UN meeting explores ways to better harness development potential of international migration for countries in Asia-Pacific


A Meeting that brought together representatives from 31 Governments in the region just concluded at the United Nations Conference Centre, Bangkok. Held from 22 to 24 September, the Asia-Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Global Forum on Migration and Development 2010 identified issues related to international migration common to countries in the region. The Meeting was organized by the United Nations Asia-Pacific Regional Thematic Working Group on International Migration including Human Trafficking, which is co-chaired by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with participation from other United Nations agencies and UN-affiliated organizations.

Adopted by all 31 countries present at the Meeting, the Bangkok Statement on Migration and Development stresses that migrant workers are development actors and contribute to development by way of remittances, skills, culture and labour to States of origin, transit and destination. It highlights the region’s great diversity in levels of development and size of countries, resulting in migration taking many forms, as well as the increased complexity in managing migration in the region—many countries being simultaneously sending, transit and receiving countries.

Apart from recommending the pursuit of comprehensive national policies to effectively manage labour migration and protect the rights of all migrant workers, the Bangkok Statement urges that bilateral and regional cooperation and inter-country partnerships be strengthened. It also recommends that national laws be reviewed to ensure that all migrants, including domestic workers, women and children affected by migration have access to legal protection, birth registration, and health and education services in both countries of origin and destination, in line with internationally agreed standards and norms.

“The final outcome document reflects the common challenges we face as well as our shared views on addressing the numerous issues surrounding international migration” noted Ms. Nanda Krairiksh and Mr. Andrew Bruce, Co-Chairs of the Working Group in a joint closing statement.

“As we continue our work at the national, regional and international levels, let us not forget that migrants are human beings, not mere export commodities, sources of remittances or agents of development. Besides their important role in a country’s economy, it is imperative that migrants and their families receive the support and attention they require given their vulnerable status, in both countries of origin and destination”.

About one in four of the world’s estimated 214 million migrants live in the Asian and Pacific region. The region receives the majority – about 42 percent – of the world’s remittances. International migration is increasingly being recognized as a powerful force for development—migrants contributing positively to the social, cultural and economic development of both countries of origin and destination. Yet, many issues, among them the protection of migrant workers and their families, remain to be addressed.

“As a country of origin, transit and destination of various migration flows, Thailand is well placed to provide the venue for this important Regional Meeting”, noted H.E. Mr. Issara Somchai, Thailand’s Minister of Social Development and Human Security when inaugurating the Meeting.

“Our experience in dealing with issues related to migration has shown us the importance of dialogue and regional cooperation to solve these issues”, he said.

Health challenges faced by migrants; specific needs of women migrants and those of families affected by migration; partnerships for more regular and protected migration and strategies to address the significant scale of irregular, undocumented migration in the region were some of the broad topics discussed, with countries exchanging their experiences and good practices with regard to those issues. Reviewing the linkages between international migration and development was the topic of yet another roundtable discussion.

Delivering a keynote statement, Ms. Ton-Nu-Thi Ninh, Former Vice-Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, National Assembly of Viet Nam highlighted key trends in Asian migration and raised some concerns about the human rights and human security of migrants. “The most vulnerable groups are irregular and undocumented migrants, who account for one quart of migrant workers in or from Asia and are often victims of human trafficking”. Another area of concern was the “lack of long-term approach, the uneven attention to and ability by Governments of both source and destination countries to monitor outward and inward migration”, Ms. Ninh noted.

The Bangkok Statement on Migration and Development will be presented as Asia-Pacific’s contribution to the Global Forum on Migration and Development to be held in November 2010 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
For further information, please visit: http://www.unescap.org/sdd/meetings/GFMD_mig_sep2010/index.asp