Developed Countries Need Migrants in Vital Roles, Secretary-General Stresses, Dispelling Falsehoods, Myths about Global Compact

SG/SM/19401-DEV/3376
10 December 2018

Developed Countries Need Migrants in Vital Roles, Secretary-General Stresses, Dispelling Falsehoods, Myths about Global Compact

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at the opening of the Intergovernmental Conference to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration as delivered, in Marrakech, Morocco today:

I thank the Government and the people of the Kingdom of Morocco for hosting this important global gathering and welcoming us so warmly to this wonderful conference centre.  I thank all of you for coming together in support of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

This moment is the inspiring product of dedicated and pain-staking efforts.  I would like to express my enormous admiration for the vision and hard work that have produced the Global Compact.  You are here because you recognize the importance of this Compact as a roadmap to prevent suffering and chaos, and to provide cooperation strategies that will benefit all.  But there have been many falsehoods about the agreement and the overall issue of migration.  So, let me begin by dispelling a few myths.

Myth number one:  The Compact will allow the United Nations to impose migration policies on Member States, infringing on their sovereignty.

False.  The Compact is not a treaty.  Moreover, it is not legally binding.  It is a framework for international cooperation, rooted in an intergovernmental process of negotiation in good faith, that specifically reaffirms the principle of State sovereignty, including “the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction, in conformity with international law”.

Myth number two:  The Compact would establish a new right to migrate, allowing everyone to choose where to go and when to go.

False.  The Compact only reaffirms that migrants should enjoy human rights, and independently of their status.  And it would be ironic if, on the day we commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we would consider that migrants are to be excluded from the scope of the Declaration.

Myth number three:  Migration is essentially a movement of people from the South to the global North.

False.  South‑South migration today is larger than South‑to‑North migration.  For example, there are more African migrants in other African countries than in Europe.

Myth number four: Developed countries do not need migration.

False.  In the many places where fertility is declining, and life expectancy is rising, economies will stagnate and people will suffer without migration. 

Let me give you my own example.  My mother in Portugal is 95 years old and she needs 24‑hour home care.  When I visit her in Lisbon, I seldom see a Portuguese person taking care of her.  It is normally migrants who tend to her needs around the clock, day in and day out, and as you know, Portugal is not one of the richest countries in the world.

It is clear that most developed countries need migrants across a broad spectrum of vital roles, from caring for elderly people to preventing the collapse of health services, just to mention two of them.  So, let us move from myth to reality.  That is precisely what the Compact does.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the world’s migrants move between countries in a safe and orderly fashion.  But unregulated migration bears a terrible human cost:  a cost in lives lost on perilous journeys across deserts, oceans and rivers; and a cost in lives ruined at the hands of smugglers, unscrupulous employers and other predators.

More than 60,000 migrants have died on the move since the year 2000.  This is a source of collective shame.  And of course, behind every number is a person — a woman, a child, a man — who simply dreams for what any of us dream:  opportunity, dignity and a better life.

But whether their movement is voluntary or forced, and whether or not they have been able to obtain formal authorization for movement, all human beings must have their human rights respected and their dignity upheld.  To deny this — and to vilify any group of people — is the road to dehumanization and horror.

We must not succumb to fear or false narratives.  Societies are stronger, more resilient and enriched, not threatened, by diversity.  But such societies do not come about by chance.  As societies become more multi‑ethnic, multi‑religious and multicultural, political, economic, social and cultural investments in cohesion are vital.

Every member, every group must feel valued as such and simultaneously feel they belong to the society as a whole.  This is the way to counter the current groundswell of racism and xenophobia.  Even more broadly and just as urgent, we must address the roots of discontent in many societies in the face of rapid change and rising inequalities.

The Global Compact rests on two simple ideas:  First, migration has always been with us — but in a world where it is ever more inevitable and necessary, it should be well managed and safe, not irregular and dangerous.

Second, national policies are far more likely to succeed with international cooperation.

Mesdames et messieurs,

Le Pacte procède d’une démarche qui doit permettre d’aider non seulement les migrantes et les migrants, mais aussi les communautés d’origine et d’accueil.

Le Pacte reconnait l’importance, du point de vue du développement, des envois de fonds.  Les sommes que les migrants envoient chez eux représentent le triple du montant de l’aide publique au développement, même si c’est dans leurs nouvelles communautés que les migrants dépensent 85 % de ce qu’ils gagnent.

Le Pacte insiste sur la nécessité de proposer davantage de filières légales permettant d’avoir accès aux pays, aux entreprises et aux marchés du travail qui ont besoin de ressources humaines.  Grâce à ces filières légales il sera possible de lutter plus efficacement contre le trafic et l’exploitation.

Autre point important, le Pacte propose un cadre de réflexion sur les stratégies d’appui au développement dans les pays d’origine.  La migration devrait être un acte de choix et jamais de désespoir.

Le Pacte vient faire entendre les voix des femmes et des filles, qui sont particulièrement vulnérables et représentent près de la moitié des 260 millions de migrants à travers le monde.

Le Pacte offre un cadre pour mieux se préparer à des problèmes imminents, à savoir notamment les mouvements de population aggravés par les changements climatiques.

Le Pacte trouve son socle dans le Programme de développement durable à l’horizon 2030.  Je le répète:  les principes et normes universellement reconnus, y compris la souveraineté de l’État, y sont réaffirmés.

Dans le cadre de leur nouveau Réseau, les organismes des Nations Unies, et en particulier l’Organisation Internationale pour les Migrations, s’efforceront d’appuyer au mieux les États Membres.

Along with the Global Compact on Refugees, the Global Compact for Migration provides a platform for humane, sensible, mutually beneficial action.  It is true that some States are not with us today.  I can only hope that they will see the Compact’s value for their own societies and join us in this common venture.

I welcome the overwhelming global support for this Compact.  I commend the efforts of the President of the General Assembly, the facilitators, my Special Representative and so many others.  Let’s work together for a safer, less fearful and more prosperous future both for our own societies and for the world’s migrants. That means for us all.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.