Rebeca Grynspan: Statement at the Global Migration Group Symposium

19 May 2011

Statement by Rebeca Grynspan
United Nations Development Programme Associate Administrator

On the occasion of the Closing Session of the Global Migration Group (GMG) Symposium


It is a great pleasure to join you in this closing session. Once more the GMG has come together to create a valuable platform for exchanging ideas and sharing experiences.  I congratulate UNICEF as the current Chair of the GMG for the initiative, excellent job done, and for the fruitful deliberations of the last two days.

At this year’s Symposium we focus on the fascinating and complex interconnections between migration, youth and development.

This is an appropriate and timely discussion, given not only that 2011 is the International Year of Youth but also that the lingering fall-out from the economic crisis has left young people around the world even more vulnerable.  According to the ILO, out of the 620 million economically active youth –aged 15 to 24 years– 81 million were unemployed at the end of 2009, the highest figure on record to date. Young people in both developed and developing countries have been disproportionally affected by the employment impacts of the crisis.

We know that recovery remains fragile, unequal and slow.  Growth in employment has been slower than economic growth, especially in the industrialized countries. Youth unemployment is particularly worrisome in a number of developing countries where young people make up a large proportion of the overall population.  In these countries, among others, the increases in youth unemployment that we see now, will have long-term development implications.

Young people around the world seek opportunities as well as the capabilities to pursue them. This can be a powerful force for human development.  Indeed, if we are to overcome the persistent human development challenges and confront the global climate crisis –we will need young people, in countries around the world, to be able to reach their full potential and contribute to their societies, economies and polities.

One of the ways young people pursue opportunities is through migration. We know that young people make up a disproportionally high percentage of the world’s migrants.

Many are leaving developing countries, which, for the most part, have young and growing populations –in order to move to developed countries, where the populations are generally older, and there is more need for labour. This global demographic imbalance together with high levels of inequality between countries, are important and underlying drivers for global migration.  

The 2009 Human Development Report entitled “Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development” examined the links between migration and development.  It showed that migration can contribute to significant human development benefits for those who move, those who stay behind as well as the communities of destination. These benefits can include higher incomes and higher rates of education, better health and more freedom.

The Report cautioned, however, that the benefits of migration must not be taken for granted. Rather, much depends on who moves, how they fare abroad and the conditions that guide their movement.  Where only the privileged have access to migration, movement can enhance existing inequalities.  This is true for all countries, not just developing countries.

For the benefits of migration to be broadly distributed, adequate and effective policy and institutional frameworks are needed in both countries of origin and destination. With this in mind, the Human Development Report 2009 recommended a package of specific reforms, including:

1.    ‘Earned regularisation’;
2.    Ensuring the basic rights of migrants everywhere;
3.    Undertaking initiatives specifically designed to improve the outcomes of migrants as well as destination communities;

And the one I will concentrate on:
4.    Making mobility an integral part of development strategies.    

Mainstreaming migration into development planning

While migration has the potential to yield human development benefits, it is also important to point out that it cannot replace development in countries of origin. Migrants and Diaspora communities can and certainly do support their countries of origin with remittances, technical know-how, skills and ideas.  However, we know that the long term sustainable development of a country depends on strengthening the social, economic and political conditions as well as the institutions on the ground.

Migration must, therefore, be included as a part of countries’ national development plans and strategies. Countries should work to identify and take forward the development policies and initiatives can help them realize the gains of migration and overcome the challenges it can pose. UNDP is helping a number of countries to do this –in particular by mainstreaming migration within development strategies and plans.

Although not a core area of UNDP work, our country offices around the world are also collaborating with national and international partners, including the ILO, UNICEF and the IOM, to help countries advance and uphold the rights of migrants; make the most of remittances and their Diaspora; and ensure migrants can access services.  In the Philippines, for example, we and our partners are helping to integrate gender-sensitive HIV/Aids prevention into pre-departure seminars and programmes for migrant workers.

Nineteen regional and national human development reports, dating back to 2000, have addressed issues related to migration.  And there has been so much demand that we’ve established guidance for countries wishing to produce National Development Reports focused on human mobility.

I am also pleased to recognize that the Global Migration Group with the valuable support of the Swiss government is taking steps towards better understanding and addressing country-specific needs with respect to migration mainstreaming. Last year, on the sides of the GMG Symposium held in Geneva, the GMG decided to establish a working group which would focus specifically on this issue. The Group is now active and taken action towards piloting the “GMG Handbook on Mainstreaming Migration into Development Planning” in a number of countries. To do this, UNDP is working closely with the ILO, UNICEF and the IOM. The handbook was launched last year at the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Puerto Vallarta. In addition, the working group is engaging with UN country teams and IOM field offices to enhance their capacities to better respond to country demands regarding migration and development.

This initiative by the GMG is an example of coherent international cooperation in the field of migration and development, one of the topics addressed during this symposium.

UNDP also looks forward to the informal debate of the General Assembly on migration and development tomorrow; we hope this will lead to a more comprehensive discussion on the subject in 2013 at the planned High Level Dialogue. UNDP as a member of the GMG will continue supporting a more coherent response by the international community towards migration and development and wish to thank you again for this Symposium and its engaging and productive debate.
About Rebeca Grynspan

Rebeca Grynspan was appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the position of UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator effective 1 February, 2010. Before joining the United Nations, Ms. Grynspan was elected Vice-President of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998.

View her full bio here