04/2007: H.E. Régine de Clerq

APRIL 2007

H.E. Régine de Clerq
Ambassador for Migration and Asylum Policies
of the Kingdom of Belgium


‘Key objectives and possible outcomes of the first session of
the Global Forum on Migration and Development’


Ü Eurasylum Ltd: One of the key outcomes of the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, on 14-15 September 2006, was the establishment of a Global Forum on Migration and Development. According to the UN Secretary-General, this government-led consultative forum should be used to share ideas and discuss best practices and policies related to international migration and global development. The Forum should not produce negotiated outcomes or recommendations, but should make new policy ideas more widely known, add value to existing regional consultations, and encourage an integrated approach to migration and development at both national and international levels. The Government of Belgium has offered to host, under your Chairmanship, the first meeting of the Global Forum, in Brussels on 9-11 July this year. Could you guide us through the key objectives, thematic priorities and modus operandi of this major event?

Ü H.E. Régine de Clerq: The key objective is to identify practical ways to bring migration into the mainstream of the international community’s development policy, but also to identify ways in which migration policies can better take account of development needs. One angle of this debate is to determine how managed migration can better contribute to development, another one is to assess how development impacts on migration. The Global Forum on Migration and Development, therefore, addresses policy-makers and practitioners who are able to influence policy setting at government level.

We have chosen a participative approach to the preparatory process. In November 2006 we launched a worldwide survey among all the UN member states to identify five priorities on the basis of a list of topics drawn from the discussions of the High Level Dialogue held in New York in September 2006. Also, international organisations were asked to identify priorities on the basis of their relevance for development policy-makers and migration policy-makers alike, in both the developed and developing world. Furthermore, we asked states and international organisations to identify their own focal point to better coordinate the preparation of, and participation in the meeting. It is also our intention to involve other partners, such as diasporas, migrant associations, trade unions, NGOs, academics and the private sector.

We received well over 100 replies from states, which by UN standards is an enormous success. It showed the eagerness of the international community to discuss these issues. The priorities which received the highest ratings were:

– Migration, its benefits and drawbacks for development; and
– Ways to strengthen the policy linkages between migration and development

These themes include issues such as the challenges and risks for development of labour mobility, diaspora resources, and policy tools that can strengthen the relationship between migration and development. Ways to enhance capacity, create new partnerships and issues related to human rights and gender, will also come to the fore.

On the basis of these findings we proposed a programme that generated large support at the first meeting of the Friends of the Forum, in Brussels on 30 January 2007. We will pursue this discussion with states and will involve them in the elaboration of the first meeting of the Global Forum in July.

Ü Eurasylum Ltd: : In its Non-Paper on the Global Forum issued a few weeks ago, the Belgian government has indicated its commitment to a transparent and inclusive Forum process which should ensure win-win situations for all and translate into concrete and action-oriented outcomes. The Non-Paper further indicates that, in parallel to the Forum, the Government of Belgium would be prepared to organise a venue where concrete demands and offers for cooperation and assistance could be discussed among interested governments. Could you outline, briefly, some of the concrete outcomes that could result from the first session of the Global Forum?

Ü H.E. Régine de Clerq: We hope that this first meeting will identify approaches that work, and that can serve as models which, hopefully, can also contribute to a change of thinking on migration and development. Migration is now all too often seen as negative by countries from where migrants originate and in some of the countries that receive them. If better managed, migration can better serve development objectives. We could, for example, identify best practices to retain, regain and recover highly skilled workers, and to increase brain gain for developing countries, notably through circular migration.

We also think that concerted action by all stakeholders could be taken on the reduction of the cost of migrants money transfers and on the greater formalisation of such transfers, in order that the needs of migrants and their families can better be met, and thereby can contribute to development at household level. We expect to learn about new initiatives to establish financial instruments and new ways of transferring money. We will examine which tools are needed to help migrants help their countries of origin. Increased formal remittances can also have a positive impact on macroeconomic development, by increasing the credit worthiness of countries receiving remittances, and their chances of raising funds on the global capital market.

Additionally, we hope that new partnerships will be formed between countries and between countries and other stakeholders, for example through the market place to be established as part of the July Forum.

Another result, which is already taking shape, even before the first meeting of the Global Forum, is increased coordination and dialogue at national level, between migration and development authorities, as well as other governmental entities such as the Finance authorities. This leads to greater coherence of migration and development policies. We observe, also, that the Global Forum is becoming, even before its first meeting, a vehicle for greater coherence and dialogue, as well as for a more orderly approach to the linkages between development and migration.

Ü Eurasylum Ltd: In the same Non-Paper issued by the Government of Belgium, it was envisaged that the policy expertise of specialised organisations would be tapped by creating an interface with the inter-agency Global Migration Group, and bulding upon the experiences gained through cooperation at the regional levels. The Non-Paper further indicates that the first session of the Global Forum should aim to agree a two to three-year work programme for the Forum’s future activities and areas of intervention. Can you describe the ways and mechanisms through which the first session of the Global Forum has sought to gather and integrate the views and contributions from different eligible organisations, at national and international levels, and comment on the ways in which you envisage the role of the Global Forum to evolve over the coming years ?

Ü H.E. Régine de Clerq: The relevant international organisations are involved in the preparatory process of the July meeting. Clearly, their expertise and contribution to the implementation of the outcomes of the first Global Forum meeting, and of the subsequent meetings, will also be important.

The Global Forum will provide international organisations with political guidance on the way in which they should or could deal with the issue of migration and development. It is therefore important that international organisations take part in the discussions, in order to hear about what is on the mind of policy practitioners, what their concerns are and how best to address these concerns. We hope that this will lead to greater coherence and cooperation among international organisations, and between international organisations and national policy-makers.

Migration is an issue that ranks high on the political agenda, and which therefore is in the limelight of the media and public opinion. This makes the debate sensitive and we all know how easily these issues can be exploited for political reasons. Finding a modus vivendi on this issue is not always an easy task. However, the Global Forum can help to identify ways that are beneficial to the countries of origin, the countries of destination and the migrants themselves. It is clear that total freedom of movement for everyone is impossible, politically and of course economically and socially. On the other hand a fortress approach is not a solution either, for the same good reasons. Looking at migration as a tool for development offers a middle road as well as opportunities for win-win situations and compromises. This is precisely what we aim to achieve with this new international process that we call the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

As a last remark, I may add that whatever I have stated in this interview does not involve in any way the Belgian government, nor does it reflect an official Belgian view. This interview only reflects some of the views which I have developed during the start up process of the Global Forum on migration and Development, which I am leading.