12/2006: Brunson McKinley

December 2006

Brunson McKinley
Director General of the International
Organization for Migration (IOM)


The future of multilateral cooperation systems on migration: role, activities and added value
of the Global Migration Group and the Global Forum on Migration and Development


Ü Eurasylum Ltd: IOM has played a significant role in the preparation of the UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (HLD), which was held during the 61st Session of the UN General Assembly on 14-15 September 2006. In particular, it co-sponsored several regional and global events focused on the overall and specific themes of the HLD, including on issues of labour migration; the developmental impact of remittances; diasporas; and the feminisation of migration. Could you sum up the key issues and policy leads embraced by these events and comment on the way in which they have fed into the intergovernmental discussions held during the HLD?

Ü Brunson McKinley: In the past year, and especially in the final months before the UN High Level Dialogue (HLD), IOM devoted considerable energy to helping the international community prepare for the HLD. Our objective was to lay the groundwork for a concrete, informed and engaged debate, and contribute to making the HLD a success. A success it was, and we are equally committed to working with partners to take the debate to the next level.

A significant part of this effort was focused on organising preparatory workshops at the national and regional levels around the globe. Much of this preparatory work took place in close cooperation with governments, Regional Consultative Processes, partner UN organisations and the private sector, demonstrating the effectiveness of the cooperative multilateral approaches to migration and development increasingly called for by the international community.

The events were many so I won’t try to list them all here. Instead I will concentrate on a few events which in our view contributed significantly to setting the tone at the High Level Dialogue, and to ensuring coverage of those issues which merited most attention. IOM early on formulated a set of key messages (see http://www.un.int/iom/Key%20IOM%20Messages.pdf) which guided the support we offered to our partners in the run up to the HLD. We were glad to see that these key messages largely matched the major issues covered in the HLD debates.

Focussing on the principal theme of the HLD, the impact of migration on development, there was in February 2006 the Ministerial Conference of the Least Developed Countries on Enhancing the Development Impact of Remittances. Held in Cotonou, Benin, the Conference was organised by the Government of Benin, IOM and UN-OHRLLS and resulted in the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration on Migrants Remittances. The Declaration emphasised the importance of migrant remittances on the development of countries of origin and urged Governments of migrant sending countries to create an enabling environment for enhancing the development impact of remittances. Among the specific measures identified during the Conference, the creation of financial products to encourage migrant savings and investments was highlighted. The declaration also urged Governments of receiving countries to establish tax relief systems for remittances. Furthermore, it called for a better organised movement of migrant workers. I highlight this Conference because it did more than just reiterate the importance of remittances for migrant sending regions: it took the next step and showed concrete ways forward on how to maximise the development impacts of remittances. Its recommendations were taken up by many delegations at the HLD and we look forward to working with governments as they start acting upon them.

Another important event which was repeatedly acknowledged as providing major input to the HLD was the Brussels Conference on Migration and Development, convened in March 2006 by the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium and IOM, in close cooperation with the European Commission and the World Bank. Bringing together high-level policy makers and practitioners from receiving and sending countries, the Conference focused on the synergies between migration and development. It identified how development policies can address root causes of migration such as poverty and lack of socio-economic prospects. The Conference’s conclusions specifically looked at achieving greater coherence of migration and development policies  two policy fields which do not often meet in national administrations. It also called for strengthening partnerships between countries of origin, transit and destination and promoting migrants’ contributions to the development of their home communities.

The growing awareness of the regional dimensions of migration has been a key development of the past decade, and one which has led to the creation of Regional Consultative Processes (RCPs) around the globe. Although most Regional Consultative Processes (RCPs) do not specifically focus on the migration and development nexus, several of them have devoted special attention to it in the run-up to the HLD. IOM has seized opportunities throughout the year to facilitate HLD preparations in such existing arenas. The South American Conference on Migration is one RCP which has had migration and development on its regular agenda, and one concrete outcome of its sixth plenary session in May 2006 was the Declaration de Asuncion, which was formally conveyed to the United Nations as an input for the HLD. The Declaration calls for respect of the human rights of migrants and the recognition of the development contribution of migration for migrants themselves as well as for countries of destination. The Declaration also calls for the inclusion of migration and development as a priority theme in the agenda of all regional and bilateral meetings, the support of programmes which facilitate voluntary returns, and reductions in the transfer cost of remittances. The human rights dimension of migration, underscored as a key issue at the South American level, was widely validated as being a global concern by HLD statements from countries around the world.

The Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development, held in July 2006 in Morocco, and organised by the Kingdom of Morocco, Spain and France with the support of the European Commission and the active participation of IOM, was regional in a different sense. There was striking recognition at the HLD of the importance of this first-ever ministerial-level meeting between Europe and Africa on migration and development. It was widely recognised as having brought together sending, receiving and transit countries in an open, cooperative dialogue leading to proposals for specific initiatives on migration and development. The participating ministers adopted an Action Plan which calls for: the consideration of establishing financial instruments favourable to co-development; the development of knowledge and know-how and of measures aiming to guarantee that sufficient skills are available for the development of African countries; and developing partnerships between technical and scientific institutions and strengthening cooperation in terms of professional training. The adoption of the Rabat Declaration was further proof that regional dialogues focusing on concrete issues are indeed a way forward.

Ü Eurasylum Ltd: Prior to the organisation of the UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, a Global Migration Group (GMG), bringing together the heads of ten international organizations (DESA, IOM, ILO, OHCHR, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCHR, UNODC and the World Bank), was established in early 2006. The GMG, which grew out of the existing “Geneva Migration Group”, aims to promote ‘the wider application of all relevant international and regional instruments and norms relating to migration, and the provision of more coherent and stronger leadership to improve the overall effectiveness of the United Nations and the international community in the field of international migration’. Can you describe, briefly, some of the recent and on-going activities of the GMG and highlight their particular added value, for example in terms of enhancing the international community’s policy and operational potential to respond to migration challenges?

Ü Brunson McKinley: It is worth recalling that the ten-member Global Migration Group is the successor to an earlier, six-member GMG – the Geneva Migration Group. The initial GMG was founded in 2003 by the participating agencies themselves  led by UNHCR and IOM at the beginning  in recognition of the need to exchange views and seek greater coherence to their work in the migration field. The current, broader GMG has continued to pursue this agenda, and the fact that its four new members reinforce the development link which dominates much of todays migration debate makes it even more relevant to current needs. We continue to meet regularly at the head of agency level, under a rotating chair, and all contributed actively to the preparations of the HLD.

Currently, the GMG is developing a programme of work to focus its attention on priority migration issues that would benefit from more vigorous inter-agency consultation and collaboration. Among other matters, the GMG is discussing the development of a joint research network on migration and development matters with particular emphasis on building research capacity in developing countries. The GMG also aims to initiate joint training and capacity building activities in areas such as migration management, migration law, the human rights of migrants, refugee protection, counter-trafficking, as well as the linkage between migration, trade and development.

At the present stage, the GMG concentrates mainly on inter-agency consultations and information sharing on migration from the different perspectives of all participating organisations. Initially these exchanges took place exclusively at the head of agency level but we came to recognise the value of adding a working level mechanism which we have been using this year to good effect. The Group at the working level has made recommendations on the Terms of Reference and working methods, and has conducted a survey on the research and data collection which every organisation has conducted on migration issues in order to have a comprehensive picture of the status quo as well as to locate gaps and overlaps. I expect similar such surveys will be conducted on other topics, such as capacity building. IOM is due to take over the chairmanship for the first half of 2007.

There is often a sense that international institutions are unaware of similar or complimentary activities carried out by their counterparts. The GMG demonstrated the will and commitment of the agencies themselves to address this by meeting and exchanging information regularly. I was struck by the widespread welcome and support that the GMG received at the HLD, and perhaps the best answer to your question about added value is in delegations statements on the importance they attach to coherent action by the range of international agencies whose work touches to a greater or lesser extent on migration and development. It was undoubtedly also valuable that the UN Secretary General spoke positively of the GMG and recognised its potential to support substantive follow-up to the HLD. Many delegations called for some link to be forged between the GMG and the Global Forum on International Migration and Development. As the Government of Belgium goes forward with its plans to host the first Global Forum meeting which will take place in summer 2007, GMG members collectively and individually stand ready to contribute their expertise and promote closer international cooperation in this important field.

