Helen Clark: Statement at the Valletta Summit on Migration

Nov 11, 2015

I am pleased to attend this important Valletta Summit aimed at strengthening co-operation on migration.

Around our world, we see many more people on the move, looking for safer and more conducive environments in which to live and find work. In Africa, migration both within the continent and to Europe has sharply increased.

Without question, planned and orderly migration will benefit both source and destination countries –remittances matter a great deal to low income countries, and there are many labour market sectors in advanced economies with a heavy reliance on migrant labour.

But the converse is also true: unplanned and disorderly migration can be both disastrous for the migrants, and place stress on the communities receiving them. The consequences are obvious in deaths at sea, flourishing criminal networks and others exploiting migrants and undermining local laws and regulations, and the rise of xenophobic forces and polarization in destination countries.

As a former Head of Government of a developed country, I know how difficult the politics of unplanned entry of migrants can be. But I also saw then, as I do now as UNDP Administrator, the desperation which drives people to try any available means and risk their lives to move to where they perceive there is greater opportunity.

Indeed it is part of the human story from time immemorial to move in search of a better life. But having better prospects at home makes the decision on whether to migrate a matter of choice – not a decision which is forced on people because of lack of hope of ever getting ahead where they are.

The drivers of migration in Africa are well known. The persistence of poverty and lack of opportunity are significant factors. Flight from conflict and lawlessness also plays its part. The disruptive effects of climate change on livelihoods will add to these push factors.

At UNDP, as development actors, we work to tackle poverty, improve governance and support the rule of law, prevent conflict and support recovery from it, and reduce disaster risk. All these interventions are directly relevant to addressing the push factors driving the major migration flows in our world today. Together with partners, we are responding to the drivers of involuntary migration and displacement – in the Sahel, Central Africa the Horn and elsewhere, and we stand ready to do more.

It is vital to address those drivers of migration which in effect are forcing people to make the difficult choice to leave their homes and communities. There is no magic wand here – the answers lie in the building of peaceful and inclusive societies which offer people opportunity and security. As the new global development agenda, Agenda 2030, notes, there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development. Sustained effort is needed to achieve both.

There are a number of initiatives being taken which will give better protection to migrants. For example, Africa has developed internal protocols on the movement of people which, when applied, can give migrants better economic opportunities. UNDP is supporting the ratification and domestication by African nations of these instruments to enable labour mobility and integration.

Ending the migration crisis by addressing the push factors and allowing for more channels of legal and orderly migration will require many stakeholders to join efforts. UNDP is pleased to be working alongside partner countries and regional and international organisations to help tackle this crisis.

We welcome the EU’s new 1.8 billion Euro Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. Its objectives of tackling root causes of migration and displacement by promoting economic opportunities, building better governance, strengthening the rule of law and enhancing legal mobility fit well alongside our mandate and expertise.

In conclusion, as a long term trusted partner of countries throughout Africa and of the European Union and its Member States, UNDP stands ready to step up its efforts in support of durable solutions to the migration crisis which have human and sustainable development at their core. Thank you for the opportunity to express these words today.

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