28 February 2019
High-level Debate on Migration Invites Focus on Youth, Data and Partnerships
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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Participants at the high-level debate on migration and development discussed issues including the need to focus on youth in addressing migration, the importance of data that are disaggregated by migratory status, and the necessity for genuine partnerships between source, transit and destination countries and between stakeholders.

The discussions will inform the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), which will review the SDGs and targets related to migration during its July 2019 session.

27 February 2019: Representatives from governments, civil society, and international organizations shared experiences and best practices related to implementing the SDGs and migration-related agreements at the national and local levels during a high-level debate on migration and development. Among the issues discussed were the need to focus on youth in addressing migration, the importance of data that are disaggregated by migratory status, and the necessity for genuine partnerships between source, transit and destination countries and between stakeholders.

The high-level debate took place on 27 February at UN Headquarters in New York, US. The meeting was mandated by UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 73/241, through which the Assembly decided to convene, in the first half of 2019, a one-day high-level debate on international migration and development, under the auspices of the UNGA President, to inform the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). In July 2019, the HLPF will review the SDGs and targets related to migration.

Opening the meeting, UNGA President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces highlighted the need to address human trafficking, noting that women and girls represent 71% of all victims of human trafficking, and that women migrants face the biggest challenges in accessing health services. Emphasizing that migration contributes to diversity and development, she invited reflection on the relation between migration and labor policies.

Moderator Marion Barthelemy, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), highlighted the importance of data that are disaggregated by migratory status in order to inform policies addressing the phenomena. She said nine of the ten SDG migration-related targets will be reviewed by the July 2019 session of the HLPF.

Santiago Javier Chavez Pareja, Vice Minister for Human Mobility of Ecuador, said migration is a driver of economic growth, innovation, and sustainable development, and noted that it contributes to achieving SDGs 8 (on economic growth) and 10 (reduced inequalities). He highlighted that Ecuador is chairing the 2019 Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), and said the presidency will focus on three key areas: providing joint responses to mixed migratory flows; human mobility as part of development strategies; and the narratives and communications strategy for migration. He announced that GFMD will present a report to the 2019 HLPF.

Valentine Rugwabiza, Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the UN, noted that migrants in Rwanda enjoy the full rights that citizens have, from health care to education and social services, except for voting rights. She emphasized the importance of having the right mindset to appropriately address the migration phenomena and the integration of migrants in the host countries. She challenged the public narrative that Africa is a large source of migrants to the rest of the world by pointing out that 80% of the migration taking place in Africa is within the continent.

António Manuel de Carvalho Ferreira Vitorino, Director-General International Organization for Migration (IOM), said IOM is encouraging Member States to fully integrate migration in their national SDG implementation plans. On migration trends, he noted that: the number of migrants will increase; there will be challenges with the mismatch between the needs of fast-changing labor markets and the skills of migrants; urbanization will continue to change the economic, demographic, and physical landscapes, thus local, regional, and national governments will have to work together to manage migration; the fight against human trafficking will become even more important given the growing number of migrants; and the impacts of climate change will intensify migration.

Roula Hamati, Insan Association and Civil Society Chair for GFMD, said the contribution of migration to development is poorly understood. She said civil society contributes to filling the gaps in the implementation of the migration agreements created by the inability or unwillingness of governments to implement the agreements.

Shahidul Haque, Foreign Secretary, Government of Bangladesh, said the government has prepared a 50-page migration framework for Bangladesh that comprehensively reviews and addresses all types of human mobility in the country. He emphasized that many still think that migration will disappear by itself, without dedicated resource allocations or mechanisms, which he said is an erroneous and dangerous way of thinking.

Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), highlighted that migration is driven by the asymmetry between countries, which she said is and will be further exacerbated by climate change. She noted the need to partner with the private sector and other employers to further migrants’ economic inclusion. She invited work to clearly define the “portability” of the economic and social rights of migrants between countries.

Henriette Geiger, General for Development and Cooperation of the European Commission (DG DEVCO), said the Commission’s vision for the EU until 2030 has as its guiding compass the SDGs, including their migration-related targets. She underlined the need to establish genuine partnerships between source, transit, and destination countries and create decent livelihoods in the source countries, as reintegration of migrants in poverty would not be an option.

Roberto Suarez Santos, Secretary General of the International Organization of Employers, highlighted the need for training migrants in order to attune their skills with the job markets in the countries where they live, and noted that informal learning has a significant role in their economic integration. He further emphasized the importance of effective communication on employment opportunities.

In the ensuing discussion, participants raised issues related to, inter alia: protecting the rights of migrant children and adolescents (Guatemala); reducing the costs of recruiting migrants in the formal labor force (Group of the 77 and China); multilateralism being the only solution to effectively managing migration (France); integrating migration in primary school curricula (Uruguay); and engaging and empowering the largest youth generation the world has seen, including by providing scholarships to youth in developing countries and creating the economic conditions they need in their home countries (Denmark). Other issues included: commitment to the implementation of the Global Compact on Migration and the SDGs (UK, EU); the need to improve data collection systems to timely and accurately disaggregate data on migratory status (Jamaica); and the need to reduce transfer costs for remittances (EU).

IOM organized a series of migration-related events on the sidelines of the UNGA President’s high-level debate at UN Headquarters, on topics related to the UN Network on Migration, youth and migration, and the modalities of the International Migration Review Forum. In advance of the high-level debate, the Population Division of DESA had also convened researchers and other experts for a one-day symposium on 26 February, to discuss the interrelations between international migration and development. [Meeting Summary] [DESA News] [Event Programme] [UN Press Release on the DESA Symposium] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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