Opening Remarks, Global Forum on Migration and Development, Berlin, Germany

Date Publish: 
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 - 15:30
Speaker: 
Mr. William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration
Location: 
Berlin, Germany

H.E. Sigmar Gabriel (Foreign Minister, Germany),

H.E. Gerd Müller (Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany),

H.E. Mr. Nasser Bourita (Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Morocco).

GFMD Co-Chairs Ambassador Dr. Götz Schmidt-Bremme, H.E. Mr. El Habib Nadir

Distinguished delegates, colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a distinct honor to have been invited to take part in the opening of this conference. It is, as usual a pleasure to meet with the international migration community.

This is the tenth edition of the Global Forum on Migration and Development. I missed out on the first – it occurred before I joined IOM. But I have been a faithful participant ever since.

A tenth anniversary is an ideal opportunity to look back and celebrate all that the GFMD has achieved. At the same time, it allows us to reflect on what this very special process is about, what it means to us all and what we may expect from it in the future.

I have, accordingly, organized my thoughts in three parts: GFMD’s past, its present and some thoughts about the future.

The past

The GFMD arose out of a strongly felt need for governments to have a space for discussion and information exchange – allowing them to engage in voluntary, informal and non-binding discussions on migration and development. This was, however, quite a challenge. Migratory realities are not the same everywhere. Each government has its specific set of interests, concerns and priorities. There are many overlaps, of course, but equally many differences.

The GFMD’s first achievement has been to bring governments from all regions of the world to survey the migratory landscape and in due course civil society and the private sector joined the deliberations. The Forum has been and continues to be first and foremost a platform for the sharing of experiences and the exploration of best practices.

The GFMD’s second achievement has been the development of a broad balanced agenda built around the core issue of migration and development.  A look back at the meeting programs for past GFMDs reveals there is hardly any policy issue that has remained untouched: human rights;  labour migration and all its accompanying policy challenges such as protection, recruitment, preparation and orientation and decent working conditions; return and reintegration; border management; and integration – to name but a few – they have all been addressed.

The GFMD’s third achievement has been its very significant contributions other global consultative processes such the second  High-level Dialogue on Migration and Development, the 2030 Agenda, and, especially, the September 2016 Summit on Refugees and Migration.

The present

The present is us – we who are at work in Berlin. The present is well-reflected in the Forum’s agenda for this week and particularly in the roundtable themes and topics. I commend the German and Moroccan Co-Chairs for their vision for this year’s Forum, where they have chosen to highlight three key areas:

  1. The need to promote coherence between national and local policies to ensure coordinated response at every level of government.
  2. The importance of encouraging partnerships to enhance the development impact of migration and to facilitate voluntary return.
  3. The relevance of cooperation with the private sector and the civil society to explore new avenues for the integration of migrants in the job market and in the host community in general.

The GFMD has contributed to the development of shared practices and common tools, and I believe this unique nature of the GFMD will certainly facilitate the negotiation process for the global compacts and inform future developments. Which leads me to my third and final point.

The future

While the roadmap to the future of migration has now been fully drawn yet, we know the name of the next important milestone. It is the Global Compact on Migration.

I believe we all agree that we dare not miss this “rendezvous with history”, as this opportunity may not present itself again. The GCM invites the international community to move away from reactive, unidimensional approaches to migration governance, and to reach consensus on a comprehensive framework which will enable migrants to move in a safe, orderly and dignified way.

The fact is, migration will continue, whether we act or whether we don’t but migrants will be forced to undertake more arduous and irregular pathways if they are not presented with legal and safe alternatives. And migration governance will become an even more intractable conundrum.

We must not go there. The Global Compact Migration point us in a different direction. A direction I have sometimes referred to as the “High Road”:

  1. Facilitating safe, orderly and regular migration – the migration we wish to have;
  2. Reducing the incidence and impacts of forced and irregular migration – the migration we do not wish to have; and
  3. Responding to the mobility impacts of natural and human-made disasters – the migration that occurs whether we want it or not.

To do so we must place migrants and their rights, needs and capacities at the heart of our efforts, and we need to address the relationship of migration to critical adjoining policy domains, including development, humanitarian, climate change, and peace and security, in a truly comprehensive way. 

Conclusion

I am sure that GFMD 2017 can keep things moving in the right direction.

I trust that the discussions over the next few days will help the GFMD community  find constructive, imaginative ways of contributing to the GCM enterprise.