Author Archives: teresadebuque

Towards a new global compact on migration

by Antonio Guterres

Managing migration is one of the most profound challenges for international cooperation in our time.

Migration powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies.  Yet it is also a source of political tensions and human tragedies.  The majority of migrants live and work legally.  But a desperate minority are putting their lives at risk to enter countries where they face suspicion and abuse.

Demographic pressures and the impact of climate change on vulnerable societies are likely to drive further migration in the years ahead.  As a global community, we face a choice.  Do we want migration to be a source of prosperity and international solidarity, or a byword for inhumanity and social friction?

This year, governments will negotiate a Global Compact on Migration through the United Nations.

This will 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.

This is an urgent task.  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.

Grim as these images were, the real scandal is that thousands of migrants suffer the same fate each year, unrecorded.  Many more are trapped in demeaning, precarious jobs that border on slavery anyway.

There are nearly six million migrants trapped in forced labor today, often in developed economies.

How can we end these injustices and prevent them recurring in future?

In setting a clear political direction about the future of migration, I believe that three fundamental considerations should guide discussions of the compact.

The first is to recognize and reinforce the benefits of migration, so often lost in public debate.

Migrants make huge contributions to both their host countries and countries of origin.

They take jobs that local workforces cannot fill, boosting economic activity.  Many are innovators and entrepreneurs.  Nearly half of all migrants are women, looking for better lives and work opportunities.

Migrants also make a major contribution to international development by sending remittances to their home countries.  Remittances added up to nearly $600 billion last year, three times all development aid.

The fundamental challenge is to maximize the benefits of this orderly, productive form of migration while stamping out the abuses and prejudice that make life hell for a minority of migrants.

Secondly, states need to strengthen the rule of law underpinning how they manage and protect migrants – for the benefit of their economies, their societies and the migrants themselves.

Authorities that erect major obstacles to migration – or place severe restrictions on migrants’ work opportunities – inflict needless economic self-harm, as they impose barriers to having their labour needs met in an orderly, legal fashion.

Worse still, they unintentionally encourage illegal migration.

Aspiring migrants, denied legal pathways to travel, inevitably fall back on irregular methods.

This not only puts them in vulnerable positions, but also undermines governments’ authority.

The best way to end the stigma of illegality and abuse around migrants is, in fact, for governments to put in place more legal pathways for migration, removing the incentives for individuals to break the rules, while better meeting the needs of their labor markets for foreign labor.

States also need to work together more closely to share the benefits of migration, for example through partnering to identify significant skills gaps in one country that migrants from another are qualified to fill.

Third and finally, we need greater international cooperation to protect vulnerable migrants, as well as refugees, and we must reestablish the integrity of the refugee protection regime in line with international law.

The fate of the thousands who die in doomed efforts to cross seas and deserts is not just a human tragedy.  It also represents the most acute policy failure: unregulated, mass movements in desperate circumstances fuel a sense that borders are under threat and governments not in control.

In turn this leads to draconian border controls which undermine our collective values and help perpetuate the tragedies we have too often seen unfold in recent years.

We must fulfill our basic obligations to safeguard the lives and human rights of those migrants that the existing system has failed.

We must take urgent action to assist those now trapped in transit camps, or at risk of slavery, or facing situations of acute violence, whether in North Africa or Central America.  We have to envisage ambitious international action to resettle those with nowhere to go.

We should also take steps – through development aid, climate mitigation efforts and conflict prevention – to avoid such unregulated large movements of people in future.  Migration should not mean suffering.

We must aim for a world in which we can celebrate migration’s contributions to prosperity, development and international unity.  It is in our collective power to achieve this goal.  This year’s global compact can be a milestone on the road to making migration truly work for all.

The author is Secretary-General of the United Nations

Press Release: Managing migration is one of the most urgent and profound tests of​ ​international cooperation in our time

New York, 11 January 2018–​“Migration is an expanding global reality” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres maintains in his report released today. “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 report may be downloaded at: http://refugeesmigrants.un.org/sites/default/files/sg_report_en.pdf

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 new ways to help Member States manage migration better based on the Global Compact.

Further information:
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.

More information on the Global Compact: http://refugeesmigrants.un.org/migration-compact

Please contact:
Nora Sturm, sturm@un.org+1 212 963 9338
Office of the UN Special Representative for International Migration (UNHQ, New York)
Jon Greenway, greenway@un.org+ 1 212 963 2124
Donna Cusumano, cusumanod@un.org+1 212 963-1148
Strategic Communications, UN Department of Public Information (UNHQ, New York)