UN High-level Meeting Explores Links Between Migration and Asia-Pacific’s Socio-Economic Development

With the number of international migrants in Asia having increased nearly twofold since 1960 – growing from an estimated 28 million in 1960 to more than 53 million in 2005 – and with Asia and the Pacific accounting for a third of the world’s 190 million migrants, more needs to be done to better understand the impact of the phenomenon on the region’s socio-economic development.

This is the aim of the Asia-Pacific High-level Meeting on International Migration and Development, which opened today in Bangkok, with more than 70 participants, including government officials from over 20 countries and representatives from intergovernmental organizations, taking part. The meeting is convened ahead of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, scheduled to be held in the Philippines from 27 to 30 October, 2008.

The two-day event, taking place at the United Nations Conference Centre, is organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with the Royal Thai Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the International Organization of Migration (IOM).

“In Asia and the Pacific, the issue of international migration is emerging as a priority. It is vital to understand the complex inter-linkages of migration and development in the regional context, especially how migration can contribute to poverty reduction,” said Shigeru Mochida, ESCAP’s Deputy Executive Secretary, at the opening ceremony of the meeting.

He added that contemporary international migration in Asia and the Pacific was driven by real and perceived inequalities in employment opportunity, income, education and health services; while the growing imbalance of population size and structure among countries had been another contributing factor.

The Deputy Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pensak Chalarak, said he hoped the discussions at the meeting would shed light on the specificities of the Asian and Pacific experience with regard to migration so as to “not only complement but also play an important part in motivating global efforts in this field in a manner that is relevant, timely and substantive.”

With international migration becoming a structural reality of societies and economies in the region and with remittances improving quality of life of millions of poor households and sustaining national economies, the meeting is also discussing cooperation among countries in the region, to assist them to better manage migration and maximize its benefits.

Home to around 53 million international migrants, the Asia-Pacific region is also one of the largest recipients of recorded remittances, with more than $121 billion transferred by migrants in 2007.

“Labour migration constitutes a large proportion of migrant flows in the ESCAP region. It is closely linked to economic and social outcomes and crucial questions about those links remain to be addressed or revisited,” said Philip Guest, Assistant Director of DESA’s Population Division.

The IOM’s Regional Representative for South-East Asia, Irena Vojackova-Sollorano, said international migration was becoming increasingly complex in the region.

“International migration brings about economic changes, which everyone welcomes; social changes, which countries have to adapt to; and intercultural challenges, which trigger further changes. One of the core issues is how to move forward, with longer-term solutions for more regular and predictable migration flows,” Ms. Vojackova-Sollorano said.

Governments participating in the meeting will address the critical migration issues affecting their country, from a development and regional perspective. Thematic round-table discussions will also be held on issues such as remittances for development, the social dimensions of migration, and international migration in least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states.

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For more information about the meeting, please visit: http://www.unescap.org/esid/meetings/migration