New York

03 October 2013

Secretary-General's remarks to High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development

Before I begin, let me just note that we need to look no further than this morning’s headlines to see the great importance of this dialogue.  Dozens of African migrants are reported to have perished in the Mediterranean after the ship on which they were travelling sank.  I offer my deep condolences and hope that we all take this as another spur to action.

Seven years ago, we came together in this same venue, and agreed that we could find common ground on international migration.

We agreed that migration, which for so long had been deemed too sensitive to discuss, deserved—and required—our concerted attention.

Seven years later, there is no doubt that we have come a long way.

Today, we are united in a joint declaration on the importance of migration to development, and on the protection of the rights of all migrants.

This progress has been made possible by the climate of trust that we established in the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

The face of migration is changing.

Today, migrants are coming from, and going to, more places than ever before.

Almost half of migrants are women.

One of every ten migrants is under the age of 15. 

And four of every ten migrants are living in developing countries.

Given these complex realities, we need to work together, with courage and vision, recognizing that our actions will have an impact on millions of women, men and children.

In my report to the General Assembly, I put forward an ambitious eight-point agenda to “make migration work” for all: migrants, societies of origin and societies of destination alike.

Let me briefly outline my vision.

First, we must do more to protect the human rights of all migrants.

Too often, migrants live in fear -- of being victimized as the so-called “other”; of having little recourse to justice; or of having their wages or passports withheld by an unscrupulous employer.

We cannot remain silent.  We need to eliminate all forms of discrimination against migrants, including those related to working conditions and wages.

We need to create more channels for safe and orderly migration, and to seek alternatives to the administrative detention of migrants.

I call on all of you to ratify and effectively implement the relevant international legal instruments, including the ILO convention on domestic workers and the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families.  I also urge Member States to engage with the relevant UN human rights mechanisms.

Second, we need to lower the costs of migration.

Global remittances, including to high-income countries, are expected to reach $550 billion this year, and to surpass $700 billion by 2016.

Yet every year, billions of these funds are withheld in unnecessarily high transaction fees.

Moreover, countless migrants pay their life savings, and those of their families, to unethical recruiters and end up in debt bondage.

Imagine what we could achieve if those funds were “put to work” for development – to send a child to school, pay for a medical visit, or start a small business.

Third, we must end the exploitation to which migrants are vulnerable, including human trafficking.

These crimes often perpetuate vicious cycles of abuse, violence and poverty, to which women and children are particularly vulnerable. 

We have a sound international legal framework to guide us in combating these crimes.

Let us implement these instruments together.

Fourth, we need to address the plight of stranded migrants.

Migrants are often caught in situations of conflict or natural disaster.

My Special Representative, Peter Sutherland, who has championed this issue, has made a number of concrete recommendations for protecting migrants affected by such crises.

I am pleased to note that the United States and the Philippines have offered to lead an initiative to create a framework that would articulate clear roles and responsibilities for all involved.

Fifth, we need to improve public perceptions of migrants.

Migrants contribute greatly to host societies. As entrepreneurs, they create jobs.  As scientists, they are engines of innovation.  They are doctors, nurses and domestic workers and often the unheralded heart of many service industries.

Yet far too often they are viewed negatively.  Too many politicians seek electoral advantage by demonizing migrants.

While we should not ignore the challenges that arise from migration, especially in the context of high unemployment, we should dispel dangerous myths.

But information is not enough. It takes leadership to reinforce positive messages about the benefits of migration. 
Sixth, we need to integrate migration into the development agenda.

With discussions under way on the post-2015 development agenda and a new set of goals for sustainable development, the time is ripe to present a compelling case about why migration matters for development. 

Indeed, my report A Life of Dignity for All includes the positive contribution of migrants as one of the transformative actions of the post-2015 development agenda. One litmus test of the new agenda’s inclusivity will be the degree to which migrants and diasporas are seen as development partners, and not left behind.

Seventh, we need to strengthen the migration evidence base.

We are fortunate to live in an era of information. Yet reliable data on migration and its impact on development are often very hard to come by.

Migration policies should be guided by facts, rather than hunches and hearsay.

Eighth, we need to enhance migration partnerships and cooperation.

The forward-thinking proposals of civil society now play an integral part in shaping our actions. We have also made progress in improving the coherence and coordination of the Global Migration Group -- which brings together 15 UN entities and the International Organization for Migration.

I encourage all to continue strengthening their collaboration.  Toward that end, I have asked my Special Representative on Migration and Development, Peter Sutherland, to meet regularly with the leadership of the GFMD and the Global Migration Group to identify shared priorities.

Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future.  It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family.

It would be naive to overlook the costs, including the human costs.

Yet even sceptics have to recognize that migration has become a fundamental part of our globalized world.

It is our collective responsibility to make migration work for the benefit of migrants and countries alike.

We owe this to the millions of migrants who, through their courage, vitality and dreams, help make our societies more prosperous, resilient and diverse.

Let us intensify our work and be sure to follow-up.

Let me express my great appreciation to all the bodies and organizations devoting attention to this issue.  Special thanks as well go to my Special Representative, whose advocacy and leadership have advanced the debate and improved our collective handling of this issue.

And let us all make sure that the 2013 High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development becomes a watershed moment, when we show the world that we can make a difference for the common good and our common future.

Thank you.