The event was one of two IDM sessions planned for 2019, with the second to be held from 15-16 October in Geneva, Switzerland.
The event was organized to complement the high-level event on international migration and development, convened by the UNGA President, and an expert symposium on international migration and development organized by DESA.
28 February 2019: The first International Dialogue on Migration (IDM) of 2019 focused on engaging youth as partners in migration governance. The event aimed to provide a platform for youth to engage with policymakers, decision-makers and relevant international, regional and national actors, as well as with businesses, scholars and diaspora groups.
The Dialogue took place on 28 February 2019 at UN Headquarters in New York, US, and is was one of the two IDM sessions planned for 2019, with the second to convene from 15-16 October in Geneva, Switzerland. The event was organized to complement the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) high-level event on international migration and development, on 27 February 2019, and an expert symposium on international migration and development organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), which took place on 26 February 2019.
Opening the IDM, Antonio Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said youth unemployment in North Africa is expected to reach 30% in 2019, with African youth at risk of facing unemployment three times more than youth in other regions of the world. He explained that this economic situation creates drivers for dangerous, risky migration. He noted the need to ensure broader access to education, including tertiary education, in youth’s home countries in order to decrease their vulnerability to unemployment and consequently the risks of unsafe migration choices.
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, stressed the importance of engaging youth in debates on issues that are critical for them, such as migration. She highlighted the UN Youth 2030 strategy, which was launched in 2018, and which commits the UN to strengthening advocacy by young people. She mentioned that many young migrants are multilingual and bear important cross-cultural knowledge, which makes them valuable for host countries’ labor markets. She also emphasized that 80% of migration is regular and orderly, and South-South migration is higher than South-North migration. She called for evidence-based counter-narratives on migration to offset false, harmful narratives.
UNGA President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces mentioned that young migrants frequently work under uncertain conditions, are victims of labor exploitation and lack social protection, all of which prevents them from reaching their full potential. In a world in which 11% of all migrants are aged 15 to 24, she said we must create positive migratory experiences that can project young people into a better future to contribute to sustainable development in their countries of origin and destination.
Daniela Bas, DESA, emphasized the need for productive employment and education opportunities to address the needs of the growing youth population, including the need for inclusive education for migrant children and youth in destination and transit countries. She stressed the importance of youth in achieving SDG 8 on economic growth and SDG 10 on inequalities. She invited reflection on what kind of social protection is needed for young people who migrate.
Ted Chaiban, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), highlighted gender-related migration, and called for addressing its root causes, such as forced marriages. He also called for providing adequate support to women in the migration process including by tackling issues such as gender-based violence and ensuring access to menstrual hygiene products. He emphasized the need for young people to be part of the social and health systems in countries in which they migrate.
Iliana Perez, Immigrant Rising, said because no immigration reform legislation has been passed in the US since 1986, undocumented migrants cannot get work authorization or a social security number, which significantly decreases their chances of finding formal employment, and forces them into the informal economy. Perez noted that US law allows migrants regardless of their migratory status to make an income through independent contracting and business ownership, thus entrepreneurship.
Mohamed Bangura, Minister of Youth Affairs, Sierra Leone, said that providing young people with hope would stem their desire to migrate. In order to address migration and ensure the productive integration of youth in society, he noted that Sierra Leone has focused on transforming education from a privilege into a right. He also called for integrating youth in government, including by appointing them to relevant official positions, in order to empower them to truly serve as partners in their generation’s development.
Shahidul Haque, Foreign Secretary, Bangladesh, spoke about the government’s efforts to coopt the private sector in creating the jobs needed for youth. He presented a successful format of workshops on job opportunities for youth. He emphasized that a government’s role is not to create the job market but to create and enabling environment for a thriving job market, including through supporting youth-led entrepreneurship.
In the ensuing discussion, participants raised issues related to, inter alia: the need to engage youth in establishing regular pathways for migration; increased support to IOM to address migration; ways to engage the private sector and employers in addressing the issue of youth migrants’ employment; and caution about tokenism, referring to the tendency of decision-makers to talk about youth instead of with youth.