06/2011: Ambassador Eduard Gnesa

JUNE 2011

Ambassador Eduard Gnesa
Special Ambassador of Switzerland for International
Cooperation on Migration Issues; Chair-in-Office of the
Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD)


“Key activities and initial outcomes of GFMD 2011”


Ü Eurasylum: In December 2010, on behalf of Switzerland, you took over the Chairmanship of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) from the Government of Mexico. The GFMD 2011’s flagship theme is “Taking Action on Migration and Development – Coherence, Capacity and Cooperation”. Your Chairmanship consists of a series of small, focused and action-oriented meetings around the world, rather than an annual GFMD meeting as in previous years. Can you guide us through the key priorities and activities of GFMD 2011, and any initial outcomes to date?

Ü Ambassador Eduard Gnesa: The Global Forum on Migration and Development was an outcome of the UN High-Level Dialogue in September 2006, where a majority of UN Member States agreed with the then Secretary-General’s proposal to establish an informal, non-binding, voluntary, government-led global process to discuss international migration and development. In 2007, Belgium inaugurated the Forum in Brussels, and laid many of the thematic, structural and procedural tracks for the future GFMD meetings.

In 2011, Switzerland aims above all else to maintain and reinforce the defining features of the Forum and to follow up on some concrete outcomes and results of earlier years. To ensure its integrity and relevance as a process, not just as an annual event, we have picked up many of the thematic threads of the past four years, and are exploring how these have been woven into effective policies and practices that are making a difference. The program we have set ourselves this year identifies some key priorities of the GFMD, and some areas where the Forum may have had its most notable practical achievements to date. These may be best reflected in the three thematic Clusters set out in the Chair’s concept paper, under which a series of smaller thematic meetings (workshops, seminars, etc.) are taking place around the world on a range of sub-themes:

CLUSTER I: Labour mobility and development
CLUSTER II: Addressing irregular migration through coherent migration and development strategies
CLUSTER III: Tools for evidence-based migration and development policies

Under Cluster I, activities already commenced in January with an inter-regional, cross-sectoral workshop in Dubai on the Recruitment of Workers for Overseas Employment. This looked at how to lower the costs of labour migration through better regulating the labour recruitment industry, since high migration costs can directly hamper the beneficial development outcomes of migration. The workshop resulted in a set of principles that have since formed the basis of a draft framework of regional cooperation on labour exchange submitted to the Colombo Process group of Asian countries by the Gulf States that receive labour from these countries. Bangladesh will hold a workshop on similar issues relating to the lowering of migration costs later in the year.

Meetings will also be held in Switzerland and Canada on how to engage the private sector in labour market planning and the role of business in migration policy making. These will actively promote dialogue between business leaders, private sector/employers, governments and social partners. The meeting in Switzerland will also consider trade and labour mobility linkages. Jamaica, together with UN Women and IOM, is organizing and hosting a workshop on the global care worker industry, as an example of how labour migrants, particularly women, can fall under the radar screen of labour regulations and protection in many countries, with detrimental outcomes for development. We hope to have similar meetings on migrant care workers in Asia and in Africa. We are also in close discussions with the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of countries, and hope to hold a meeting in the context of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, COMESA.

Under Cluster II, the Chair will hold joint meetings with governments and regional consultative processes, for example in Central America and with the Inter-Governmental Consultations on Migration, Asylum and Refugees (IGC), on coherent migration and development policies to curb irregular migration and protect persons in irregular circumstances. The Chair has participated in high level meetings of the Bali Process and the Colombo Process in Asia, and more recently the IGC and the Regional Conference on Migration (the Puebla Process) in Central and North America, to strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation between the regional and global processes.

Under the third thematic cluster, which examines tools for evidence-based migration and development policies, we are working with UNDP and IOM to pilot the GMG Handbook on mainstreaming migration into development planning in Moldova. We are discussing how to assess the development impacts of migration policy at a workshop in Marseille, with Morocco and Belgium taking the lead. We will examine Frances’s co-development projects in Morocco, with North and West African participation. And we hope to discuss in New York, Philippines and Africa the expanded use of Migration Profiles as a planning tool for coherent migration and development policies.

The two GFMD working groups – on Protecting and Empowering Migrants for Development, and on Policy Coherence, Data and Research – have helped identify and move forward some of these thematic priorities and assure continuity with previous years. A number of important studies have been completed under the auspices of the working groups on such cutting edge issues as regulating the labour recruitment industry, low cost loans to migrants and social security options for temporary labour migrants.

