Statement, Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation

Date Publish: 
Monday, May 15, 2017 - 11:15
Speaker: 
Mr. William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration
Location: 
Beijing, China

It’s an honor to take part in this forum of monumental importance. I wish to congratulate President Xi Jingping and the Government of China for the ”One Belt and One Road” Initiative and for the remarkable progress achieved since President Xi announced it in 2013.

The significance of this Initiative goes far beyond China and even Asia.

The ”Belt and Road” Initiative demonstrates China’s commitment to building a community sharing a common future, a community achieved by creating opportunities for development and shared prosperity among neighboring countries.

People-to-people connections can play a crucial role in this process. I wish to make three points:

  1. Migration, or human mobility, will be key to co-building the “Belt and Road”;
  2. Human mobility promotes “win-win” development;
  3. Labor mobility is essential to the open, inclusive community of the “Belt and Road”.

1. Migration, or mobility of human capital is an essential element in co-building the “Belt and Road” community

The one feature that most sets today’s world apart from yesterday’s world is the networks of exchange and communication networks, networks that enable resources and ideas to flow between and within our communities, large and small. 

The facilitation of the movement of capital, goods and services has been of enormous benefit to the global community. However, the missing piece of the globalization network, free flow of people, holds promise of even greater prosperity. President Xi’s “One Belt and One Road” Initiative foresees just such solid platform of international people-to-people cooperation and solidarity.

The Belt and Road Initiative is coming into fruition at a time of maximum opportunity. The Initiative focuses on (1) infrastructural connectivity, (2) economic policy coordination, (3) trade and investment facilitation, and (4) financial integration. The Initiative will boost regional economic cooperation and integration and inject, at the same time, new validity into the global economy. 

Each of these features will contribute to a fifth outcome that I would like to emphasize – “people-to-people exchanges”. Human capital is one of the world’s most important resources – perhaps its most critical and most indispensable resource. Whenever anything important is to be discussed, planned and realized, people must get together and work together – as we are doing today at the invitation of our host Government.

Regional and global progress both stand to benefit from – and indeed depend largely on the facilitation of human mobility, which happens to be my second point.

2. Human mobility promotes “win-win” or shared development

Human beings are at the very heart of social and economic development: people sustain development; and people benefit from the development they enable. Historically, human mobility, or migration has always been an integral part of that complex mosaic called development. Migrants are quintessential agents of development; and migration is the world’s oldest and original anti-poverty strategy.  

In discussing the nexus between migration and development, the focus of attention falls most frequently on the remittances that migrants send back to their countries of origin – a capital flow that amounted over USD 600 billion in 2016, including USD 430 that went to developing countries. But migrant remittances are only a fraction of the total economic impact of human mobility – and perhaps not even the most important element. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, human mobility contributed to roughly USD 6.7 trillion or 9.4 percent of global GDP in 2015.

Migrants contribute to development in many ways. But IOM has learned – through its long experience working with Member States – that highly skilled mobile workers operate as creators, multipliers and transmitters of knowledge. Migrants are also esteemed for their willingness to take risks and for their entrepreneurial flair and ability.

Migrants contributions are by no means limited to the high skilled. Low and middle-level skilled workers also contribute across the board to societies and economies with “skilled hearts and hands”.

In brief, within the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, people-to-people exchanges will play an indispensable role. The exchanges can be platforms for the development of diverse and innovative workforces – workforces that can meet the challenge of producing goods and delivering services for the global market that the “Belt and Road” hope to create.

3. Labor Mobility is essential to the open, inclusive community of the “Belt and Road”

For this Initiative to be truly successful, however, its implementation must be open and inclusive; that, President Xi has stressed from the outset. A critical element in building that community will be the mobility of labor between nations. Connectivity is a defining feature of our world today. That connectivity comes in many shapes and forms, some more readily apparent than others. Human connectivity covers, for instance, transport and travel, trade and services, communication and knowledge exchanges.

These are all transaction networks, networks that imply partnerships and joint endeavors, concepts intrinsic to the “Belt and Road” Initiative. President Xi’s initiative has been inclusive from the outset, which is why so many leaders are gathered here today.

Ultimately, the term Belt and Road is a reminder of what can be achieved through broad vision and purposeful inclusive effort, all of which is consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Conclusion

I conclude by, once again, congratulating the President and the Government of China for the remarkable progress already achieved under the “One Belt and One Road” Initiative, in such a short time; by offering my very best wishes for the continuing success; and by confirming IOM’s support for the Initiative on Promoting Unimpeded Trade Cooperation along the Belt and Road.

I wish also to thank the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) for hosting this thematic session.