Global cooperation needed to tackle migration challenges, experts tell UN panel

10 February 2004

Experts meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York today called for a coordinated global response to the problems associated with international migration.

Participating in a panel discussion organized by the UN Commission for Social Development, officials from both developed and developing countries urged a cohesive policy approach to what all termed an inevitable and growing phenomenon.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recently directed international attention to the issue. On 29 January, in a speech to the European Parliament, Mr. Annan told European lawmakers it is "important to manage migration better than we do." He took the same message to the global public in an article published around the world by major newspapers the same day.

Opening today's discussion, Johan Scholvinck, Director of the UN Division for Social Policy and Development, said international migration has taken on greater importance in recent years. He underscored the importance of the Secretary-General's initiative in calling for an independent Global Commission on International Migration, which was launched late last year.

Jacques Baudot, Coordinator of the International Forum for Social Development, said international migration was increasingly diversified across regions. "More and more you find countries that are both the destination and the source of migration," he said. Migrants, he stressed, were not a homogenous group; they varied widely in terms of their treatment, expectations and plans. Predicting a growth in clandestine migration, along with the attendant criminal activities, he called for dialogue among all concerned to foster a more coordinated approach.

Gerónimo Gutiérrez, Vice-Minister for North America at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, agreed that migration is inherent to today's globalized world. He stressed that negative perceptions of migrants must be addressed. "The United Nations has an enormous responsibility and an opportunity to contribute to demystifying the issue and the way it is dealt with," he said. Tightening restrictions on migration, he added, is neither an effective nor a lasting solution. Instead, he called for a balanced approach based on a sense of shared responsibility in dealing with the issue.

Jan O. Karlsson, Co-Chair of the Global Commission on International Migration, called for bridging the gap between decision-makers and those who really knew about the issue. He said the Global Commission would try to give governments and the UN a toolbox of instruments to benefit from the advantages of migration, both on an individual and on a collective level.

Launched on 9 December 2003, the Global Commission is an independent body with mandates to bring migration issues to the top of the global agenda; to analyse shortcomings in approaches by governments or other bodies; and to make recommendations on how to manage migration better.


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