03 November 2006

Secretary-General, in address to ibero-american summit, calls on conference to act as bridge for north-south cooperation, understanding

Kofi Annan

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the sixteenth Ibero-American Summit in Montevideo:

I am honoured to be with you. Let me thank our hosts, President Vazquez and the Government and people of Uruguay, for their warm welcome and kind hospitality.

Equally, let me congratulate Enrique Iglesias -- a good friend of the UN and of mine --on taking up the reins asSecretary-General of the Ibero-American organization, at such a critical time.

I am especially glad to be with you at a time when the United Nations is working to forge even stronger partnership with regional and other intergovernmental organizations. The fact that you have strengthened the Ibero-American secretariat will surely help build closer cooperation between us.

Individually, many of your countries are already playing a crucial role in strengthening and renewing the United Nations -- from membership in the new Peacebuilding Commission and Human Rights Council to participating in our peacekeeping operations around the world, including in Haiti, one of the most challenging situations in the Americas.

Now, as an organization, you are starting to tackle challenges that both our institutions will need to address seriously in the future.

One of those challenges is entrenched inequality. We all hoped globalization would bring us closer together; yet, in some respects, it has driven us further apart. Net financial flows still go from poor to rich countries -- like water flowing uphill. Even developing countries that are catching up in terms of total GDP are doing so at the price of vastly increased income and wealth gaps among their own people.

Here in Latin America, inequality and poverty are persisting challenges. The region has the world’s highest degree of inequality in terms of income distribution, with 220 million people living in poverty.

But although the region continues to show less dynamism than other parts of the developing world, there are also some real signs of progress. ECLAC [Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean] figures predict that the region will grow by 5 per cent in 2006 -- the second time in 25 years that the region will see four consecutive years of growth. Regional GDP shows a cumulative rise of more than 17 per cent. Economic growth has had a favourable impact on labour markets and employment. And while 18 million people in the region are jobless, the unemployment rate at the end of last year was the lowest in a decade.

But let us be clear: 4 out of every 10 people in the region live in poverty -– the kind of poverty which means not only insufficient income to cover basic needs, but also social exclusion. I applaud the energy and urgency with which your Governments are confronting the challenges of social development, by formulating programmes that seek to both ease poverty and fight its structural causes. And I commend you for adopting the Montevideo Resolution here last March, in which you pledged to harmonize social rights agendas as a way of enhancing social protection and solidarity.

Achieving balanced, sustainable development also means addressing global inequities. For most countries in this region, that is not about aid. It is partly about debt and volatile capital flows. But most of all, it’s about the fair distribution of gains from international trade. That includes revenues from primary commodity exports, and the free movement of goods, people and ideas.

Here in Uruguay, we think of the Uruguay Round, in which a deal was struck that is seen as unfair by many developing countries. That leads us to the Doha Round, which placed the interests of developing countries high on the agenda. And yet, lamentable setbacks have led some to contemplate settling for something less than a true development round -- or for no round at all. That must not happen. The European Union has a key role to play in saving the round: we look to the leadership of Spain and Portugal in ensuring that it does.

Overall, we look to the Ibero-American Conference to continue its invaluable work as a bridge for North-South cooperation and understanding. That is acutely relevant to the subject of this Summit. International migration is one of the great issues of this century. Globalization, with advances in communication and transportation, has dramatically increased the number of people who have the desire and capacity to move to other countries. We have entered a new era of mobility. It is essential that we grasp its ramifications.

And the world is ready for a serious global debate. Six weeks ago, we were able to break new ground with the first United Nations High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development.

Participation in the Dialogue was overwhelming. There was consensus that it presented a unique opportunity to identify ways and means to maximize the development benefits of international migration, and to reduce its negative impact. Participants agreed that migration can and should be a positive force for development in both countries of origin and countries of destination, provided that it is supported by the right set of policies. They recognized that remittances were a highly tangible benefit for countries of origin; that international migration, development and human rights were intrinsically interconnected; that reaping the full benefits of international migration required countries to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all migrants; and that vulnerable groups, such as migrant women and children, need special protection.

The Dialogue also made clear that to succeed, national strategies need to be complemented by strengthened cooperation at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. Only through such cooperation can we promote legal, safe and orderly migration, reduce irregular migration, and reap the full benefits of international migration. Indeed, there has been a proliferation of regional consultative processes that have led to practical measures on migration -- proof that cooperation is particularly effective at the regional level.

On all these aspects, the world obviously has immense lessons to learn from your region. Enrique, as you told the High-Level Dialogue, migration is an essential component of the Ibero-American experience. Over the entire period of your history, it has contributed to the formation of your societies and the shaping of your identities. It continues to do so to this day.

Last year alone, Latin America and the Caribbean generated a total of 26 million international migrants, accounting for 13 per cent of the world total. Of course, the United States remains the destination for the vast majority of the region’s migrants, who are characterized by the strong links they maintain with their countries of origin. But at the same time, 3 million international migrants have moved between countries within Latin America. This coincides with initiatives to facilitate mobility within CARICOM [Caribbean Community], MERCOSUR [Southern Common Market] and the Andean Community of Nations. And many are heading to new destinations –- such as Spain, which has become the second country of destination for migrants from your region.

From your rich experience have originated best practices and policies, which can serve as a valuable point of reference for the international community. You have accumulated invaluable expertise in migration governance, the impact of migration on women and families, the need to protect migrants’ human rights, and the loss of human capital caused by migration of professionals from countries with smaller economies. Some of you have introduced innovative Government practices by moving the issue of migration from ministries of the interior to ministries of labour, thereby ensuring it is linked to the labour market. And by working for the legalization of irregular migrants, some of you are securing their contribution to funding of social services.

Excellencies, your experience and expertise will be crucial as we prepare for the first Global Forum on International Migration and Development -- the initiative I have proposed as a way to continue on a permanent basis the debate which began with the High-Level Dialogue. Many of you played a critical role in embracing my proposal for the Forum, and in asking me to help set it up.

I hope the Global Forum can help us move forward on three fronts:

First, helping Governments understand fully the ways in which international migration can advance their development goals. This applies to countries of both origin and destination, since migration can help even developed countries achieve economic, social, and cultural ambitions. Once they understand where the opportunities lie, they need to organize themselves -- their cabinets, their bureaucracies -- to take advantage of them.

Second, helping Governments discuss international migration in a way they do not find threatening. It is clear that making it the subject of formal, norm-setting negotiations is not acceptable to most countries. There is no appetite for a World Migration Organization. Instead, I believe the way forward lies in a voluntary, informal, consultative process, which is non-binding and takes place in a collegial and trusting environment. That is what I hope the Global Forum will become.

And finally, I believe the Forum can help us focus on practical ways of optimizing the positive aspects of international migration. For instance, reducing the barriers to remittances. Or building partnerships that bring high-quality education to the developing world. Or learning from each other how we can better connect with our diasporas, and benefit from them. The list of such constructive issues is a very long one. They are issues on which nearly all States can agree they have something to gain, and little to lose.

I am delighted that the first Global Forum will be held next summer in Brussels. My Special Representative, Peter Sutherland, as well as the UN system as a whole, will be working closely with the Government of Belgium to ensure that it succeeds. I know that your countries will do the same.

If the Forum does succeed, it would mark a sea change in the willingness of Governments to address this complicated, volatile issue in a thoughtful, constructive fashion.

And it can play a key role in helping the international community, at last, fulfil the hope that globalization will bring us closer together.

I thank every one of you for the outstanding partnership we have enjoyed during the 10 years that I have served as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I could not have done it without the support of your Governments and peoples. I wish you continued success on your journey.