Management Can Determine Whether Migration Has Positive or Negative Impact, Second Committee Panel Discussion Told

15 November 2012
GA/EF/3356

Management Can Determine Whether Migration Has Positive or Negative Impact, Second Committee Panel Discussion Told

15 November 2012
General Assembly
GA/EF/3356
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Second Committee

29th Meeting (AM & PM)


Management Can Determine Whether Migration Has Positive or Negative Impact,


Second Committee Panel Discussion Told

 


Determining whether migration was a positive or a negative phenomenon depended on how it was managed, Michelle Klein-Solomon, Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration, told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today as it a panel discussion on that subject.


Noting that migration was likely to increase in the coming years, she called on origin, as well as destination countries to share responsibility, pointing out that the phenomenon could be positive for human and societal development, depending on the policies in place.  As the international community engaged in discussion on the post-2015 development agenda, enhanced cooperation was needed between Governments and other organizations, as well as among origin, transit and destination countries.


With George Wilfred Talbot (Guyana), Chair of the Second Committee presiding and Vlad Lupan (Republic of Moldova) as Moderator, the discussion featured panellists Austin T. Fragomen, Jr., Partner, Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewry LLP; Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition; Donald Kerwin, Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies; Susan Martin, Director, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University; and Juan Jose Garcia, Vice Minister for Salvadoreans Abroad.


Ms. Martin, addressing the question of changes in migration patterns over the last 20 years, said that although migrant numbers were much higher today than they had been in 1990, geopolitics had affected the figures, with border changes making migrants of many people who had not moved, where once they had been citizens.  Only a small proportion of the 200 million people leaving their homelands annually were actual migrants, with around 15 million being refugees.  The vast majority were, therefore, “economic migrants” seeking a better life, she said.  Migration corridors and flows had changed, she noted, recalling that in contrast to the 1960s, the vast majority of migrants today moved to highly developed countries, though South-South migration was by no means absent.


The gender composition of migrants was also fairly stable, she said, pointing out that the proportion of women migrating in the 1960s had stood at 46 per cent and was now about 49 to 50 per cent.  However, women were now much more likely to migrate as wage earners, perhaps as part of a “global care chain”, whereby they took care of the children of women entering or wishing to remain in the workplace.  Going forward, she predicted a rise in both numbers and proportions of migrants due to demographic issues like low fertility and ageing populations in destination countries, which would create demand in their labour markets.  Increased economic integration, better transport infrastructure and increased expectation of rights were also prompting movement, she said, adding that climate change was impacting the availability of habitable areas, pushing people to find other places in which to live.


Mr. Kerwin said the last 20 years had seen a growth in the number of States that were simultaneously origin, transit and destination countries.  The global financial and economic crisis had reduced overall migration, but there had been no significant spike in numbers of migrants returning to original homelands.  Mr. Garcia noted that Central Americans were the second largest migrant community in the United States and that the type of migration from the subregion was changing.  There were now fewer “traditional” migrants and more irregular, undocumented ones.  There were also now fewer political and more economic migrants, as well as a growing “culture of migration” in some societies.


On the question of the different drivers of migration today as compared to 20 years ago, Ms. Martin said they remained very much the same, but the relative weight of the different drivers had shifted.  Distinguishing between “push” and “pull” factors, she noted that policymakers often failed to make that distinction.  On the whole, “risk management” was the main motivation for migration today, she said, suggesting that there was an absence of social safety nets in origin countries.  Conflicts and disasters also pushed migrants.  There was also the issue of labour migrants, who migrated at the wrong time to the wrong place, and were then forced to migrate when jobs disappeared during a market crash or other unforeseen economic downturn.


Mr. Fragomen focused on economic migration, pointing to persistent gaps in living standards between developed and developing countries that continued to widen even after economies started improving.  In addition to ageing populations in developed countries, there was an expectation that developing countries had more workers than their economies could accommodate.  Strangely, few in the developed world had noticed that trend on the horizon and adopted a friendlier stance on immigration.


Mr. Kerwin added that immigration to the United States in the nineteenth century had not been driven by higher wages, but by inequality in origin countries and a lack of social and economic mobility for many.  Today, there were huge gaps and inequalities once again, making migration more likely because that trend was particularly frustrating for talented individuals.  Regarding the policies that countries should pursue to ensure that migration was a choice, rather than a necessity, he said shifts in capital and goods, as well as global warming and the failure of States to meet the needs of their populations were just some of the causes that made people leave their homelands.  An open business environment, inclusive education systems and increasingly strong disaster recovery mechanisms were among the things that would cause people to stay in their respective countries.  Moreover, integrated populations enjoyed greater financial equality, which was crucial to development.


