FROM THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL
Managing migration is one of the most urgent and profound tests of international cooperation in our time
“Migration is an expanding global reality” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres maintains in his report released today (11 January). “The time for debating the need for cooperation in this field is past”, and “managing it is one of the most urgent and profound tests of international cooperation of our time.”
Making Migration Work for All, the report released to the UN General Assembly on 11 January 2018, is the Secretary-General’s contribution to the process of developing a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular. The report offers the Secretary-General’s vision for constructive international cooperation, examining how to better manage migration, for the benefit of all – the migrants themselves, their host communities and their societies of origin.
The Secretary-General emphasizes that “migration is an engine of economic growth, innovation and sustainable development”. The reports highlights that there is a clear body of evidence that, despite real challenges, migration is beneficial both for migrants and host communities, in economic and social terms. The Global Compact will provide Member States the opportunity to maximize those benefits and better address migration challenges.
The report points to an estimated 258 million international migrants, or 3.4% of the world’s population, with levels expected to increase. While the majority of migrants move between countries in a safe, orderly and regular manner, a significant minority of migrants face life-threatening conditions. The report notes that around 6 million migrants are trapped in forced labour, and that recent large-scale movements of migrants and refugees, in regions including the Sahel and South-east Asia, have created major humanitarian crises. The report calls for the Global Compact to include a special strategy to address this.
The report underscores the economic benefits of migration. Migrants spend 85% of their earnings in their host communities and send the remaining 15% to their countries of origin. In 2017 alone, migrants sent home approximately $600 billion in remittances, which is three times all official development assistance. Women, who make up 48% of all migrants, send home a higher percentage of their earnings than men, yet they face more restrictive labour policies and employment customs than men, thus restricting their economic income and social contribution. Member States are urged “to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls” as a central element of the Global Compact.
The Secretary-General encourages governments to work together to establish a productive and humane global migration system which would enhance, rather than detract from sovereignty. If governments open more legal pathways for migration, based on realistic analyses of labour market needs, there is likely to be fewer border crossings, fewer migrants working outside the law and fewer abuses of irregular migrants.
The Secretary-General maintains that a new approach to migration is necessary. “It is now time to draw together all parts of the UN system, including International Organization for Migration (IOM), to support Member State efforts to address migration.” The Secretary-General commits to work within the UN system to identify news ways to help Member States manage migration better based on the Global Compact.
UN Member States will soon undertake the final negotiations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The Global Compact will then be finalized in 2018.
UN Secretary-General’s Report: Making Migration Work for All
- Managing migration is one of the most urgent and profound tests of international cooperation in our time. The time for debating the need for cooperation on international migration is past.
- Migration is an expanding global reality. There are an estimated 258 million international migrants (note this figure includes refugees). A number that has grown by 49% since 2000. Migrants now make up 3.4% of the world’s population and this is likely to continue to increase.
- The majority of migrants move between countries in a safe, orderly and regular manner.
- A significant minority of migrants face exploitation and life-threatening conditions. We have seen what happens when large-scale migration takes place without effective mechanisms to manage it. The world was shocked by recent video of migrants being sold as slaves. There are approximately 6 million migrants trapped in forced labor today. Large-scale movements of migrants and refugees in Sahel and South-East Asia have created major humanitarian crises in recent years.
- Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migrationwill be the first overarching international agreement of its kind. It will not be a formal treaty. Nor will it place any binding obligations on states. Instead, it is an unprecedented opportunity for leaders to counter the pernicious myths surrounding migrants, and lay out a common vision of how to make migration work for all our nations.
- UN Member States are about to undertake final negotiations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, to be finalized in 2018. The Secretary-General’s report “Making Migration Work for All” is his contribution to this process.
- The report offers his vision for constructive international cooperation, examining how to better manage migration, for the benefit of all – the migrants themselves, their host communities and their societies of origin.
- There is overwhelming evidence that migration has economic and social benefits for all countries.Migration is an engine of economic growth, innovation and sustainable development.
- Migrants make significant contributions to both their host and home countries. Migrants spend 85% of their earnings in their host communities and send back the remaining 15% to their countries of origin. Migrants sent home approximately $600 billion in remittances in 2017 – three times all official development assistance.
- 48% of all migrants are women and steps must be taken to empower women migrants.Women send home a higher percentage of their earnings than men. Yet women migrants often face more restrictive labour policies and employment customs than men. This in turn restricts their economic and social contribution.
- The report urges governments not to let xenophobic political narratives distort their agendas. The report recognizes that migration is a source of division between and within countries and societies. The Secretary-General recognizes that states have a responsibility effectively to manage who enters their territory.
- Governments cannot manage all dimensions of migration unilaterally. The report calls for governments to work together voluntarily to establish a productive and humane global migration system. Doing so would enhance, not detract from, state sovereignty.
- The challenge facing UN Member States is to broaden the opportunities that migration offers to us all rather than to place unrealistic restrictions on migrants.
- Member States need to strengthen the rule of law at all levels to meet this challenge.Member States should (i) create more robust legal pathways for migrants to find work, reducing incentives for irregular migration; and (ii) avoid draconian policies for deterring and detaining migrants that infringe basic human rights obligations. Migrants themselves should obey the laws and regulations concerning their travel and work.
- If governments open more legal pathways for migration – based in large part on realistic analyses of labour market needs – there would be fewer irregular border crossings, fewer migrants working outside the law and fewer abuses of irregular migrants.
- The report calls for the global compact to include a special strategy to address large movements of people as an urgent humanitarian priority.
- The UN, including the International Organization for Migration, can do more to facilitate international cooperation. The Secretary-General commits to work with the UN system to define new ways to help Member States manage migration better based on the Global Compact.
- Migrants are not refugees. Refugees are persons fleeing armed conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, in particular the 1951 Refugee Convention. They number some 20 million people in the world today – an unwanted record. Migrants include those who have taken up residence with their paperwork in order – yet who still face many forms of discrimination; those whose status is ‘irregular’ and for whom the consequent perils can be more acute; and finally, those on the move, including particularly vulnerable people most tragically epitomized in the hellish situation in which thousands find themselves trapped in places such as Libya.
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