United Nations Holds Thematic Roundtable Discussions in Preparation for High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development

2013 Roundtable 2

On October 3 and 4, 2013, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) will hold the second High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development. Building upon advances in the field since the first High-Level Dialogue in 2006, the upcoming Dialogue’s theme will be “(i)dentifying concrete measures to strengthen coherence and cooperation at all levels, with a view to enhancing the benefits of international migration for migrants and countries alike and its important links to development, while reducing its negative implications.”

To help prepare Permanent Missions at the UN Headquarters for their participation, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are holding a series of roundtables that foreground topics on the High-Level Dialogue agenda. The first roundtable of 2013, organized on January 24 in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh and the Delegation of the European Union, engaged in discussion and debate on “Migration, Sustainable Development and the Post-2015 Development Framework.”

The first of two panel discussions assessed the effects of international migration on the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. Mr. Dilip Ratha, Lead Economist of the World Bank and Director of the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), opened pointing to the significant linkages between migration and development in migrant-sending countries through remittances. According to World Bank estimates, remittance flows to developing countries will reach over US$ 400 billion in 2013, amounting to three times the size of development aid in the same year. Mr. Ratha then stressed that the growing scale of South-South migration necessitates greater attention be paid to the potential development impact of migration on developing destination countries.

Mr. William Gois, Regional Coordinator of the Migrant Forum in Asia, turned the discussion to the social pillar of sustainable development by stating that the economic gains of migration often incur substantial social costs to migrants and their families. Mr. Gois argued for fostering a rights-based approach to migration in the post-2015 framework, particularly with regard to the design of circular labor migration models.

Addressing the environmental pillar, Dr. Graeme Hugo, Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre, observed that while there has been increased attention toward the relationship between the environment and migration over the last decade, international discourse on climate change has developed separately from that of migration and development. Dr. Hugo argued for the importance of not only seeing migration as a response to cope with environmental change but also recognizing the accompanying development possibilities.  Dr. Hugo cautioned that while international migration will be influenced by climate change, policy attention must also be focused on internal migration which is predicted to be even more substantial.

The second panel discussion identified relevant priorities in view of the preparation of the post-2015 development framework. Ms. Beata Godenzi, Head of the Global Programme Migration of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, affirmed the commitment of the Swiss government to fostering greater policy and institutional coherence on migration and development through its co-sponsorship with the government of Bangladesh of the Global Thematic Consultation on Population Dynamics in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Mr. José Guzmán, Chief of the Population and Development Branch of UNFPA, followed by stating that the Commission on Population Development is also significantly focused on migration as a key dimension of global population dynamics. Mr. Guzman stated that demographic change and differences in world population growth rate, especially an increase in youth and working-age population in developing countries, coupled with a trend of population stagnation and even decline in developed countries, will be a significant future driver of migration. Mr. Guzmán noted that this presents challenges to the management of migration and protection of migrant rights in order to support sustainable development for countries of origin and destination.

Ms. Kathleen Newland, Co-Founder of the Migration Policy Institute, shifted the conversation to address how migration might be included in the post-2015 development framework. She stated that migration-related goals could align with the principles of achieving a cooperative international migration system that is safe, lawful, less costly, and more productive to all stakeholders including migrants and their families, employers, countries and communities of origin and destination. Targets and indicators relating to these aims could include: reducing the transaction costs of remittances; reducing the costs of migration; increasing the level of remittances flowing through formal channels; and ensuring that the proportion of migrants lacking legal authorization to reside in their countries of destination declines. Ms. Newland underscored that a primary challenge facing the post-2015 development agenda goal-setting process is a lack of available data to demonstrate specific impacts of migration policies.

Subsequent preparatory roundtables will focus on measures to ensure respect for and protection of the human rights of all migrants; strengthening partnerships and cooperation on international migration; and the impact of international and regional labor mobility on development.

A video of the roundtable, summary report and presentation documents are available at: http://unobserver.iom.int/index.php/hld-series/81-events/103-hldroundtable2