International migration could be an effective tool to tackle the current financial crisis, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a summit in the Philippines, stating that the movement of workers across borders can help make economies more efficient and redress economic inequalities.
Mr. Ban noted that the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development, which opened today in Manila, is taking place amid “a cascade of national financial crises” throughout the world.
“Global growth is slowing, unemployment is rising, personal hardship is spreading and anxiety is increasing. Many countries have slipped into recession,” he said.
“Given these developments, it would be naïve to think the current crisis will have no effect on the movement of people across borders, and on how our publics perceive migration and the migrants in their midst,” he added.
The Secretary-General pointed out that migration flows are already reversing from countries facing economic crises, especially from badly affected sectors such as construction and tourism, where many migrants are employed.
In addition, there has been a significant slowdown in the flows of remittances back to countries of origin, and in several countries, the political discourse on immigration has become discouragingly negative, heightening the risk of discrimination, he said.
“In the face of such trends, it is incumbent upon us to reaffirm another reality: That migration can and should be a tool to help lift us out of this economic crisis. Now more than ever, politicians and policymakers need to cooperate across borders. Only in this way can we draw the greatest possible development benefits from migration,” Mr. Ban stressed.
“Human mobility makes our economies more efficient, even when they are not growing, by ensuring that the right skills can reach the right places at the right time,” he stated. “Human mobility also helps redress the enormous imbalances that have led to harsh economic inequality.”
The Secretary-General added that, with or without an economic crisis, the underlying forces that have led 200 million people to cross international borders in pursuit of a better life will not disappear. He called on the Forum to tackle these forces, which include inequality, the search for employment and a better life, and political instability.
Speaking to reporters following the Forum, Mr. Ban added that “the need for labour migration is self evident and we can build on those exchanges by discussing how to protect the rights of migrants, foster opportunities for regular migration, and improve policy coherence through partnerships.”
On the sidelines of the Forum, which brings together more than 150 countries, the UN and the European Commission today launched a 15 million Euro joint initiative, which aims to promote the positive impact of migration by strengthening the role of civil society organizations, codifying best practices, and better informing decision-makers.
Also in Manila today, Mr. Ban met with President Gloria Arroyo and other senior officials, and received the Order of Sikatuna, the highest honour conferred on foreigners.
Mr. Ban also visited the monument dedicated to the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, who was executed by the Spanish colonial authorities in 1896. While there, he was greeted by former UN peacekeepers from the Philippines.
Speaking at a dinner hosted in his honour by President Arroyo, the Secretary-General noted that the Philippines is a strong contributor to UN peacekeeping, adding that nearly 700 Philippine military and police personnel are currently serving the cause of peace under the UN’s blue flag.
Mr. Ban also addressed students and faculty at the University of Philippines, where he received an honorary doctorate, stressing the need for global solidarity at this time of global crises of food, finance, energy, climate and development.
“My most immediate concern is that the financial crisis could reverse the progress made around the world in fighting poverty, and eclipse the global effort to address climate change,” he told the gathering.
A global economic slowdown will lead to higher unemployment. In addition, Governments will have less revenue to spend on social services and assistance to the poor. All of this will threaten efforts to attain the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), he noted.
“The challenges we face are our own creation. As such, we can solve them,” Mr. Ban stated. “But we will rise together only if we work together. Our challenges are increasingly those of collaboration rather than confrontation.”
The Philippines is the first leg of a four-nation tour that will also take the Secretary-General to India, Nepal and Bangladesh.