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Saturday, December 2, 2023
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NEW YORK, Sep 1 2006 (IPS) - Governments are beginning to acknowledge the urgent need for international policies that address the root causes of migration, like poverty and the demand for migrant labour, writes Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and currently President of Realising Rights: The Ethical Globalisation Initiative. In this analysis, Robinson writes that protecting migrants\’ rights is central to any effective migration management. One important way to ensure that human rights issues are firmly on the agenda is to involve civil society and migrants themselves. Robinson observes that migrants with opportunities for decent and legal work contribute more to development than those who are exploited, and that policies which promote human rights like legalisation of status and access to health and housing build the capacity of diaspora communities and help their integration, even while maintaining close ties to their countries of origin.
Governments are beginning to acknowledge the urgent need for international policies that address the root causes of migration, like poverty and the demand for migrant labour.
Following the United Nations High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in New York, EU Ministers struggled to find common ground last week on how to address the growing number of African migrants arriving on European shores.
Such moves towards greater regional and international dialogue and coordination by states on migration issues are to be welcomed. But what is still missing is attention to protecting the human rights of migrants. Human rights standards and commitments should be the starting point for better policy in a range of areas from border security to labour markets to health systems. Protecting migrants’ rights is central to any effective migration management.
The UN dialogue acknowledged the need to move beyond reliance on restrictive policies as the `default’ tool of migration management to recognition of the benefits of migration to origin and destination countries. The notion of co-development — the importance of improving economic and social conditions at both origin and destination — emphasised by a handful of participants in the UN discussions was also a small but significant step in the right direction. But the aversion of states to engaging seriously on the role of human rights in migration and development policies highlighted the political challenge still to be faced.
Why is a greater focus on human rights so important to the migration and development equation?
First, migrants with opportunities for decent and legal work contribute more to development than those who are exploited. Second, policies which promote human rights like legalisation of status and access to health and housing build the capacity of diaspora communities and help their integration, even while maintaining close ties to their countries of origin. Third, human rights are not a matter of choice but are legal obligations under international law, which bind all governments. The international human rights framework, if taken seriously, can contribute to the harmonisation of States’ attitudes through the acceptance of common basic principles. That recognition was largely absent from the recent UN debates.
This is a reminder that we cannot assume that the way forward will be smooth. The current management of migration policies is still based on decisions made by individual nations acting in isolation. Moving from dialogue and consultation to collective policymaking by States remains a distant goal.
The new forum on migration and development proposed as a follow up to the UN dialogue must lead to specific changes in policies and practice at the local, national, and multilateral levels, particularly to prevent abuse and exploitation of migrants.
One important way to ensure that human rights issues are firmly on the agenda is to involve civil society and migrants themselves. Established as a standing body for governments to exchange ideas and practices, it is imperative that these organisations have a voice in shaping the agenda for the forum’s meeting in 2007 which Belgium has offered to host. The growing number of women migrants, who make up a particularly vulnerable segment of migrant populations, should also have an opportunity to share their experiences and be heard. Making such a forum a success over the long term will require the creation of formal mechanisms for consultation with civil society organisations, as opposed to the current proposal which calls for their input on an ‘as-needed’ basis.
Migration is not just about effective policies and coordinated action between governments. It is a matter of protecting human rights, addressing economic and social factors that force people to uproot their lives in search of opportunity, and making links between trade and economic policy and the choices left to migrants.
The challenge ahead is to build on governments’ greater willingness to think collectively about migration. That means seeing migration as a vital component in realising human security, human development, and human rights for all people. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)
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