Ü Eurasylum Ltd: At the UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, in September 2006, you presented a new concept, entitled the International Migration and Development Initiative (IMDI), for a multi-agency scheme aimed at creating synergies between governments, agencies with expertise in migration and the private sector. This initiative aims, in particular, to establish a centralised information source on regional and national migration laws and regulations; to develop the capacity of governments in the formulation of national labour policies and the collection of statistics on nationals working abroad; to foster research on migration; and to encourage the private sector to promote ethical recruitment standards that recognise the need for developing countries to retain some of their skilled workforce and to ensure the fair treatment of migrant workers in host countries. Could you describe the key rationale and anticipated benefits of the IMDI, and explain the way in which this initiative might compare with the decision of the UN High Level Dialogue to establish a Global Forum on Migration and Development, which will aim to foster practical, evidence-based cooperation among governments, on an informal, voluntary and consultative basis?

Ü Brunson McKinley: The International Migration and Development Initiative (IMDI) is intended to provide a framework for labour migration, development programmes and policy advice, drawing on inter-agency, governmental and private sector collaboration. It was developed in response to interest in exploring the linkages between labour migration and development, fuelled by the globalisation of labour markets and the increase in labour migration from developing countries, as well as by the new round of WTO negotiations on liberalisation of the temporary movement of service providers — Mode 4 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services.

The report of the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM) published in October 2005 underlined the need for more inter-agency collaboration to address the new and complex realities of international migration and its relationship with other global issues such as trade, development, security and human rights. Shortly after the report’s release Commissioners Jan Karlsson and Nand Kishore Singh asked IOM, together with the World Bank, to work on ways to improve inter-agency cooperation in addressing the growing gap between labour supply and demand as well as human resource development issues from a more global perspective. IOM initiated consultations with the World Bank in early 2006 and expanded these to include all Global Migration Group (GMG) agencies by mid-2006. The concept that developed as a result is what became IMDI.

IMDI is intended to address labour migration issues against the background of a wide range of perspectives, ranging from an economy and trade-centred view to a development and human rights-oriented one. It specifically aims to address and minimise various gaps in the global labour market.

The principle gap is the evident mismatch between demand and supply of labour globally and the need to create a mutually beneficial approach to labour migration. Such an approach could focus on collaborative efforts between countries of origin and destination, and between public and private sectors, leading to more evenly shared costs and benefits of labour movements, in particular regarding human resource development and the prevention of brain drain.

The second gap to be addressed is the need to foster the positive contribution which labour migration can have on development in countries of origin, but also at destination. Clearly, governments of developing as well as developed countries need stronger capacity to formulate labour migration and development-related policies that ensure safer, more humane and orderly labour movements on a regional as well as global scale. Finally, in this context, there is a significant need to mobilise all stakeholders and recognise the growing role of the private sector.

These gaps could be closed or at least narrowed through a global mechanism aimed at facilitating labour migration policy and programme modelling, and the availability of data, in particular legislation, in one place (i.e. an IMDI gateway/website), as well as through the consolidation of advice and sharing of effective practice, and technical cooperation and capacity building assistance to governments and the private sector. IMDI could become this mechanism, representing a planned, comprehensive and full cycle approach to migration and development.

As far as the relationship between the planned Global Forum on International Migration and Development and IMDI is concerned, we are in fact talking about two very distinct concepts. While IMDI is meant to be mainly an operational tool focusing on implementing concrete activities in the closely defined field of labour migration in cooperation with a number of governmental, non-governmental and economic actors, the Global Forum will be established as an informal, voluntary and consultative intergovernmental dialogue not leading to binding decisions. However, it is imaginable that the Global Forum could decide to use IMDI to implement priorities they might identify on the specific issue of migration and development. Thus, from a longer term perspective, IMDI could become a tool both for the Global Forum but also for the GMG to help realise some of the objectives of the HLD and to implement priority actions on the specific issue of migration and development.