Mr. Thomas Gass Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs

Integrated approaches to international migrations: the perspective of public institutions and public administration

Distinguished experts,

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to all of you. It is an honour to open this meeting.

We are gathered here to examine the topic of international migrations and refugees from the perspective of public institutions and public administration.

As you are aware, the importance of migration on the international agenda has been increasing. So have the multiple linkages between migration and development, and their importance for national and international policy-making.

And, given that events throughout the last decade have put migrants and refugees ever more on the front stage, it is no coincidence that the topic of migration features prominently in the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. For example:

  • The Agenda recognizes the positive contribution of migrants to inclusive growth and sustainable development.
  • It also recognizes that migrants are among the people at risk of being left behind.
  • And target 7 of SDG 10 reads; “Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies”.

A milestone was reached a year ago (September 2016) with the adoption by the General Assembly of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The Declaration commits to developing a “global compact on refugees” and a “global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration”.

The migration compact, currently being prepared through a comprehensive consultation process, will be presented at next year’s conference on international migration (September 2018). The Declaration specifies that the compact will deal with international migration “in all its dimensions”, including “the inclusion of migrants in host societies” and “the responsibilities and obligations of migrants towards host countries”. It will be the first UN inter-governmentally negotiated agreement to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

Dear colleagues,

International migration and sustainable development are connected in multiple and complex ways. Let me mention just a few.

From a security perspective, migrations are associated with peace and security, both of which are vital for development. Seen from this perspective, migration policies include not only asylum and immigration policies, returns, repatriation and emigration. They also relate to public order and safety, human trafficking, drug, crime, terrorism, national security.

From a human rights perspective, migrations and the right to move are linked with fundamental freedoms and rights, including freedom from discrimination, right to life, liberty, belief and personal security, and freedom from slavery, torture and degrading treatment. Policies and institutions addressing issues related to diaspora governance, multiculturalism, tolerance, diversity and inclusion are also relevant to this perspective.

From an economic perspective, including labour issues as an important subset, migrations relate to economic growth, poverty, remittances, their impacts on development and their links with development cooperation. From this perspective, macroeconomic policies, policies related to taxes, social security and social protection, financial inclusion, among others, are relevant to migrations.

From an environmental perspective, migrations are also intrinsically related to the health of the planet. Policies based on this perspective tend to emphasize disaster risk reduction and resilience, among others. Research points to about 20-25 million displaced people annually due to natural disasters, and predicts that drought, desertification, sea level rise and other climate-related factors may drive 50 to 250 million people away from their homes by 2050.

Finally, access to public services for migrants and refugees – whether education, health, or shelter to name a few – is a crucial element of the 2030 Agenda’s imperative to leave no one behind.

Thus a vast array of policies impact migrants and their chances to integrate and live a life of dignity in their host countries.

That is why integrated approaches in delivering on the SDGs are critical. For this to work, public institutions have an essential role in coordinating across sectoral ministries and institutions – and between local and national levels of governments.

Integrated approaches are particularly complex when it comes to migration.  Multiple institutions are engaged in regulating and managing migration, addressing needs of migrants and shaping the environment in which they live.  And they are often not used to working together.

Integrating migrations into sustainable development is not solely about making the appropriate migration laws, issuing the adequate policies or establishing the proper institutional mechanisms. Nor is it entirely about ensuring traditional coordination mechanisms in government. It entails working at various levels within societies, engaging and consulting various civil society actors and the private sector.  This includes reaching out to communities of migrants themselves, with a view to empowering migrants and refugees as active agents of development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is an SDG that is particularly relevant to public institutions, and that is SDG 16! Not the targets about violence, but targets 16.5, 16.6, 16.7, 16.10 … about corruption, accountability, responsiveness, transparency.  For these, the Buck stops with us civil servants! And they are all highly relevant to migrants and to society.

The Secretary-General has noted that a realistic approach to migration that includes increased opportunities and legal pathways… would bring great benefits to both migrants and the societies they join[1].

So the following questions are posed for your discussions:

  • How can countries promote integrated approaches to migrations in the context of sustainable development?
  • How can they foster better collaboration among government departments and across levels of governments?
  • How can they better engage with non-governmental actors, including the communities of migrants and refugees themselves, to promote integrated service delivery for those communities?
  • How do the answers to these questions vary across countries?
  • Are there some commonalities, and what can we gain from the exchange of national experiences and practices?

I am pleased to see that many of our colleagues working on these themes are with us today, including IOM, UNHCR, UNODC, KNOMAD of the World Bank, OECD, and eminent experts from academic institutions from around the world.

I understand that your discussions will directly inform the World Public Sector Report 2017, which will address the question of policy integration for the SDGs from the point of view of public institutions. Thank you for sharing your rich experience and guidance today. We look forward to learning from you. I wish you a productive meeting.


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