Making the Case for Migration in the Post-2015 Agenda on the occasion of the 2013 High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development Thursday, 3 October 2013, 1:15 – 2:45 pm South Dining Room, United Nations HQ, New York

State sponsors: Governments of Switzerland and Bangladesh
Formal sit-down lunch event

Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to thank the governments of Switzerland and Bangladesh for inviting me to speak to you about migrants, migration and the post-2015 development agenda. As you know, my Office has long held that a new development agenda must fulfil the promise of freedom from fear and want for all people, without discrimination. The concept and practice of development must ensure productive employment and decent work for all, education and health care, adequate housing, food, a voice in public decisions, participation in public affairs, justice, and personal security for all.

So while I acknowledge that the economic impact of migration can help fulfil a new development agenda, I must stress that migrants cannot be seen merely as instruments for the development of others. They cannot continue to be marginalized, disempowered, excluded or left behind. No, we must bring migrant themselves into the centre of any new development agenda, and make them figure within this agenda as its co-beneficiaries.
Migrants are not commodities. Development should not push migrants to migrate as “agents of development”, with no protection of their human and labour rights. Migrants themselves cannot bring about development – that is the role of States and national planning policies. And migrants are also not just the conduit for financial remittances.  The new development agenda must look beyond the dollar value of global remittance flows, and pay much more attention to the conditions in which this money is being earned and the hardship that migrants must endure to send their money home.

Indeed, the post-2015 development agenda cannot go on framing migration solely as a global economic phenomenon.  We must start already now a much broader examination of the development situation of the world’s steadily growing population of migrants. There are more than 232 million of them, many living and working in precarious and unjust conditions.

It is by now axiomatic that economic growth of itself is an inadequate measure of development. In the end, neither growth not poverty reduction will be sustainable without addressing inequality and pervasive discrimination.  Let us understand that development will not work wherever it is remains accompanied by inequality, injustice and repression.

Many migrants travel, live and work in unequal, discriminatory and marginalised conditions. They are often bypassed by development. The poorest among them – irregular, temporary and low-skilled – are naturally the worst-off: their lack of resources and choices means vulnerability to exploitation, and thus continued poverty and suffering for themselves and their children.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The post-2015 development agenda must look to the world of work, for that is an important place where migration and development meet and interact. The agenda must acknowledge the vulnerability of low- and middle-skilled workers and migrant workers in irregular situations. But it should also look beyond the workplace and recognise the significant interaction of migration and development both in the communities that migrants leave and in those that they join, in politics and public places, in homes, in schools and cultural life.

As non-citizens, migrants face unique difficulties, often due to discrimination in their access to essential services like healthcare, education, social security, housing, water and sanitation.

But their vulnerability goes beyond discrimination. Migration policies in their countries of destination can have lasting impacts on the development and human rights of migrants’ families and communities in their country of origin.

For example, detention, particularly when prolonged or in inadequate conditions, does severe, long-term damage to the physical and mental health of migrants. Similarly, when the obligation to report the presence of irregular migrants is placed on public service actors, this can have a direct impact on the ability of irregular migrants to access health, education and housing services, and therefore to realise their human rights.

The post-2015 agenda must apply to all countries and to all people; it should recognise that migrants often live in poverty, marginalised and discriminated against in all host and transit countries, including in countries with the highest human development standards. No society can develop to its true potential when legal, social or political barriers prevent entire sectors of that society from contributing to it.

The new development agenda must be set according to human rights standards and their mechanisms for ensuring accountability. A human rights-based approach will give development analysis and policies the improved measurability and enforceability that it needs, and produce the better outcomes that we all strive for.

Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

 The litmus test of development is the degree to which it satisfies the legitimate demands for freedom from fear and want, for a voice in their societies, and for a life of dignity. But until now, we have been unable to capture the data we need to ensure these human rights are also enjoyed by migrants. The post-2015 agenda is an opportunity to enhance the knowledge base on the human rights dimensions of migrants, especially the most vulnerable ones.  Official data sources on migration are of limited value in tracking the situation of irregular and marginalized migrant populations.

Let us bring all migrants out of the shadows. Let us banish invisibility. Let us establish new, clear benchmarks and indicators to measure the development situation of migrants. If we do this, we will have made a big step towards ensuring the success of the post-2015 development agenda.

I thank you.