Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at a briefing to the General Assembly on United Nations-International Organization for Migration (IOM) relations, in New York today:
I am very pleased to be here, together with Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration. As a well-known and much respected head of the leading intergovernmental migration agency active all over the world, Bill needs no introduction in this room and in this company.
Whilst IOM is not formally part of the UN system, we can at least be considered cousins. Both at Headquarters and in the field, our working relationship is very close, as you all know.
There has been much debate over the years about the place and role of migration in the UN and also about the relationship between IOM and the UN. Ten years ago, for instance, the Global Commission on International Migration proposed that IOM become the leading global agency for migration in the UN system.
In recent years, there has been a dramatically sharpened focus on refugees and migration both on the national and international agendas. Our deliberations and thinking about migration has also broadened and deepened.
The 2013 Declaration of the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development recognized the contributions of migration to the achievement of the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals]. This paved the way for including migration in the new transformative sustainable development agenda adopted by all Member States last September in New York.
The new Sustainable Development Goals address the drivers of involuntary migration. They also call for well-managed migration policies and for reducing the costs and enhancing the benefits of migration.
All this reflects a paradigm shift in the role of migration on the United Nations’ agenda. The success of the Government-led Global Forum on Migration and Development, established in 2007, has also played a crucial role in this change of perspective.
Today, the reality, both on the ground and at the policy level, is pushing us to update our approach even further and take qualitative stages forward in our work and approach on migration. Globally, the number of international migrants — persons living in a country other than where they were born — reached an estimated 244 million in 2015. This is an increase of 71 million, or over 40 per cent, compared to the year 2000.
These figures are likely to increase in the future. Persistent economic and social inequalities are driving much of migration movements. Ineffective governance, high unemployment and a general lack of opportunities often exacerbate these trends. Another factor affecting the growing migration is demographic disparities, with populations ageing in some countries and continuing high birth rates in others.
On displacement, the number of persons forced to flee within and across borders has reached a staggering 60 million. Nobody in this room needs to be reminded that this figure is higher than at any time since the founding of the UN. Clearly we are at crisis point.
This figure is unlikely to drop soon. Displacement situations are becoming more protracted. New outflows occur and continue, growing also as a result of floods and droughts related to climate change and voluntary return is at an all-time low.
International solutions are needed more than ever and they are also in the national interest of individual countries, I would claim. Given these realities, the UN needs to work even more closely with IOM. The two organizations must together continue to respond to the large movements of refugees and migrants, often under unsafe, uncontrolled and precarious circumstances.
We should also recognize that IOM is well-positioned to assist in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This Agenda, as you know, calls on Governments to facilitate mobility of people and orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration.
This can be achieved through effective international cooperation and through well-planned and well-managed migration policies. IOM has considerable expertise in this area and can offer valuable assistance to Member States.
All of these factors — the attention to migration issues as part of the 2030 Agenda, the record number of persons on the move and the need for international solutions in response to recent large population movements — point to a clear conclusion: a closer working relationship between the UN and IOM is not only natural and desirable, it is also needed for achieving our new development goals for 2030.
An agreement that sets out a closer relationship between the United Nations and IOM would facilitate IOM’s participation in a number of United Nations coordination mechanisms, globally and in the field. This would enhance the collaboration between the IOM and the United Nations funds and programmes, as well as its specialized agencies. This, in turn, would have a direct positive impact on the ground and it would make possible a more effective multilateral response to the mounting challenges of migration to the benefit of millions of people.
In November 2015, the IOM Council asked its Director-General to investigate how the legal relationship between the UN and IOM could be improved. The Secretary-General is now seeking the approval of the General Assembly to enter into substantive negotiations over a new legal relationship. The Secretary-General has asked that a new item be included in the agenda of the seventieth session of the General Assembly.
If approval by the General Assembly is granted, the Secretary-General will enter into negotiations with IOM. He will present a new relationship agreement to the General Assembly later in the seventieth session.
The Secretary-General and I hope that, with the approval of the General Assembly, the newly approved relationship agreement can be signed on the occasion of the very important 19 September summit, which is to address large movements of refugees and migrants.
With these remarks, let me now turn over the floor to my dear colleague, Bill Swing. After that, we would welcome your comments and questions.