Let me begin by reminding you that today is World Refugee Day. The most recent figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency show a record high of 45.2 million displaced people worldwide. This translates into someone becoming a refugee or internally displaced person every 4.1 seconds. As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. António Guterres, said, this means that every time you blink, another person is forced to flee.
As we continue discussions at the United Nations on a new development agenda post-2015 we have to take this new reality into serious consideration.
I thank the Scalabrini International Migration Network, Mayor Bloomberg’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Mexico for inviting me to the International Forum on Migration and Peace.
This Forum, as well as previous such gatherings in Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico, demonstrates the usefulness of regional dialogues which bring together policy-makers, international organizations, academia and civil society.
You have helped focus much-needed attention on the dignity and rights of migrants, refugees, seafarers and itinerant people. However we label or categorize the newcomer in our midst, you remind us that she or he is our neighbour, with inalienable rights and needs and with important contributions to make to society.
Let us remember that millions of Italians, who left their country in the 19th century, arrived just a few blocks from here. They were the Italians with whom the Scalabrinians originally got engaged.
Your network has become global, as a consequence of the growing international character of migration. We have become effective at lowering the barriers to movements of goods, services and capital, but we have sadly and paradoxically done far less well in addressing cross-border movements of human beings.
Migration is often cited as the oldest form of poverty eradication. Migrants provide vital support for the families, communities and countries they leave behind. For developing countries, their remittances are often an economic lifeline.
But migrants are also essential for the well-being of the societies to which they venture. They make significant contributions to the economic and social development of the places they go to.
Our discussions on migration should recognize this role and these wide-ranging benefits. We must overcome the stereotyping and scapegoating which is all too frequent.
These are important times for migration. In early October, the General Assembly will devote, for only the second time in its history, a high-level meeting on international migration and development.
The High-level Dialogue should help us anchor international migration more firmly in the global development agenda. Preparations are under way for the post-2015 development agenda. Our experience since the first dialogue in 2006, confirms that migration is a powerful tool for development, improving the lives of millions of families. That understanding should be part of our deliberations going forward.
At the same time, the High-level Dialogue and its follow-up are important in their own right. We need concrete goals and rigorous data collection. A Finnish President once wisely said: “The source of wisdom is knowing the facts”.
Our task is to identify concrete measures that will help us reduce the costs of transferring remittances, ensure support for vulnerable migrants and, not least, stamp out discrimination and abuse.
Civil society will continue to be a key ally of the United Nations and a constructive partner in our efforts and in the International Forum. I see three ways civil society can contribute to the success of the High-level Dialogue.
First, mobilize your bases. You are the voices of migrants. Engage with your governments about what positions to take. Make sure you are part of the process. Hold your elected leaders accountable.
Second, make practical and constructive proposals. Despite disagreements on some issues, there are many areas where Member States and civil society can interact and cooperate.
Third, attend the civil society hearings which will take place July 15 in New York. The hearings are organized by the General Assembly to ensure that your contributions are known and available to Member States in October.
Migration is a complex and sometimes controversial subject in the public debate and discourse. But I believe we can rise above the noise, find common ground and promote the realization that migration is a critical catalyst for development in a globalized world.
I thank you again for your engagement and support. Your commitment is vital for progress on placing migration high on a dynamic post-2015 development agenda.