A web-based Platform for Partnerships, funded and supported by the Swiss Government, has been set up since November 2010 to showcase and promote projects, programs and policies related to GFMD themes and outcomes of annual meetings. Today, ten existing government practices on migration and development and two ‘calls for action’ to engage in new projects and partnerships are featured on the online Platform (www.gfmd.org/pfp).

To assure the global and inclusive nature of the Forum, all the global thematic meetings will culminate in a concluding meeting on 1-2 December 2011, in Geneva. At this meeting, the results of the various workshops mentioned above will be brought together for an interactive debate among GFMD governments and other stakeholders.

As in previous years, we will ensure close cooperation and support of expert international organizations, particularly those that compose the Global Migration Group, and Civil Society. The Forum has always consisted of both government and Civil Society components, with interfaces between the two. Last year, the Mexican chair pioneered a “Common Space” between the government and Civil Society participants, to redress some of the inadequacies of the government/Civil Society interface in previous years. This was an interactive panel debate that opened the government Forum with some provocative questions about the migration-development dynamic. We will try and build on this interactive facility both in the thematic meetings and in the concluding meeting in December.

At the informal thematic debate on migration and development in the UN General Assembly last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon recognized that in its five-year existence the GFMD has opened up a space for informal and voluntary dialogue among countries. He emphasized that enhanced cooperation will maximize the benefits of migration and address urgent social concerns today. He urged Member States to give more support to the Forum and guarantee its continued existence in the coming years.

Ü Eurasylum: One of the activities planned by the 2011 Chair is to initiate and guide the first phase of the GFMD assessment process, as discussed and endorsed in Puerto Vallarta in November 2010. Can you discuss the process and mechanisms through which this assessment will be conducted, and the way(s) in which its findings will feed into future GFMD editions?

Ü Ambassador Eduard Gnesa: In view of the GFMD’s evolving practices and the concrete experiences made with each GFMD meeting since 2007, there has been growing support among participating states for an overall assessment of the GFMD process. Following a series of discussions in 2010 on this issue, governments agreed last November in Puerto Vallarta to carry out such an assessment in two phases: Phase 1, to be implemented in 2011, would focus on the way the GFMD operates as a process, including its current set-up and way of functioning, and would examine the impact and relevance of its outcomes in terms of substantive policy discussion, lessons learned and policy changes. It will also address the relationship of the state-led GFMD with other stakeholders. The findings of Phase 1 of the assessment would then feed into a debate and analysis by all GFMD governments, in 2012, on the future of the Forum. An Assessment Team, comprised of 13 governments from all regions and led by the current Chair, was tasked with the implementation of this two-year process.

For Phase 1, a detailed questionnaire has been prepared by an independent assessment expert conjointly with the Assessment Team, and was sent to all national GFMD government focal points. The 12-page questionnaire covers such items as the overall impressions governments have of the GFMD process and its impacts; the preparation, format and implementation of GFMD meetings; the GFMD outcomes and concrete follow-up to these outcomes; the structures, way of functioning and the funding mechanism of the GFMD; the role of and relationship with international organizations; and the role of Civil Society in the GFMD. The questionnaire also requests that the responses reflect the consolidated view of all relevant ministries and departments in each responding government.

The findings will be reflected in an assessment report that will be the subject of discussion at the concluding meeting in December. At this meeting, governments will also decide how to organize Phase 2, the 2012 debate on and analysis of the future of the Forum. Obviously, as current Chair, I cannot predict what form this debate will take, or even less what its outcomes will be, but I can say that governments, i.e. the GFMD Steering Group and Friends of the Forum, agreed to reach a decision on the future of the Forum by end 2012/early 2013. This will be prior to the second High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development scheduled to take place in 2013.

I believe I reflect the views of all GFMD participating governments in saying that at this juncture an objective assessment of the value and role of the Forum is of critical importance. The GFMD has engaged more than 160 UN member States in discussions and partnerships around the world, has yielded positive results in terms of lessons learned and policy development, and certainly has contributed to shaping the global agenda on migration and development. But the Forum is also a work in progress and is still evolving. A critical evaluation of what we have done over the past five years is essential to that evolution. At the same time, a thorough technical and political analysis of the GFMD’s future role and position in the multilateral arena will be of paramount importance. The GFMD is the first ever global consultative process on migration and development; and many stakeholders, be they governments, the UN, international organizations or civil society actors, are looking forward to whether, and if so how, such a mechanism could continue to help shape the international dialogue on migration and development beyond 2013.