/2958

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

9th Meeting (AM)

AGREED POLICIES NEEDED TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF MIGRANTS,

GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S ECONOMIC COMMITTEE TOLD

Global Movement of Workers Said to Be Driving Force of Development

Defined international policies were needed to protect the rights of migrants and to ensure that migration was a driving force for development, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) was told this morning, as it considered international migration and development, including the question of convening an international conference to address migration issues.

Speakers agreed that migration was a global phenomenon affecting every country –- whether as a source, a destination or a transit point, and sometimes as all three at once.  As such, it required the attention and cooperation of the entire international community.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, Belgium's representative said the positive contribution made by migrants needed to be universally recognized and their rights fully respected.  Migration policy must include action to combat illegal immigration and in particular, tackle human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

Governments had been either unwilling or unable to grapple seriously with the multifaceted problems surrounding the migration debate, said the representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.  While those Governments recognized the need to bring trained people to their workforces, they also raised other migration barriers higher.  The result, was that migration no longer operated to enable people to relocate but had become a managed policy enriching some countries at the expense of others.

Highlighting the importance of international cooperation, Mexico's representative said there was no country in the world that was not exposed to the risks and opportunities of migration.  He stressed the need to protect the human rights of migrants and said all States should respect those rights.

Iran's representative, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said many governments, particularly in receiving countries, were now paying close attention to policies that could affect the size and type of migratory movements.  There were many factors that could justify the increased adoption of immigration policies in different parts of the world.

In introductory remarks, Joseph Chamie, Director of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that, taking into account the responses of 78 Governments, the prospects for holding an international conference on international migration and development remained at best uncertain.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Russian Federation, Ecuador, Republic of Korea, Egypt and Peru.  The representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also spoke. 

Also this morning, the Committee concluded its consideration of science and technology for development with statements by the representatives of Libya and Mexico as well as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 11 October to begin its consideration of the international financial system and development as well as the external debt crisis and development.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to conclude its discussion of science and technology for development.  For background on the Secretary-General's report, see Press Release GA/EF/2957 issued on 3 October.

The Committee was also to take up international migration and development,including the question of the convening of a United Nations conference to address migration issues.  It had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document A/56/167), which summarizes national policies on international migration and the views of Governments regarding the convening of a conference.  It also describes recent activities carried out at the regional and international levels, taking account of the lessons on migration management and policies learned through activities, and addresses the possible mechanisms within the United Nations system to examine international migration and development issues.

According to the report, since 1995, the United Nations Population Division has solicited on three occasions the views of Governments regarding the possibility of convening a conference to address migration issues, as a follow-up to the International Conference on Population and Development.  There are 110 Governments which have never replied to the letter.  Out of the 78 Governments whose responses were received through the past three surveys, 47 were generally in favour of convening a conference on international migration and development, 26 expressed reservations about holding one, and five expressed only partial support for one.

Among the 26 which did not favour the holding of a conference, a widely shared view was that international migration and development issues had already been the object of discussion in several United Nations conferences, states the report.  In the face of United Nations budgetary constraints, scarce resources would be better used to ensure the implementation of the commitments made at those conferences than in convening another one.  Although the majority of those responding appeared to be in favour of a conference, there was a lack of consensus on its objectives, its funding and the composition of its secretariat, the report continues.  

The report states that over the past decade the mobility of people crossing borders has increased in magnitude and complexity.  International migration is now considered a global phenomenon involving a growing number of States as origin, recipient or transit countries of migrants, and it has become an issue of growing concern to the international community.  As a result, different organizations within and outside the United Nations system have increased the number and scope of activities to deal with this issue.

A number of important lessons have been drawn from a wide range of activities carried out by various organizations within and outside the United Nations, the report continues.  One of them is that migration issues need to be integrated in a more coherent way within a broader context of economic and social development frameworks, especially when designing strategies and programmes for development.  

Statements -- Science and Technology

AHMED A. EL ATRASH (Libya) said the developing countries were concerned at the fact that their development partners were not inclined to facilitate the transfer of technology to the service of development.  Science and technology were effective elements in achieving global development and progress.  However, developing countries, up until now, had been considered marginal in the field of science and technology leading to a sort of freezing of development.  The obstacles that impeded development remained.  The majority of the world's citizens were living in poverty and underdevelopment. 

