Plenary Statement, 6th Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development (TICAD VI): “Advancing Africa’s sustainable development agenda - TICAD partnership for prosperity”

Date Publish: 
Saturday, August 27, 2016 - 11:00
Mr. William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration
Nairobi, Kenya

Mr. Chairperson, Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Heads of Delegations, Distinguished Guests, Colleagues and Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen


It is a distinct honour to be here in Nairobi for the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development. The theme, “Advancing Africa’s sustainable development agenda – TICAD partnership for prosperity” is most timely – is the first year of the 2030 agenda. IOM is proud to have been associated with TICAD since its inception.

Let me start by thanking the Government of Kenya for hosting this auspicious gathering, as well as the Government of Japan and the co-sponsors for their sustained support of Africa's development through the TICAD framework.

On a personal note, let me express my express  my great pleasure to be back in Africa where I have had the honour of spending thirty years of my life a diplomat and peace-keeper. I love this  marvellous continent a great deal.

I would like to make three points:

I. Migration is this era’s “megatrend"

We live in an era of the greatest human mobility in recorded history. Numerically, there are more people on the move today than ever before: One billion migrants in our seven billion world – One in Seven. The reasons are many and complex. I call these “migration megatrends” others call these forces Root Causes. In any case, these are the Drivers that propel human mobility: demographics, disasters, distance-shrinking technologies, demand for labor and socio-economic disparities. Even as we meet, countless numbers of people in Africa or elsewhere are on the move.

Some are looking for an opportunity to work, study or conduct business. Others are going to study or to join family members abroad. Still others still are seeking relief from persecution, conflict or disaster; some are driven to move by climate chage and environmental degradation.

Our world should be mature enough to enable these people to meet their aspirations or needs but mobility is increasing at a time of unprecedented crisis, conflicts and humanitarian emergencies; when global economic growth is lagging and nation states are struggling with the challenge of managing social diversity within their borders and resistant to any compromise between national sovereignty and human aspiration.

It is a cruel irony that – even as IOM celebrates its 65th Anniversary in 2016, some traditional migrant countries that in the past, took pride in being a "migrant society" or a "nation of migrants" are no longer sure they want to welcome newcomers.  And yet migrants are critical for economic recovery and future growth. We can no longer think about our economies, societies or cultures without considering human mobility. Migration is inevitable, necessary and desirable – when well governed. The IOM Philosophy is that Migration is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be managed.

This then brings me to my second point namely;

II. Migration is key to Africa’s blueprint for economic integration

Africa’s ambitions for economic integration are large as rightly as they should be. The nations of this great continent know that to develop their full potential requires common economic objectives and work cooperatively. Economic integration expands markets and employment opportunities allows more efficient investment, promotes diffusion of technology – attracts foreign  investment and create an environment that promotes creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Human mobility – in particular the mobility of talent – is an essential part of that framework for economic integration and development.

The facilitation of labour mobility at all skill levels can boost intra-regional economic development and reduce the negative impact of irregular migration.

It would therefore be wise to:

  • Streamline entry procedures for migrant workers;
  • Ensure that the human rights of workers are fully respected;
  • Relax entry requirements for service provider
  • Ensure non-discriminatory treatment in the terms and conditions of service, elimination of the economic needs tests in recruitment, and;
  • Ensure mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications obtained and awarded in Africa’s training institutions.

This brings me to my final point:

III. Migration is a driver of sustainable economic and social development

It is for this reason that I made a passionate appeal for the inclusion of migration in the post 2015 Development agenda – the SDGs. Establishing regular, transparent and comprehensive labour migration policies, legislation and structures at the national and regional levels can significantly benefit States of origin and destination.

For countries of origin, for example, remittances, and skills and technology transfers can help attain overall development objectives. On that note, let me congratulate the Government of Kenya for hosting the African Institute of Remittances to build capacities to ensure cost-effective remittance transfers. IOM has been one of the key partners alongside the AU, EU, World Bank and the AfDB.

For countries of destination, labour migration may satisfy important labour market needs. Labour migration policies and legislation that incorporate appropriate labour standards also benefit labour migrants, members of their families, and can have a positive impact on society generally. These benefits, however, can only be fully optimized if people migrate in a safe, dignified, and orderly manner.

It is, therefore, important to underline the need to cooperate – regionally and internationally – to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration – mobility that involve full respect for human rights, mobility that insists on humane treatment of migrants regardless of migration status. It is a humanitarian imperative to protect the welfare and human rights of migrants and we must highlight the potential role of intra-regional migration and mobility within Africa in reducing the pressure and numbers of people using irregular and dangerous migration channels.

In view of the benefits of migration and its potential contribution to “advancing Africa’s sustainable development agenda and TICAD partnership for prosperity” – I wish to make a similar passionate appeal for the inclusion of migration and human mobility in the Nairobi Declaration and Plan of Action.


To conclude, people will continue to resort to migration as an avenue to improve their life prospects. But they and their families are not the only ones deriving benefit from this. Good migration governance can ensure that migration contributes to development. This is best done by building a broad and durable consensus amongst a wide constituency, and applying these coherently and in a coordinated manner through partnerships.

As you know, IOM has existed outside the UN system for 65 years. IOM currently has 165 member states, including all African states but one. Over the past two years, IOM Member States have deliberated IOM’s status and have come to the conclusion that an improved relationship between the UN and IOM is needed. IOM Member States and the UN General Assembly have unanimously adopted an agreement which paves the way for IOM’s entry into the United Nations system as a related organization. Following this development, IOM stands ready – more than ever – to work closely with all of you and to support your efforts in making migration work for the development of the region.

I thank you for your kind attention.