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PRESS BRIEFING BY GLOBAL COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

26 April 2004

The role of the Global Commission on International Migration was to place international migration on the global agenda, analyse gaps in current policy approaches to migration and examine inter-linkages with other issues, such as development and security, the Commission’s co-Chair, former Swedish Minister for Migration and Development Jan Karlsson, told correspondents at a Headquarters press briefing this afternoon.

Launched on 9 December 2003 by Secretary-General Kofi Annan with the support of Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil, Morocco and the Philippines, the Commission comprises 18 independent members. Its mandate is to analyse gaps in current policy approaches to international migration and provide the framework for a coherent, comprehensive and global response.

Co-chaired by Mamphela Ramphele of South Africa, Managing Director of the World Bank, the Commission held its first meeting in Stockholm in February, and would submit its final report and recommendations to the Secretary-General by summer 2005.

Joining Mr. Karlsson was Rolf K. Jenny, Executive Director, Global Commission Secretariat, and Joseph Chamie, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, who said the report would be coming out at an appropriate time, since the General Assembly would be holding a high-level dialogue on international migration and development in 2006. Also in 2006, the Commission on Population and Development would be addressing that issue as its special theme.

Presenting the priority areas the Commission would be looking into, Mr. Jenny said the first area was migrants in the labour market, including such issues as the demographic implications of migration and the impact of trade policies on migration pressures. The second priority area would cover migration, economic growth, development and poverty reduction. Within that context, the Commission would look into migrant remittances -- the money migrants sent back to their countries of origin -- and their impact on those countries.

The third area, he continued, related to irregular migratory movements, also covering topics such as human trafficking and border control measures. The fourth area was how well migrants could integrate into society. That would cover issues like how they were received and treated, and their impact on the culture, religion and economy of host countries. The Commission would also examine the need for a global normative framework. Was the time right for a global system to manage migratory flows? The last area related to institutional activities. Was the system existing today, both within and outside the United Nations, what was needed at the global level to deal with migration issues?

Mr. Karlsson said, in response to a question, that migration would not go back in history, but try to look ahead and find ways to address the demographic situation that pointed to a situation in which large groups of people were moving across borders. Migrants were people leaving their countries for different reasons to live in other countries, sometimes to stay and sometimes to return.

As to whether the report would address possible institutional changes in the United Nations system to better respond to migration issues, Mr. Karlsson said that one of the issues the Commission would be looking into through regional consultations was how present institutions were working. It would then decide whether to recommend major institutional changes or not. The Commission would hold its second meeting in Manila in May, which would be its first regional consultation.

Referring to a news article citing the World Bank President as pointing out that 1 million young people would look for jobs in the developing world in the coming years, Mr. Karlsson said many of them would not find jobs that suited their needs and they would then seek jobs elsewhere. Parallel to that, as a result of low birth rates and the ageing of populations in developed countries, there would be a need for migration in years to come. While, on the one hand, one could see an enormous risk for confrontation, on the other, it was a “win-win” situation, in which the interests of both the developed and developing world might coincide.

To find systems of managed migration that might help solve that dilemma was one of the “exciting tasks” of the Commission, he added. In that regard, the case of India and the United States was one example of migration that had led to good developments for both the receiving and sending countries.

Regarding the likely reactions from the European Union to the recommendations that might emanate from the Commission’s work, Mr. Karlsson said the issue was a sensitive one for Europeans because their short-term politics tended to want to keep migrants out while everyone knew that, in the medium term, Europe would need an enormous influx of immigrants to run the European welfare States. That dilemma had not been settled, and it was one that the Commission would also have to deal with. Therefore, one issue to be addressed was how to enhance integration, one of the most important issues from a European point of view. While personally very worried that the dilemma was politically unsolved, he was happy to note the presence of experienced, highly qualified Europeans on the Commission.

Mr. Jenny said the Commission was eager to listen and learn, as well as visit regions to ascertain the regional specificities regarding migration flows and how governments in different regions were challenged by those flows. What happened in Africa was not the same as what happened in Asia or in developed countries. The first regional meeting in Manila would bring together not only governments, but also non-governmental bodies, experts and the media, which had an important responsibility in reporting about migration. Media could influence the public perceptions, especially in the context of integration.

More information on the Global Commission could be found on the Web site -– www.gcim.org.

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