Round Table on International Migration and Development: The Challenges Ahead

12 October 2004
Author: UNFPA

Distinguished Delegates,



Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you this morning to our Round Table on International Migration and Development.

This round table is one of the many activities being held to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the historic 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

Today, we have an excellent opportunity to take stock of the progress made since the ICPD in the important area of international migration. We are also taking this opportunity to officially launch the joint publication of the International Migration Policy Programme and UNFPA entitled, Meeting the Challenges of Migration: Progress Since the ICPD.

We are here today because we know that migration is an issue that is only going to grow even further in importance and complexity in the years to come.

We are here because we agree with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, when he said at the December 2003 launch of the Global Commission on International Migration:

“Win-win outcomes are possible, if we approach this issue rationally, creatively, compassionately and cooperatively.”

And we are here because we know that the only way to address the challenges ahead is to engage in dialogue and to share experiences.

Of course, international migration is not a new phenomenon. Human beings have been on the move since prehistoric times. People have been crossing national borders in search of better lives and to escape from armed conflict, human rights violations, stagnating economies, environmental degradation, demographic pressures and resource depletion. Migrants seek what all people want: economic well-being, a safe environment and freedom from persecution, or as world leaders stated in the Millennium Declaration, to be free from want and free from fear.

However, what is different now is the magnitude and complexity of the phenomenon. New patterns of migration have arisen as countries that had not experienced significant out-migration face an ever-increasing number of people who are leaving. Likewise, countries that had once been considered origin countries are now experiencing inflows of immigrants. We see that current migration flows have placed the issue of migration high on the international agenda.

It is clear that international migration can no longer be considered peripheral to the mainstream of population policy. It is clear that international migration must be a central part of the global development agenda.

With the decline in fertility in some parts of the world, migration has taken on increased significance, becoming an important component of population growth in many countries. This is seen clearly in this country, the United States. In other countries, particularly in Europe and parts of Asia, population decline, largely as a result of below-replacement fertility, and population ageing have emerged as significant concerns and their effects are only expected to grow in the future. This has prompted researchers and demographers, including those in the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, to deliberate upon the possible role of migration in offsetting these two demographic trends.

Today, we also see that women, once considered passive players who accompanied or joined migrating husbands or other family members, are playing an increasing role in international migration. Women now constitute more than half of the migrant population worldwide and between 70 and 80 per cent of the migrant population in some countries.

Because women migrants often work in gender-segregated and unregulated sectors of the economy, they are at a much higher risk of gender discrimination, violence, human trafficking and sexual abuse. Given these facts, the gender dimensions of migration deserve increased attention. We see, for instance, that legal and health services, including reproductive health, are urgently needed by migrant women.

International Migration and the ICPD

It is important to note that international migration was one of the more important issues to emerge from the International Conference on Population and Development 10 years ago. And it has been on the agenda of every major international conference since then.

The ICPD Programme of Action contains an entire chapter on international migration. In reaching agreement on this issue, delegates pointed out that, to be effective, international migration policies must take into account:

· economic constraints of the receiving country,

· the impact of migration on the host society, and

· the effects of migration on countries of origin.

Recognizing that orderly migration can have positive consequences on both sending and receiving countries, the ICPD Programme of Action called for a comprehensive approach to managing migration. It emphasized both the rights and well-being of migrants and the need for international support to assist affected countries and promote more interstate cooperation.

The ICPD Programme of Action spelled out:

1. The need to address the root causes of migration, especially those related to poverty,

2. The need to encourage more cooperation and dialogue between countries of origin and countries of destination, in order to maximize the benefits of migration, and

3. The need to facilitate the reintegration of returning migrants.

Regional reviews undertaken in connection with the ICPD 10-year anniversary show that both sending and receiving countries are concerned with migration. Some countries have policies to regulate the flow of people, with varying degrees of success.

Results from the UNFPA Global Survey conducted as part of the 10-year review show that 73 per cent of countries responding have taken some action to influence international migration.

International Migration and Development

In general, especially at the global level, migration is increasingly being perceived as a development tool. It is no longer seen as a failure of development, but rather as an integral aspect of the global development process.

Research shows a strong positive correlation between remittances and poverty reduction in developing countries. Although the average size of an international remittance may be quite modest, when added up, the thousands of transfers occurring every month reflect significant amounts of capital being sent from developed countries to the developing world. Last year, migrants sent home at least $90 billion in remittances to their developing countries—an amount that is significantly more than the $60 billion those nations received in development assistance.

International Migration and Human Rights

All over the world, the size and diversity of migrant flows have resulted in growing international attention to such complex issues as xenophobia, discrimination, racism, human trafficking, the human rights of migrants and, most recently, terrorism and national security.

There have been a number of initiatives to address these issues. By far the most important is the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, which entered into force over a year ago. Other initiatives include the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants in 2000 and a Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in 2004. But, so far, these efforts have had a limited impact—the treaty has only been ratified by some 26 countries—and violations of migrants’ human rights continue to be widespread.


Overall, it is clear that migration poses many challenges and that no one can prevent persons from moving across national borders. They will continue to migrate, legally or illegally. What can be done, however, is to manage migration flows in a more orderly way, one that maximizes the benefits and minimizes the costs to both sending and receiving countries as well as to the migrants themselves. In this regard, we are all looking forward to the report of the Global Commission on International Migration, to be released by July next year.

Today, I am pleased to introduce a distinguished panel of speakers, who will share their experiences and insights in addressing the challenges of international migration.

· In launching the new report, Rolf Jenny, of the International Migration Policy Programme, will discuss progress in addressing the challenges of migration since the ICPD.

· Ndioro Ndiaye, of the International Organization of Migration, will discuss the challenges of managing migration for the benefit of all.

· Patrick Taran, of International Labour Organization, will discuss decent work and labour migration: new challenges for the 21st century.

· Pierre Bertrand, of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, will talk about empowering refugees and returnees as agents for development.

· Colleen Thouez, of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, will discuss the concerns and challenges of training and capacity-building in migration policy.

· Joseph Chamie, of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will talk about where we are heading in the area of international migration.

· And Jan Karlsson of the Global Commission on International Migration will share with us the Commission’s progress in providing a framework for the formulation of a coherent, comprehensive and global response to migration issues.

I very much look forward to the presentations and the discussions that will follow. It also gives me great pleasure to invite Mr. Jenny to launch our joint publication, Meeting the Challenges of Migration: Progress Since the ICPD.

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