Thursday, 12 July 2007

155 UN Member States Mark Close of Inaugural Global Forum on Migration and Development: Landmark Event Ends With Commitments for Action

BRUSSELS, JULY 11 : The inaugural meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development closed on a high note Wednesday, with participating states announcing new initiatives and partnerships. The Forum, which attracted 155 UN Member States and over 800 participants, opened yesterday in the presence of Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"You converted this meeting into a landmark in the migration and development debate, with frank and interesting exchanges of experiences and many concrete suggestions for further action," declared the chair of this inaugural Global Forum, Ambassador Regine De Clercq of Belgium "In fact, we moved development to center stage in the migration debate. This new approach opens more space for both development and migration policy objectives to be reached."

Peter Sutherland, United Nations Special Representative for Migration, emphasized the unique character of the event in his closing remarks: "The Forum is a place where policymakers can learn the state-of-the-art in migration and development, and build relationships of trust amongst each other that lead to practical partnerships."

Forum discussions helped shift the paradigm of the migration and development debate. "We now understand better how migration policies can contribute to development and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and we all recognize migration as an opportunity, not a threat," said the Forum chair.

Several countries announced the launch of projects based on discussions at the Forum, including ones that involve measuring and analyzing the development impacts of migration and reducing its costs.

Many states announced their intention to, among other initiatives, issue diaspora bonds; securitize remittance flows; develop automatic clearing house systems to reduce the cost of remittances and facilitate more flows through formal, banking channel; launch partnership projects to address brain drain by setting up a training facilities for doctors and nurses; implement measures to improve the financial literacy of the migrants in the host countries and their families back home, so that migrants can make informed financial decisions; and the develop systems to provide pre-departure training and information to migrants about the benefits and also risks associated with migration.

The government of the Philippines, which will host the second Global Forum in 2008, also announced its preliminary plans.

Among the key issues discussed by states were:

* Governments agreed that migration should not become an alternative to national development strategies in the developing countries. Nor should it become a substitute for commitments to development by the donor countries.

* The scope that exists for looking at the development challenges of regions with high out-migration pressures, to ensure that people are not driven to migrate out of necessity and despair.

* The need for capacity building, including for data collection on migration flows and development impact analyses; for the identification of diaspora partners; and for training officials to better implement migration and development policies.

* The fact that many countries - in particular countries of origin, but also in many destination countries in the North as well as the South - simply do not have the knowledge or the tools to address migration and development issues. Such tools have to be crafted. The Forum discussed good practices with respect to regulation as well as facilitation of remittances, recruitment, use of new technologies, transparency in financial and labor markets, protection of migrants, retention and return of skills, and circular migration.

* How migrants and their families can play a role as actors of development.

* Respect for human rights and gender equality should be mainstreamed throughout the migration and development debate.

In her closing address, Ambassador De Clercq noted: "It is fair to say that our meeting of the last 3 days heralds a new common vision on migration and development, based on cooperation and partnership, rather than on confrontation."

The two intergovernmental days of the Forum were preceded by the Civil Society Day on 9 July, organized by the King Baudouin Foundation. More than 200 civil society representatives gathered to offer organized input to the governmental discussions.

The agenda of Civil Society Day largely mirrored the governmental agenda. Recommendations were presented to governments in the first plenary session of the inter-governmental discussions, including:

- Governments should ratify and effectively implement as well as monitor compliance of the UN and ILO standards of protection for migrant workers and their families; they should legislate national laws and policies to promote and fulfill the rights of migrant workers and members of their families, particularly the women and children.
- Migration policies regarding highly skilled workers should be properly linked to development policies to ensure that conditions exist that provide the opportunity to retain them ;
- Policies on remittance transfer mechanisms should aim to improve access, lower costs and increase of choices available to remittance senders.

Press release of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation.

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