He said he was increasingly concerned at that reality.  Despite the Bangkok and Havana Plans of Action, the gap between the developed and developing countries continued to increase.  He encouraged the creation of an open-ended working group, before the next session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, to examine measures to eliminate existing obstacles and to ensure that the Commission worked effectively in developing policies. 

Since the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was the main organ through which the questions of science and technology were discussed, a scientific and technical dimension should be included in its activities, he added.  He noted with appreciation that UNCTAD had set up a science and technology for development network.  He also encouraged the Commission to take part in the World Summit for Sustainable Development, to be held in 2002, as well as in the World Summit on the Information Society, to be held in 2003 and 2005.

CARLOS VALERA (Mexico) said that inter-linking and pooling of efforts in the transfer of scientific and technological knowledge should be improved.  In that regard, cooperation was especially needed between the public and private sectors.  He was concerned about the disparities between the work done in the private and the public sector and often knowledge created in the public sector was not shared.

He added that the science and technology electronic network for development had a great role to play in improving the process of distribution and transfer.  It should also help garner further funding for research and development in that regard.  His delegation also supported the work of the Commission and the establishment of the Information and Communication Technology Task force.

OROBOLA FASEHUN, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said technology was driven by innovation and creativity, and that was enhanced by the protection of intellectual property rights.  The WIPO, the specialized agency with the global mandate to promote the rights of investors, scientists and artists, held in its data bank information on all forms of technology -– old and new, biotechnology and nanotechnology.  That information was available on line to all members of the Patent Cooperation Treaty as well as researchers and the general public.

In recognition of the critical importance of innovation and creativity, he said, the WIPO had established the Division for Infrastructure Services and Innovation Promotion.  The Division explained the intellectual property system to inventors, research and development organizations, universities, businessmen and others.  It encouraged the use and management of intellectual property rights, commercialization of inventions and technology transfer.  The WIPO would also soon establish WIPOnet, which would provide web access, web-hosting services, remote participation in WIPO meetings and access to distance learning as well as securing email to areas without such capacities. 

ALFATIH IBRAHIM HAMAD, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that the specific nature of the agencies should be borne in mind while bearing in mind the role of the Commission.  It was important to ensure greater synergy between the various bodies of the United Nations system in the field of science and technology for development.  UNESCO was always prepared to play its part in such efforts.

Statements -- Migration and Development

Introducing the report before the Committee, JOSEPH CHAMIE, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that, taking into account the responses of 78 Governments, the prospects for holding an international conference on international migration and development remained at best uncertain. 

Also, he continued, running through all discussions of international migration were three common threads, namely, the lack of quantitative and qualitative data on migration; the absence of a coherent theory to explain international migration; and the very weak understanding of the complex interrelationships between migration and sustainable development.  It was abundantly clear, however, that the interrelationships between international migration and development varied, and many issues regarding those interrelationships remained largely unresolved, politically charged and highly controversial.

During the recent past, he said, the mobility of people crossing borders, especially undocumented migration, had increased in magnitude and complexity as well as visibility.  International migration was affecting, directly as well as indirectly, the lives and welfare of many peoples and societies, as well as the functioning of States and groups of States.  It was now considered a worldwide phenomenon, involving a growing number of States as origin, recipient or transit countries of migrants.  As a result, international migration was having increasingly significant demographic and developmental consequences and repercussions on cities, provinces, countries and regions. 

NASSROLLAH KAZEMI KAMYAB (Iran), speaking for the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that marginalization and a host of other challenges faced by developing countries, as a result of rapid globalization and the consequent economic imbalances, had led to an increase in the number of people wishing to migrate to the industrialized world.  It was a sad fact that most population movements took place between developing countries themselves and not exclusively from the South to the North.  That was due to a number of factors, including the restrictive policies and measures of developed nations.

International migration was linked to a variety of elements; it both affected and was affected by the development process, he said.  Migration had both benefits and costs for receiving countries as well as for countries of origin.  Rapid rates of population growth in some regions, population decline in others, migration into some regions and out of others, and other critical demographic trends, including aging and urbanization, were impacting social, economic and political parameters in almost all countries.  The interrelationships between international migration and development were numerous and extremely complex.

