New York

22 April 2013

Secretary-General's remarks to the Commission on Population and Development

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address this Commission.

I welcome the Commission’s broad perspective on migration.

I follow the issue very closely. I have made a point of participating in the Global Forum on Migration and Development. Last November I was unable to attend because of a crisis in the Middle East. But I sent a message through my Special Representative for Migration and Development.

This year, our challenge is to pave the way for success at the General Assembly’s second High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, to be held this October.

Migration is a fact of life in our globalizing world. Whether it takes place within countries or across borders, migration can bring people together.

People have different ways to describe the result – they speak of a melting pot, or a mosaic. By any name, migration offers challenges we must face and benefits we can harness.

It is not a question of whether to halt the movement of people across borders. That is impossible. The question is how we plan for such movements and make the most of them.

International migration is a complex issue that demands a comprehensive solution.

Discussions over the years have helped us to define five key goals:

First: Establish safe, legal channels of migration.

Second: Align migration policies to the demands of the labour market.

Third: Address the problems faced by migrants who have no legal status.

Fourth: Promote integration into host societies.

And fifth: Facilitate return and circular migration, so people can go back to their homes at the right time.

There is also an overarching need to address discrimination and abuse that migrants face, including human trafficking, sexual exploitation and scapegoating.

Migration is often a hot-button issue. That is why we need frank discussions, a spirit of compromise, and political will to find solutions.

Smaller countries continue to suffer when skilled people leave – but they also benefit from remittances. These funds often support health care, education and other basic services that drive development. A number of governments have matching grant proposals to make more of these benefits.

In destination countries, migrants often help to alleviate labour shortages and promote economic growth.  Migrants also contribute to their home countries through investment and trade. Those who return bring new experience and knowledge that can fuel development in their native lands.

Looking ahead, we know there are demographic shifts underway. The developing world has a growing population of youth. With education, employment and other opportunities, these young people can build stronger societies. Many may seek work abroad. Emigration can alleviate pressures in places where there are not enough jobs.

But migration should not be the primary solution to the demographic challenge. The best response to population trends is to implement the Cairo Programme of Action on Population and Development. This includes empowering women, providing all people with access to reproductive health care, and educating the next generation.

In 2014, we will mark the 20th anniversary of the Cairo Programme of Action. Although it was adopted in 1994, its principles remain as valid as ever. I count on you to chart a course to realize the vision forged in Cairo.

Population dynamics must be a factor as we shape a post-2015 development agenda that will meet people’s needs while protecting the environment.

People cross borders for different reasons. Some run away in fear, others sprint forward with hope. The reasons for leaving are different – but the impact is the same: more globalization, a more inter-linked human family, and a greater imperative for us to act with solidarity.

Let us work together to find common ground so that we may advance our common goals.

Thank you.