A new era of discussions on migration and development

For the second time in history, the General Assembly will convene a high-level event on 3-4 October, devoted to international migration and development at the United Nations. This meeting provides an opportunity for the international community to review progress since the first High-level Dialogue in 2006 and promote and advance the debate and cooperation in the field of migration and development.

Governments are increasingly recognizing that partnership and cooperation are needed to leverage the benefits and address the challenges of migration. They also realize that migration is relevant to all three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. Thus, this year’s High-level Dialogue, taking place at UN Headquarters on 3-4 October, also provides an opportunity to discuss the inclusion of migration into the post-2015  development agenda.

International migration continues to increase in scope, complexity and impact. With 232 million international migrants worldwide, as new estimates from the Population Division reveal (see Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2013 Revision under publications), more people are living outside their country of birth than ever before. The demographic transition, economic growth coupled with a globalization of labour markets, the recent financial crisis and the plight of migrants stranded in dire environmental and humanitarian situations is reshaping the face of migration. At the heart of this phenomenon are people, some looking for decent work and a better and safer life for themselves and their families, others migrating to escape poverty, violence, conflict and the effects of environmental change.

With 232 million international migrants worldwide, more people are living outside their country of birth than ever before.

In 2006, the General Assembly convened the first High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development. The meeting placed migration firmly on the United Nations agenda bringing together about 160 high-level Member State representatives in addition to representatives of civil society, international organizations and the private sector. Earlier that year, the Secretary-General had appointed Mr. Peter Sutherland as his Special Representative for Migration. Also, the Global Migration Group (GMG) was formed consisting of 15 United Nations entities and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The group is the main interagency coordination mechanisms on migration. It meets regularly at the working-level, has organized technical meetings and issued joint publications and statements. The group was chaired by UNDESA in 2007 and is currently chaired by the IOM.

Following the 2006 High-level Dialogue, the State-led, voluntary Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) was formed providing a platform for informal, non-binding dialogue among governments and between governments and other partners, such as civil society, the private sector and international organizations. Since 2007, the Global Forum has taken place annually, alternating between developed and developing countries as its chair. Currently, the Government of Sweden is chairing the GFMD.

Enhancing the benefits of international migration for migrants

In response to this progress in dialogue, cooperation and trust-building, Member States decided to hold another dialogue in 2013 and opted on an action-oriented agenda for this meeting: “Identifying concrete measure to strengthen coherence and cooperation at all levels, with a view to enhancing the benefits of international migration for migrants and countries alike and its important links to development, while reducing its negative implications” (A/RES/67/219, OP3a).

Following this theme, the 2013 High-level Dialogue will consist of four plenary meetings and four interactive round tables, addressing:

  1. migration and the post-2015 United Nations development agenda;
  2. human rights of migrants;
  3. partnerships and cooperation in migration, and
  4. labour migration.

Member States will act as co-chairs of the round tables, with each consisting of a panel discussion featuring high-level representatives of Member States, international organizations and civil society.

The President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, the President of ECOSOC, (Professor Ian Goldin, Director, Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford) and a migrant voice (Mr. Gibril Faal, Chairman, African Foundation for Development (AFFORD)) will make opening remarks in the plenary. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Migration will also address the plenary.

DESA’s Population Division is assisting the Office of the President of the General Assembly in its organizational and substantive preparations for this event. In addition, Mr. Hongbu Wu, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, will participate as a panellist in round table 3, focusing on partnerships and cooperation in migration.

“The High-level Dialogue is an opportunity to promote concrete actions to improve the lives of migrants.”

John Wilmoth, Dir. Population Division, DESA

A roadmap for the activities

The Secretary-General, in his report to Member States for the High-level Dialogue (see Report of the Secretary-General on International Migration and Development under related links hereunder), proposed an eight-point agenda for action:

  1. Protect the human rights of all migrants;
  2. Reduce the costs of labour migration;
  3. Eliminate migrant exploitation, including human trafficking;
  4. Address the plight of stranded migrants;
  5. Improve public perceptions of migrants;
  6. Integrate migration in the development agenda;
  7. Strengthen the migration evidence base; and
  8. Enhance migration partnerships and cooperation.

The 8-point agenda provides a “roadmap” for the activities of Member States, the United Nations system, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), civil society and other key stakeholders in the follow-up to the 2013 High-level Dialogue.

Mr. John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division, expressed his hopes for the High-level Dialogue on the occasion of the Population Division’s launch of new global migrant stock estimates last week by saying: “The High-level Dialogue presents an opportunity for Member States, civil society and the international community to advance the debate on international migration and development, and to promote concrete actions to improve the lives of migrants and to enhance the benefits of migration for countries of origin and destination.”

Overall, the Division is hopeful that the 2013 High-level Dialogue will mark the beginning of a new era of dialogue, cooperation and partnerships on migration and development coupled with concrete policy recommendations and follow-up actions.