Many governments, he said, particularly of receiving countries, were now paying close attention to policies that could affect the size and type of migratory movements.  There were many factors that could justify the increased adoption of immigration policies in different parts of the world.  All States seemed to address two principal policy issues concerning migration -- regulating the number and type of migrants and, influencing the conditions of migrants within their respective territory.

The issue of migration and development, he said, must be addressed on the basis of the common responsibility of all nations, and the imperative of international cooperation to ensure the narrowing of existing economic disparities between the South and the North.  It was only through comprehensive, coherent and effective policies on international migration that its benefits could be maximized for all concerned.  Therefore, it was necessary to adopt and implement a set of coordinated and practical measures at the national, regional and global levels.

MICHEL GOFFIN (Belgium), spoke for the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Liechtenstein.  He said migration was in fact a vehicle for inter-cultural dialogue and a source of greater understanding among peoples.  It also played an important economic role, through flows of labour, but also of know-how, creativity, trade and investment.  Nations must work towards a comprehensive policy reflecting various factors:  partnerships with countries of origin, management of migration flows, integration, employment, and so on.

Migration policy, he said, must also include action to combat illegal immigration and in particular to tackle trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling.  That was a problem which had assumed worrying proportions.  Unscrupulous networks, often linked to organized crime, took outrageous advantage of human misery.  The victims of such networks, lured by the illusion of a better life, frequently ended up, after journeys made at times under terrible conditions, in no more than a precarious situation, prey to all forms of exploitation.  Nations had to put a stop to such trafficking with its utter disregard for human dignity.

He said the part played by migration in driving development processes, and its possible repercussions on them, warranted closer consideration by way of research into migration, especially in regard to the impact of "brain drain" on countries of origin, he added.  Development programmes could include allowance for the role of migration in both the country of origin and host country, so as to make best use of the potential afforded by migration.

He said that mobility was inherent in human activity; nations had to capitalize on the wealth of resources available from migration, while combating the intolerable abuses to which it gave rise.  Migration flows needed to be handled in a comprehensive, integrated manner, making allowance for the particularities of each region.  The positive contribution made by migrants needed to be universally recognized and their rights fully respected.

DMITRY I. MAKSIMYCHEV (Russian Federation) said that international migration was now affecting an increasing number of people and States, having a serious effect on a whole host of challenges already posed by globalization.  Russia was among those countries experiencing both immigration and emigration flows, and for which international migration was an important demographic factor.  As a result, an analysis of migration flows and development were of special significance to his country, particularly in the development of Russia's Conceptual Plan for Demographic Development, which ran up to 2015. 

It was necessary to develop international cooperation in gathering and analyzing data on international migration, he said.  He was convinced that the United Nations could and should make a considerable contribution on the issue.  In recent years, the United Nations Secretariat and the other parts of the United Nations system had done useful work in studying international migration as well as organizing meetings to exchange information. That should be supported and continued.

CARLOS VALERA (Mexico) said the involvement of such a wide range of institutions on the effects of migration attested to the importance and complexity of the issue.  International migration had become a global phenomenon, needing the attention of the international community.  There was no country in the world that was not exposed to the risks and opportunities of migration.  For that reason, nations must work to maximize its benefits.

Because of the importance of the issue, Mexico was in favor of an international conference on migration and development, to be hosted by the United Nations.  Such a conference would take up the long- and short-term effects of migration, and its effect on social and economic infrastructure.  His country had consistently taken a stand on the protection of the human rights of migrants.  All States should respect those rights, especially in regard to border controls.  The treatment of migrants at border crossings should be subject to international standards and not merely national policies.

HUMBERTO JIMENEZ TORRES (Ecuador) said many migrants were taken advantage of by unscrupulous organized crime elements.  Migrants were also subject to exploitation because they often lacked the most elementary legal and human rights in their destination country.  However, in many cases they constituted a positive contribution for the creation of wealth.  They provided an important  source of labor, and they often sent much-needed money back to their country of origin.  It must be understood that the issue of migration was a shared responsibility.  The international process that would guarantee protection of migrants should be deeper.  Such an effort would strengthen the development benefits of migration.

