25 May 2017
UN Discusses Drivers of Migration at Second Informal Session
Photo by IISD/ENB
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Experts, governments, UN Member States and other stakeholders met for the second informal thematic session in preparation for the intergovernmental conference to adopt a global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration.

The discussion addressed sustainable development and poverty eradication, as well as key drivers of migration, such as human-made crises, the adverse effects of climate change and natural disasters.

A summary of the first thematic session, held earlier in May, was recently released by the co-facilitators.

23 May 2017: Participants at the second informal thematic session in preparation for the intergovernmental conference to adopt a global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration discussed sustainable development and poverty eradication, as well as key drivers of migration, such as human-made crises, the adverse effects of climate change and natural disasters.

The intergovernmental conference is scheduled for the fall of 2018. The global compact will be the first intergovernmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the UN, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner. Its preparatory process includes three phases: consultations in the form of six informal thematic sessions (April to November 2017); stocktaking (November 2017 to January 2018); and intergovernmental negotiations (February to July 2018). Juan José Gómez Camacho, Permanent Representative of Mexico, and Jürg Lauber, Representative of Switzerland, serve as the co-facilitators for the preparatory process.

The thematic session on ‘Addressing drivers of migration’ took place from 22-23 May 2017, in New York, US, with the participation of experts, governments and other stakeholders. A summary of the session should be released by the co-facilitators by 26 May 2017.

Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration and Secretary-General of the conference, said the current narrative around migration focuses on its scale, but that while there are more migrants in the world today, there is also more people in the world. She reported that migrants represent 3.3% of the global population, and stressed the importance of expanding access to regular channels of migration.

Discussions highlighted that migration should be a choice, not a necessity, and that a majority of people that migrate do so in an orderly and safe manner, and for economic and social reasons. Participants remarked that migration’s drivers are multifaceted, and not addressed by a one-size-fits-all approach. They also said addressing the drivers of migration should not be confused with stopping migration, and that a change of perspective and narrative on migration is essential to recognize its positive character, to reduce xenophobia and discrimination, and to unlock its full potential. Many said the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs provide a framework for addressing migration, and are crucial to prevent the emergence of human-made crises. Participants also noted the importance of avoiding duplication and of promoting synergies between these frameworks, the global compact and other existing mechanisms, and of integrated, whole-of-goverment and whole-of-society approaches.

UN Member States called for strengthening cooperation and partnership with other stakeholders (including the private sector, diasporas, civil society) and between countries of origin, transit and destination. They noted that no country can manage on its own the challenges related to migration. Many stressed the need to share responsibilities related to the management of large movements of migrants, and to rely on evidence and data. They called for better data collection, analysis and disaggregation. They noted the importance of: information-sharing for and about migration; good governance to address the root causes of migration and achieve peace; empowering women; and addressing the gender-specific drivers of migration.

On the format and characteristics of the global compact, Chile, the US and others said a glossary would be useful to clarify technical terms. The US said the compact should include concrete and practical recommendations, and Australia said it should be practical and pragmatic.

In a panel on sustainable development and poverty eradication, delegates called for: implementing measures nationally to retain highly skilled workers; fully integrating migration in plans and policies, including at national and local levels; revisiting national frameworks on migration to reach the most vulnerable; and integrating migration in development cooperation, with a focus on its impact on economic growth and development. Delegates also discussed remittances, adding their cost should be reduced. They noted the importance of securing jobs, promoting productive employment, adjusting education to labor market requirements, empowering migrant workers, and ensuring social protection.

On human-made crises as drivers of migration, such as conflicts and civil disorder, participants highlighted possible solutions, including: peace, development and human rights; the key role of diplomacy and international accountability mechanisms; bridging the humanitarian and development nexus; and international financing. Summarizing this discussion, Riita Resch, panel moderator and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland, observed a gap in legal norms pertaining to migrants who must move but are not refugees, and said neither of the global compacts on refugees and migrants has a mandate to deal with internally displaced persons (IDPs). Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Japan, Tuvalu and others then called for including IDPs in the migration global compact.

