The 2nd High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development has started!



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Cristina Ughi



“Each of us holds a piece of the migration puzzle, but none has the whole picture. It’s time to start putting it together”. (opening speech, Kofi Annan, HLD 2006).

The 2013 High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development has started today in the UN Headquarters.


Why talk about migration and development today?

We are living in an era of unprecedented human mobility, where one billion out of seven billion people are migrating. Countries are now simultaneously countries of origin, transit and of destination, a phenomenon that demands an increased international effort for cooperation, management, and policy coherence. Globally and over the last decade, development actors, policy-makers, researchers, and migrants themselves have recognized and have proved through concrete initiatives that migration can be a key enabler for development. Migrant communities around the world have become strategic partners in cooperation frameworks and their input into policy-making is increasingly sought after. More governments are seeking to include migration in their national and local development planning strategies. Overall, these trends are positive and speak for the joint effort and success of migration and development practitioners who were able raise the profile of migration into the global development agenda.

Looking back, international migration had been addressed transversally in the United Nations at various international conferences and summits. For instance in 2003, the General Assembly decided to hold a High Level Dialogue (HLD) which then materialized in 2006. What many international organisations and experts argued for was the need to address the multidimensional aspects of international migration and development and thus to maximize the development benefits of migrations. They aimed at introducing a framework which would allow member states to construct a common global migration and development agenda.

The 2006 HLD was thus a first experience of multilateral dialogue in the field Migration and Development. Although migration was validated as an enabling factor for development by all parties involved, the 2006 HLD was not able to generate a consensus on a norm-setting institution or regime on migration. Instead, it gave birth to the “Global Forum on Migration and Development” (GFMD) that aimed at increasing dialogue between governments and other stakeholders, such as international organizations, NGOs, academia and the private sector. Since the first GFMD in 2007, more and more topics related to migration were covered in such international fora with the result of a strong community that is pushing the agenda forward ever since.

Following the success of both the 2006 HLD and the subsequent 6 GFMD, the members of the General Assembly decided to hold a second HLD on M&D. One the one hand it is an opportunity to take stock of the achievements of the past 7 years. Moreover, it is a timely call to discuss new topics of concern and start envisaging new frameworks, goals and roles. The 2013 HLD thus aims at guiding the global migration policy agenda, by developing concrete recommendations for positive effects of migration on development, and to ensure that the issue of international migration is brought into the post-2015 development debate.


How will it take place?

During the 2013 HLD, high level representatives of governments will start “identifying concrete measures to strengthen coherence and cooperation at all levels, with a view to enhancing the benefits of international migration for migrants and countries alike and its important links to development, while reducing its negative implications”. There will be four overarching round table themes:

  • Roundtable 1: Assessing the effects of international migration on sustainable development and identifying relevant priorities in view of the preparation of the post- 2015 development framework.
  • Roundtable 2: Measures to ensure respect for and protection of the human rights of all migrants, with particular reference to women and children, as well as to prevent and combat the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons and to ensure orderly, regular and safe migration.
  • Roundtable 3: Strengthening partnership and cooperation on international migration, mechanisms to effectively integrate migration into development policies and promoting coherence at all levels.
  • Roundtable 4: International and regional labour mobility and its impact on development.

Key challenges of the UN High Level Dialogue (HLD) on International Migration and Development

  • Preparing for the Post-2015 Development Agenda : Migration as a key dimension of development

Migration and mobility should be seen as “enabling factors” for development. The contribution of migrant and diaspora communities are increasingly recognized in countries of destination and origin in various forms (remittances, innovation, trade and investment, and through the transfer of technology, skills and knowledge). Today, among the key “the missing pieces” of the M&D puzzle, is the inclusion of migration into national development planning. Most countries still strongly link migration to immigration control, irregular migration and human trafficking. Considering the positive impacts of migration for development evidenced by programmes such as the Joint Migration and Development Initiative, the HLD represents a unique opportunity to make the case for including migration as a key theme in the post-2015 Development Agenda and to obtain commitments from governments that take the issue up.

  • Migrants have to be integrated in national policies
In order to ensure that policies targeting the protection of migrant’s rights, gender issues, children rights, trafficking of human beings, asylum, labour migration, human development, and the contribution of diaspora groups to development are adequate, migrants need to be part of any consultative processes.  Instead of perceiving migrants as a threat or as simple instruments, member states should perceive them valuable partners in the development cooperation frameworks that they set out to implement. A key achievement of this year’s HLD was the role attributed to civil society in this process. During the summer, selected CSOs had an opportunity to interact with the governments at a panel discussion held on the 25th of June and at the Interactive Hearings on the 15th of July. The Civil Society is participating in the HLD, both inside and outside of the official processes of the HLD. This is unprecedented and shows that previous efforts of giving civil society a voice in international fora are bearing fruits. Civil Society is suggesting adopting a “5-year, 8-point Action plan as an outcome of this year’s HLD, which includes better policy planning and coherence that can make migration a choice rather than a necessity; further engagement of diaspora and migrant associations as development agents; a stronger legal framework and mechanisms to protect the rights of migrants and empower them; a better compliance between international conventions and national legislations; a better regulation of the migrant labour recruitment industry and labour rights for migrant workers.
  • Strengthen partnership, coherence and cooperation on international migrations at all level

The second HLD could be a way to strengthen governance by improving global, regional and local dialogue as well as transversal discussion between diverse stakeholders, civil society organizations, private sector, and migrants themselves. Building partnerships and intergovernmental mechanisms is essential while dealing with migrations: no country can manage international migration alone.

The Joint Migration and Development Initiative thus believes to hold a unique piece of the M&D puzzle and will bring into the discussions of the HLD the importance of the local level. It will contribute to the HLD by presenting some of its key findings as global programme at a side-event on Friday, 4th October and will bring to the attention of the member states that cities, and local and regional authorities have major responsibilities to bear but also significant opportunities to seize from migration. Cities such as New York, Cuenca, and Barcelona will showcase their work and make the case that migration can work for local development. The side event, which is co-organised with UNITAR and KNOMAD, will argue that it is about time to look into the role that decentralized levels of governments can play in the field of migration and development.

The migration puzzle has no static frame, it is shaped by new movements, it grows and diminishes according to changing global, national and local dynamics. Events such as the HLD allow key stakeholders to use a looking glass in order to identify the missing pieces and adopt and redefine migration and development policies that are in line with current global trends.

In the words of Ban Ki-moon’s special representative for international migration, Peter Sutherland: “Governments should come to New York to make commitments, not just statements.”  Concrete actions, rather than simple ideas, have to be undertaken in order to strengthen migration-development nexus; and seeing migration as a positive force rather than a problem to be managed. The idea is indeed to have a strong negotiated outcome leading to concrete measures as opposed to the last HLD. The M&D community is watching and listening and is putting its hopes in those who attend and have a voice during the next two days. 

The JMDI at the HLD         

The JMDI, together with the World Bank’s Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) are looking forward to their side-event on Local Government: Taking the Migration and Development Agenda Forward during the second United Nations General-Assembly High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, taking place on 4 October 2013 in New York.


For further details on this event

-Press release

-Draft programme of the event


For more information on the Second HLD

-Main High Level Dialogue website

 -Global Forum on Migration & Development

 -Civil Society Website for the Second High level Dialogue for Migration and Development

 -Mobilization of Civil Society during the HLD

 -HLD Side Events based on information provided as of 18 September 2013