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Migration: A Process, Not a Problem

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 23 2013 (IPS) - From 155 million in 1990, the number of migrants in the world today has reached 214 million, with “one in every seven persons on the globe…in a migratory status”, according to William Lacy Swing, director-general of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Speaking during a panel discussion at the U.N. headquarters on Apr. 23, Swing and other speakers condemned the general misconception of migration as a negative phenomenon and underlined the need to conceive of it as “a process to be managed rather than a problem to be solved”.

Other panellists stressed the need for international, national and local coherence and coordination of policies, while recognizing migration as a cross-cutting issue, relevant to all countries and to many sectors within each country including health, employment and social welfare.

International mechanisms and institutions for coordinating efforts on migration management are already in place, but need to be improved.  “We need to question if the present division of labour between the various international bodies is still sufficiently adequate to deal with the societal, economic and political changes ahead of us,” said Johan Ketelers, secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), which submitted a five-year proposal plan on migration to the U.N. General Assembly in November 2012.

ICMC’s suggestions include: regulating migrant labour recruitment industry, protecting migrants stranded in situations of distress as wars and natural disasters, integrating migration in the post-2015 development agenda and redefining international mechanisms of migrants’ rights protection.

Ketelers called for more efficient cooperation, based on structured solidarity and shared responsibilities. “I’m not trying to advocate for a new institution, but rather for a better system, with better mechanisms that include existing actors … a system that is based … on shared responsibilities.”

Referring to the Global Migration Group (GMG), created in 2006 as an umbrella for fourteen U.N. agencies, the World Bank and the IOM, Ketelers said, “The GMG will work if the GMG is given more political power.” Integrating human mobility issues in development frameworks and policies can enhance migration’s positive impact in the countries of origin and destination.

Shamshad Akhtar, Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development at the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), highlighted three ways in particular to emphasise the benefits of migration on development: reducing the transfer costs of remittances; strengthening migration data collection and knowledge sharing; and lowering the costs of migration.

These issues should be addressed in a coherent manner at the international level, on the basis of multilaterally agreed objectives and criteria.  Valid migration indicators and data should be developed and shared in the international community to serve as working material for evidence-based migration policies.

The challenges for global development and cooperation in the present migration context will be the topic of the second U.N. High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (HLD), to be held on Oct. 3 and 4, 2013 at the U.N. headquarters. The first HLD took place in 2006, under the guidance of then U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

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