Migration is increasingly employed as an adaptation strategy to climate change and natural disasters, said delegates.

On the adverse effects of climate change and natural disaster as drivers of migration, delegates remarked that: the deterioration of conditions by climate change disproportionally affects poor and vulnerable communities; migration is increasingly employed as an adaptation strategy; and existing frameworks such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and the Paris Agreement on climate should complement the global compact. They called for ensuring that relocation plans, including cross-border relocation and temporary protection arrangements, are human rights based, and for increasing preparedness to respond to disasters. They also asked to provide: protection to people displaced because of disasters; guidance on migration related to climate change; and specific and differential treatment to small island developing States’ (SIDS) people affected by climate change.

Binod Khadria, Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies, called for further discussing youth migration, adding that a considerable number of students who study abroad want to stay in their country of destination once their studies are completed. Mariama Awumbila, University of Ghana, said that in Africa, most migration takes place within the continent, with 67% migrants moving from one African country to another.

The EU said it plans to invest €3.35 billion in its external investment plan. The plan should provide a framework to promote sustainable investment in Africa and the “EU Neighbourhood” and to tackle root causes of migration. Canada said immigration is a building block of its country’s economic growth, and called for innovative mobility mechanisms such as global skill partnerships, and enhancing intra-regional mobility. He suggested that countries should commit to develop national action plans that could link migration and economic development, identify gaps and outline needs for international cooperation and support.

Belgium expressed regret that African representatives were not sufficiently heard during the consultative meetings leading to the global compact. Norway added that for the process to be successful, it should ensure broader participation, including from African and Middle Eastern countries.

India reported that references to migrants have been retained in the outcome document of the 2017 UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Forum on Financing for Development follow-up (FFD Forum), including on ensuring that adequate and affordable financial services are available to migrants and their families. Ecuador said migration is a catalyzer for social development, and noted that foreign persons in Ecuador have the same rights and duties as those of Ecuadorians, in accordance with the Constitution. Switzerland asked for coherence and coordinated policies, bilateral cooperation, and financial education to migrants and their families.

The US noted the importance of regional, international cooperation and coordination to work on comprehensive approaches for migration, emphasized the need for data and research on migration, and support migration guidelines that would be State-led. Hungary said securing controls on borders should be a priority. Chile said promoting access to justice and dignified housing are key for migrants.

Denmark noted that migration is integrated in some of its programmes, including development assistance. The Philippines said it implemented financial literacy programmes for migrant workers, and Nigeria reported that it adopted a National Migration Policy. The Netherlands announced that it launched the Local Employment in Africa for Development (LEAD) programme to tackle the root causes of migration from Africa, as well as the Addressing Root Causes Fund (ARC) to tackle the root causes of armed conflict, instability and irregular migration.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the fact that some migrants are still dying indicate that policies are out of date. He suggested that the global compact include an action-oriented roadmap that would link to the SDGs with a strong follow-up and review mechanism. Belgium and others supported this proposal. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) reported that it worked with IOM and Switzerland to strengthen capacity to include migration in national and local government planning.

The first informal thematic session took place from 8-9 May 2017, in Geneva, Switzerland, on ‘Human rights of all migrants, social inclusion, cohesion and all forms of discrimination, including racism, xenophobia and intolerance.’ A summary of the meeting has been released by the co-facilitators.

The third informal thematic session will address ‘International cooperation and governance of migration in all its dimensions, including at borders, on transit, entry, return, readmission, integration and reintegration.’ It is scheduled for 19-20 June 2017, in Geneva. [Preparatory Document for Second Informal Thematic Session] [Migration Compact Website] [Second Thematic Session Webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on First Informal Thematic Session] [Co-facilitators Summary of the First Informal Thematic Session] [IISD Sources]

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