ROBERT PAIVA, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said migration was a global phenomenon which affected every country –- whether as a source, a destination or a transit point, and sometimes as all three at once.  That was something new.  And, it had significant implications for relations among States, as well as for multilateral organizations.  The IOM had been profoundly reshaped by the changing patterns and trends in international population movements during the past decade.  Ten years ago, no one had foreseen the demand for information technology workers, and the labor migration schemes that that engendered.  Neither did anyone foresee the explosion in migrant smuggling and trafficking.

The IOM was working with the international community to meet those new challenges, he added.  It was doing that by promoting better understanding of current migration trends; by helping to strengthen governments’ capacity to manage migration; by devising programmatic responses, and by fostering international dialogue which produced collective responses that met the needs of all the countries concerned, as well as migrants themselves.

Information like that provided in the IOM’sWorld Migration Report was essential to governments as they considered their conditions and policy options. Equally important was better knowledge of the many ways of responding to given migration situations and greater awareness of lessons learned from past practice. In that regard, the IOM had launched a new, two-year Migration Policy and Research Programme whose goal was to identify and share good practices in migration policies.

      ENCHO GOSPODINOV, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that migration all too frequently led to the emergence of new and unexpected forms of vulnerability.  That vulnerability often seriously affected persons who had migrated in the belief that the better life would quickly be found.  The sad fact was that that belief was rarely fulfilled quickly.  The vulnerability that migrants so often experienced could last for many years, affecting not just them but their children as well.  His organization often found that it was able to stand with those people and help them build the foundation for the new life for which they migrated.

The Federation had noted that governments had been either unwilling or unable to grapple seriously with the multifaceted problems that figured in the migration debate.  At the same time as countries recognized the need to bring trained people to their workforces, they also raised other migration barriers higher.  The result was that migration no longer served to enable people in general to relocate.  Rather, it was a managed policy which served selectively to enrich some countries at the expense of others. 

That, he continued, had led to the swamping of asylum queues and serious problems for the efficient processing of genuine claimants.  It had also led to the remarkably rapid growth in human trafficking.  Migration policies, or the lack thereof, had contributed to the heightened vulnerability of all migrants, refugees and displaced persons. 

LEE HO-JIN (Republic of Korea) said migration had attracted significant international attention.  However, migration had not always met with enthusiasm by host countries.  The topic should be addressed in the context of economic and social development.  The migration issue would be best handled by addressing its root causes.  It should be addressed in the United Nations discussions on poverty elimination and development.  In regard to an international conference on issue, the international consensus needed for that undertaking did not yet exist.

AHMED EL-SAID RAGAB (Egypt) said he supported the holding of a United Nations conference on migration and development.  The question was of particular interest at political, economic and social levels, and many more countries were now affected by migration, which had increased for a number of reasons.  The increase in labour markets in countries of the North made them able to absorb more workers.  Also the rates of unemployment and inflation in the South meant that the standard of living had dropped in those countries.  That led many people to go in

search of higher standards of living elsewhere.  There were also outflows of people due to natural causes.

The link between migration and development was a delicate link, he said.  That was a shared responsibility between North and South.  Countries of the South found it difficult to create a better environment for their citizens, because of a slowdown in the world economy.  Efforts were needed to strengthen the capacities of developing countries.  There was also a need to revitalize markets and production in order to transform those countries from consumers to producers.  There were many factors that would impede the holding of a conference but those obstacles, which should be overcome, should not prevent the United Nations in sharing an overall vision of migration and development.

JOSE BUSTINZA (Peru) said that for an inhabitant of an undeveloped country there was no real freedom.  The liberalism preached around the world was purely ideological.  That was obvious when people from undeveloped countries came to foreign embassies to apply for visas.  The only thing that had freedom to move from one country to another was capital, not people.  Discussions were always positive and helpful.  However the most urgent aspect of the issue should be settled through negotiations in the World Trade Organization.  He believed in a market economy and for capital to continue to be free.  But that freedom must also be given to labor, technology and goods and services.

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For information media. Not an official record.