Mr. Fragomen said economic opportunity, security and stability were the fundamental reasons why people migrated.  The first meant not only employment opportunities and a living wage, but also respect for human rights and opportunities for women and minorities, he noted, stressing that discrimination was a major factor in many countries.  Instability also created an environment that people wished to leave.  However, a more subtle aspect was that society’s most productive people were also the ones who had the opportunity to migrate.


Mr. Garcia, taking up the question of how origin countries could effectively protect their citizens living abroad, said that approach must be considered from a human rights perspective.  The rule of law was the most effective model for protecting citizens living abroad.  For example, El Salvador and Guatemala had established bases along their borders with Mexico, where victims of human rights abuses could seek assistance while in transit.  That was also an important way to collect data, process information and analyse reports in order to improve migrants’ passage.  That project would be instrumental in building a large network whose main goal would be protecting the human rights of migrants, he said.


Addressing the same question, Mr. Fragomen said that some sort of pre-departure training orientation would be invaluable in letting prospective migrants know the “dos and don’ts” of their destination countries.  He also emphasized the role of consulates in protecting migrants’ rights, noting that bilateral treaties allowed for agreements on how migrants should be treated.


Ms. Martin, also taking up the question of protecting citizens abroad, said the most important aspect was regulating recruitment agencies and ensuring their responsibility for educating and providing migrants with knowledge of their rights once they arrived in destination countries.  In addition, combating smuggling was crucial in ensuring that those who exploited and abused migrants would be brought to justice.  As for the question of enhancing the contributions of expatriate communities, she said that enhancing the protection of migrants would best boost their ability to contribute.  Better consultative mechanisms would also help to make migrants true participants in development, she said, stressing the benefits that could bring to all parties.


It was also necessary to recognize that remittances were private transfers, she emphasized, noting that directing them in a heavy-handed way was not good policy for Governments.  Regulating transfer companies was one way in which Governments could intervene in a useful manner, she added.  Reducing the costs of migration could also improve migrants’ abilities to support themselves and their families.  Incentives to return, like visa-free travel, dual nationality and other measures, could again make it easier for migrants to invest in the development of their home countries.


Mr. Garcia also underscored the importance of remittances, saying they were a vital resource for development, especially to countries like El Salvador.  They made up 20 per cent of El Salvador’s gross domestic product (GDP).  However, there was a need to cut transfer costs in order to enable them to have the most significant impact on development that they could have.


In the ensuing interactive discussion, Mr Garcia told the representative of Mali that migration was not only based on rational “push” and “pull” factors, such as the pursuit of economic opportunity or even simple survival; it was often totally subjective.  A survey of Mexicans deported from the United States revealed that they had migrated due to a lack of opportunity at home, but prior to leaving, most had actually been employed in Mexico.  It was a question of how those particular people read economic reality, and that was important in understanding migrant behaviour, he said.


The panel then moved on to consider the perspectives of destination countries.


Mr. Garcia took up the issue of human trafficking and migrant smuggling, addressing the question of protection.  It was important to recognize that the smuggling of people ranked behind only drug trafficking among the biggest transnational crimes.  Emphasizing the need to recognize the importance of cooperation among origin, transit and destination countries, he said co-responsibility must be accepted.  Transit countries had important responsibilities in the protection of human rights, and Mexico’s recent migration law was a good example of that sort of compromise, he said.  Sharing information was also important, he added.


Ms. Martin said destination countries could address the demand for trafficked persons, noting that there would be no market without demand.  Trafficking was not done solely for the sex industry; it also moved forced and exploited labourers.  Victims must be given legal status in destination countries, she said, adding that it was also important to offer psycho-social support, especially to children.


Mr. Kerwin, taking up the issue of reducing irregular migration while respecting migrant rights, the first step was to create conditions that allowed people to prosper at home.  He warned against border restrictions that might lock people into countries in which they planned to stay only temporarily, saying they could also lead to the growth of human smuggling.  People would be less likely to come forward to report crimes if they did not think they had some sort of protection.  Overall, if migrants were denied protection and rights, they would be more likely to suffer exploitation.


Also addressing that question, Mr. Fragomen said that offering legal alternatives to low-skilled workers was important.  Treaties and agreements between origin and destination countries, and possibly third countries, would enhance the protection of migrants during transit, as well as when they arrived in the destination country.  At the same time, treaties should address enforcement issues, as well.  Countries must cooperate in discouraging illegal migration through legal processes.


