Press Conference on High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development

2 October 2013

Press Conference on High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development

Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on High-level Dialogue on International

Migration and Development


Noting the significant role of migrants in the development of both origin and destination countries, senior United Nations officials today stressed the need to protect their rights and integrate their contributions to society into the post-2015 development agenda.

In 2012 alone, remittances to developing countries surpassed $400 billion, which helped improve access to education and health services, contributing directly to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said at a Headquarters press conference on the eve of the General Assembly’s High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development.

“Migrant and diaspora communities can bring about innovation, trade and investment,” Mr. Eliasson said.  “Migrants also play a role in the transfer of technology, skills and knowledge back to their countries of origin.”

The number of international migrants worldwide continued to climb, from 175 million in 2000 to 232 million in 2013, with nearly half being women, he said.  The second High-level Dialogue, scheduled for 3 to 4 October, would focus on identifying practical steps to enhance the benefits of migration while addressing the challenges.

He said the Secretary-General’s recent report on the subject laid out an agenda for action in major areas where efforts must be strengthened, including, among others, protecting the human rights of all migrants, reducing the costs of labour migration, eliminating migrant exploitation and addressing the plight of stranded migrants.

Also briefing correspondents were Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on International Migration and Development, and Cathi Tactaquin, Rapporteur of the Informal Interactive Hearings of Civil Society.  John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) also attended.

Mr. Sutherland said that since the first High-level Dialogue in 2006, enormous changes in attitudes had emerged.  “We have a more or less united community of Member States whose attendance at this High-level Dialogue and active participation testifies to their recognition of the importance of the issue,” he said, expressing hope that the second Dialogue would set an agenda to bring about more positive changes.

Using remittance cost as an example, he said that in the past decade, the average cost had been reduced from 15 per cent of the total remittance amount to 7 per cent, saving $20 billion, with a further reduction to 5 per cent on the way.  More efforts were needed, such as ensuring migrant workers enjoyed equal rights and making social benefits more portable.

Ms. Tactaquin said that civil society had been actively preparing for the Dialogue, including by holding more than 20 consultations and events in the past few months aimed at finding longer-term solutions and commitments.  Collectively, civil society organizations had crafted a proposal on a five-year, eight-point action agenda to address migration issues.  There were many areas of convergence between their agenda and the Secretary-General’s agenda.  Civil society stood ready as “advocates and partners”, she said, calling for concerted efforts to help migrants worldwide fulfil their dreams.

Responding to questions on helping migrants stranded in conflicts, such as in Syria, Mr. Sutherland said migrants in crises, like conflicts and natural disasters, would be a primary focus of the High-level Dialogue.  There would be a specific project coming out of the Dialogue that would deal with a whole range of aspects of that issue, including the obligations of border and destination countries as well as employers to facilitate the movement of migrants.

As for the United Nations relevance to the migration issue, the Deputy Secretary-General, describing migration as “perhaps the most tangible expression of globalization”, said that it was a multidimensional global issue and the United Nations had a role to play in highlighting its positive aspects and bringing out its potential for development.

When asked about a recent news story on scores of Nepali builders who died while working in Qatar, Mr. Sutherland said his mandate was not to conduct a specific analysis of a particular problem.  However, the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights had been doing reports on those issues, and many non-governmental organizations had also done valuable work in that regard.

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