Ban Ki-moon urges immediate and effective action to aid plight of migrants

10 July 2007

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged immediate and effective action to aid the plight of the world’s 200 million migrants, characterizing the phenomenon of migration as “one of the great global challenges of our century.”

“We can ensure that people move in a way that is safe and legal, and which protects their rights,” Mr. Ban said in his address to the inaugural Global Forum on Migration and Development in Brussels, Belgium.

“We can work to strengthen the positive impact of migration on the development of migrants’ home countries. We can encourage destination countries to promote the success of migrants, both in their original and their adopted homes.”

Mr. Ban noted that the emergence of migration – a “sensitive” issue – as a top priority was a slow process, culminating in the launch of the Forum.

“As we have grasped migration’s powerful potential for good, old stereotypes have crumbled, and new opportunities have captured our imaginations,” he said, observing that migrants are propelled by the “age-old pursuit of a better life, as well as by increasingly understood phenomena such as climate change.”

Therefore, he said, “we accept that we must take effective action without delay.”

Although migrants have been assisting their families and communities for decades, it is only recently that there has been a deepened understanding of how effective policies can augment the positive boon on development posed by migration.

Mr. Ban stressed that migrants have much to offer – in the economic, social and cultural realms – to developed countries.

“Their cultures, values and traditions not only enrich our societies, but enable us to adapt successfully to a world that is growing fast,” he said, citing how migrants have founded prominent companies such as eBay, Mittal, Google and Intel, as well as becoming innovators in research.

He pointed out that lesser-skilled migrants also have much to contribute, performing “many of the most essential tasks that undergird our well-being.”

Underscoring his commitment to the Forum’s efforts, Mr. Ban pledged the UN’s support through his Special Representative for Migration and Development, Peter Sutherland, who was reappointed to his post today.

Also speaking at the Forum was Director Carmen Moreno of the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW), who emphasized the important role women play with regard to remittances.

Noting that half of all remittance senders and the greater part of remittance recipients are women, she said that “unless the entire migration process is examined from a gender perspective, projects that aim to maximize the pros and reduce the cons of remittances are doomed to fail.”

Over 120 Governments, 200 civil society representatives, and numerous international organizations and UN institutions are expected to attend the Forum, which concludes tomorrow.

While in Brussels, Mr. Ban also met today with Javier Solana, the European Union High Representative, and highlighted the “very friendly and cooperative relationship” between their respective offices.

Following their discussions, Mr. Ban told reporters that he discussed the issue of Kosovo at length with Mr. Solana.

“Because of the lack of progress in taking action on the recommendation of my Special Envoy for the future status of Kosovo, my position is that any further delay or prolongation of this issue will not be beneficial, not only for the Balkan States but also for the unity of the European Union.”

He asked the parties involved to “not take any premature unilateral actions which may further complicate this already complicated issue.”