Ms. Hong said that, from a domestic United States point of view, rising wages and improving working conditions for people born in that country would discourage illegal immigration.


Answering a question as to how destination countries could effectively pursue temporary labour migration programmes, Mr. Fragomen said Governments must analyse labour needs.  That would necessitate cooperation and should include business, labour and other organizational efforts.  Such programmes should define duration of stay, permissible activities and labour rights.  As for family benefits, he said there should be programmes in place to facilitate and ensure the rights of the family unit.


Ms. Martin, also addressing that question, said that an effective temporary work programme was important in tailoring temporary programmes to specific labour needs.


In answer to the same question, Mr. Garcia said that overseeing the labour conditions of migrant workers was important, but there was also a need to develop a system that would assist in reintegrating migrants back into their origin country after the end of temporary work programmes.


In his opening remarks, Mr. Talbot ( Guyana) said migration had helped lift millions out of poverty, and their remittances, which totalled $370 billion in 2011, had proven more resilient than private capital flows in times of economic and financial crises.  Yet, the costs of migration were far too high.  The loss of talented workers presented a challenge for many small developing countries, and the costs of transferring remittances remained forbiddingly high in some migration corridors.  Discrimination and abuse of migrants was rampant, and most worrying, thousands of migrants perished while fleeing poverty and conflict, he said.


Moderator Lupan ( Republic of Moldova) said that on the national level, his country was affected by migration and on a personal level, so was his family.  The remittances sent home amounted to one third of GDP, he noted, adding that, at the same time, the Republic of Moldova was faced with many migration challenges like the rest of the world.


The representatives of Mexico, Philippines and Italy Switzerland also participated in the discussion on origin and transit country perspectives.


Earlier today, the Committee met to hear the introduction of several draft resolutions relating to items on its agenda


Introduction of Draft Resolutions


The representative of Algeria introduced, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, drafts titled, respectively, “Information and communications technologies for development” (document A/C.2/67/L.36); “International trade and development” (document A/C.2/67/L.23), and “International financial system and development” (document A/C.2/67/L.24); “Follow-up to the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development” (document A/C.2/67/L.25); “External debt sustainability and development” (document A/C.2/67/L.28); and “Follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development” (document A/C.2/67/L.29).


He then presented the following drafts on sustainable development:  “International Day of Forests and the Tree” (document A/C.2/67/L.4); “Oil slick on Lebanese shores” (document A/C.2/67/L.13); “Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development” (document A/C.2/67/L.18); “Towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations” (document A/C.2/67/L.5); “Follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States” (document A/C.2/67/L.19); and “International Year of Small Island Developing States (document A/C.2/67/L.7).


Also under sustainable development, he presented the following drafts:  “International cooperation to reduce the impact of the El Nino phenomenon” (document A/C.2/67/L.6); “International Strategy for Disaster Reduction” (document A/C.2/67/L.16); “Protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind” (document A/C.2/67/L.20); “Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa” (document A/C.2/67/L.17); “Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its contribution to Sustainable Development” (document A/C.2/67/L.27); “Report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme on its Twelfth Special Session and on the Implementation of the Environment Pillar in the Context of the General Assembly resolution 66/288” (document A/C.2/67/L.21); and “Promotion of new and renewable sources of energy” (document A/C.2/67/L.26).


He then submitted the following draft resolutions:  “Implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)” (document A/C.2/67/L.22); “Towards a New International Economic Order” (document A/C.2/67/L.3/Rev.1); “International Migration and Development” (document A/C.2/67/L.15); “Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries” (document A/C.2/67/L.9); “Smooth transition for countries graduating from the list of least developed countries” (document A/C.2/67/L.10); and “Specific actions related to the particular needs and problems of landlocked developing countries:  outcome of the International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries and Donor Countries and International Financial and Development Institutions on Transit Transport Cooperation” (document A/C.2/67/L.2).


Finally, he tabled drafts titled:  “Second United Nations Decade for Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017)” (document A/C.2/67/L.11); “Industrial Development Cooperation” (document A/C.2/67/L.32); “Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review” (document A/C.2/67/L.14), “South-South Cooperation” (document A/C.2/67/L.8); and “Agriculture development and food security” (document A/C.2/67/L.31).


The representative of Morocco then introduced a draft resolution titled “Promotion of Ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection” (document A/C.2/66/L.30), saying he recognized that the development of ecotourism, within the framework of sustainable tourism, could have a positive impact on income generation, job creation and education, and thus on the fight against poverty and hunger.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.