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High Level Event on Human Security

Publishing Date: 05-09-2013
Speaker: Ms. Laura Thompson, Deputy Director General, International Organization for Migration
Location: United Nations Headquarters, New York

Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
Mrs. Sadako Ogata, co-Chair of the Commission on Human Security,
Mr. Surin Pitsuwan, former Secretary General of ASEAN and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand,
Ms. Sonia Picado, Chair of the Advisory Board on Human Security,
Distinguished Panelists, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is an honour for me, on behalf of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to join this distinguished group of speakers at this High Level Event on Human Security.   IOM welcomes this timely discussion of an issue that is ever more relevant in our interconnected world, and one of the principal challenges facing the global community and its 7 billion citizens in the 21st century. 

IOM’s commitment to the pursuit of human security – for individuals first and foremost and for societies – is unwavering and matches our belief that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society.

IOM’s experience with the Trust Fund has highlighted the added value of the human security approach that is based not only on individual personal security but also on addressing community security as a whole. The focus is above all on putting people at the centre, and not on simply providing assistance for immediate needs or imposing solutions on people as beneficiaries. It is on empowering the people, and looking at improving the human condition. Its comprehensiveness encourages a deeper and broader analysis of the root causes and consequences of threats in people's everyday lives. Besides encouraging partnerships within the UN system, it encourages cooperation with local authorities, civil society, different community actors and media, leading to a more sustainable, comprehensive and integrated approach to helping vulnerable groups.

The concept of human security is indeed fundamental for an Organization like IOM whose core mandate relates to people – migrants - that face several and different vulnerabilities and insecurities, and for an issue – migration - that is one of the most cross-cutting issues. 

IOM has implemented 10 UN Trust Fund projects with a total value of USD 8.5 million in Costa Rica, Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, Nicaragua, Panama, and Thailand in recent years. And in doing so, we have learned a great deal and influenced the way we approach people and issues.

In Moldova, applying the human security approach helped focus the attention of all stakeholders on two less traditional security threats, but with nonetheless wide social implications, the interlinked problems of domestic violence and human trafficking.  IOM has been working with the Government of Moldova, civil society actors, UNDP, UNFPA and OSCE to protect and empower victims of human trafficking and domestic violence through a two-pronged approach: from the bottom-up in partnership with relevant community-level governmental officials, civil society actors, and media to empower communities and individuals, and from the top-down in partnership with appropriate governmental institutions to strengthen the protection system.  This holistic human security approach has resulted in the expansion of available services to vulnerable groups - victims or potential victims of trafficking and domestic violence.

In Kenya, IOM is working with UNDP, FAO, WHO UNICEF, ILO and OCHA to help vulnerable pastoralist groups under threat by climate change. The project is empowering local communities and building on local capacities to preserve human dignity, reduce inter-communal, cross-border tensions and promote social and economic development, with a particular focus on youth.  Activities to promote peace building sensitisation for co-existence and environmental stewardship among the youth include sports for peace - such as bicycle peace runs and matches - and tree planting exercises.  IOM is also raising awareness and building the capacity of local and provincial authorities, immigration officers and partners on risk factors of irregular migration, how to promote safe migration, and how to use safe migration as an adaptation strategy.   

I could mention additional relevant experiences from the other projects that we are implementing, like the one in Thailand that the distinguished Minister mentioned before, that highlight the strong benefits of the more comprehensive and partnership oriented approach which we believe the Trust Fund on Human Security has brought to our work and that of our partners. But as with anything that is worthwhile and life-changing, there are challenges to be faced and overcome. There are two in particular that I would like to mention.

First, from our experience it has been challenging to implement the human security vision with local partners that are not fully equipped to carry out such projects with a people-centric approach which empowers the populations. This has required, and continuous to require, understanding and developing the capacities of local authorities, NGOs, communities and individuals through the provision of information, training, technical assistance, as well as continuous communication and coaching.

Another challenge that we have faced is the lack of clarity and common understanding, until the adoption of the resolution of the General Assembly, of the concept of human security and its implications at the practical level, particularly in what are often changing and challenging political contexts. These circumstances affect the capacity and priorities of government authorities, which have the overall responsibility in the human security approach, and require a continuous dialogue and adaptation of projects to ensure efficiency and ownership.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that IOM firmly believes that the broad and comprehensive scope of the human security approach is well-suited to strengthening the partnerships within the international community. This approach taps into the expertise and comparative advantage of each of the participating agencies, contextualises it to local dynamics, and ensures that the human dimension is at the heart of what we are doing.

The simultaneous bottom-up and top-down approach encourages government ownership and sustainability. Addressing the root causes of insecurity, the human security approach encourages a truly multi-sectoral response to contemporary multi-dimensional challenges, and migration is certainly one of them.

I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Member States, trust fund donors and other partners, the Advisory Board on Human Security, and the Human Security Unit in particular, for their excellent leadership and cooperation.

Thank you. * *** *