Cablegate: 2008 Global Forum On Migration and Development


DE RUEHML #2546/01 3170921
O 120921Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 92074
B. MANILA 2262

1. SUMMARY: The Global Forum on Migration and Development
held in Manila October 27-30 was a major international
undertaking for the Philippines and was attended by
government delegations from 164 nations and 220 delegates
from civil society groups. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
delivered the keynote speech at the opening session and Vice
President Noli de Castro gave the closing address. Secretary
General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon opened the
conference, emphasizing the importance of migration to the
global economy. The Forum's primary purpose was to address
migrants' human rights and security, and the delegates
concluded that protecting the rights of migrants is a
responsibility that must be shared among the countries of
origin, transit, and destination. Forum participants sought
to underscore the nexus between migration and development,
noting that migration benefits the development of both the
countries of origin and destination. The roundtables also
discussed proposals to address the negative aspects of
migration in the countries of origin, including the loss of
skilled workers and the impact on families left behind, with
civil society groups urging greater rights for "irregular"
migrants. The government roundtables supported protecting
migrants' rights and expanding the opportunities for legal
migration, but also emphasized that migration is not a
substitute for development in the countries that send
migrants abroad. Both civil society groups and government
delegations recognized the important role geography plays in
the pattern of migration and acknowledged there could be no
"one size fits all" approach to regulating migration. No
consensus or support emerged for the Forum to take follow-up
actions that were clearly the prerogative of sovereign
states, and in the Forum's conclusions the members clearly
stated the Forum would not attempt to force states to report
or act on its recommendations. In his closing remarks, UN
Special Representative for International Migration and
Development Peter Sutherland said that the Forum has the full
backing of the UN Secretary General, but the Forum should
remain outside the formal structure of the UN and continue as
an informal, non-decision-making body. The 2009 Global Forum
will be held in Athens on November 4-5. Per reftels, Post
dispatched an observer/notetaker to the 2008 Forum, but did
not otherwise participate. END SUMMARY.

Protecting and Empowering Migrants for Development
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. As the host country, the Philippine government chose for
the theme of the 2008 Forum, "Protecting and Empowering
Migrants for Development." Intense Philippine interest in
the Forum stems from the country's status as one of the
world's major sources of migrant workers. Some 8.7 million
Filipinos living and working overseas comprise nearly 10
percent of the nation's population and nearly a quarter of
its workforce, sending home $15 billion annually in
remittances -- equivalent to 10 percent of the Philippines'
GDP. Philippine Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs
Esteban Conejos said that with 30 years' experience in
managing huge outflows, the Philippines was well positioned
to take up the cause of migrants and to share with other
governments the good practices and lessons learned.

UN Secretary General: Migration Can Benefit All
--------------------------------------------- ---

3. The presence of UN Secretary General Ban at the Forum's
opening session underscored the importance the United Nations
places upon the economic, cultural, and social issues
associated with global migration. An estimated 200 million
people now live outside their country of origin, and Ban
sought to highlight the benefits of migration to the global
economy. He argued that human mobility "makes our economies
more efficient by ensuring the right skills can reach the
right places at the right time, and that it could help
redress the enormous imbalances that have led to harsh
economic inequality." Ban argued that the Forum "must make a
special effort to inform and educate people about how
migration can be a benefit for all," and how it "should be a
tool to help lift us out of this economic crisis."

Forum Highlights Migration Development Nexus

4. The Forum highlighted the strategic nexus between
migration and development, with some speakers noting that
workers' remittances constitute a larger source of income for
developing nations than foreign aid or foreign direct
investment. Some participants observed that the current
transnational diaspora affects both the countries of origin
and the countries of destination. They said that migrants
help grow the economies of the countries where they live by
paying taxes, purchasing goods, and providing services and
also contribute to economic development in their countries of
origin by sending remittances home to their families.
Several speakers pointed out that while poverty, strife, and
natural disaster often induce migration, it is globalization
-- with its increased movement of goods, services, ideas, and
labor -- that is the major contributing factor.

Migrants Rights Are a Shared Responsibility

5. United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) Minister of Labor Saqr
Ghobash expressed a consensus view that the protection of
migrants' human rights is a shared responsibility that, if
properly carried out, would enable the migrants to maximize
their contributions to the economic development of both their
host countries and their countries of origin. He continued
by saying, "In the past countries of origin and countries of
destination frequently had different agendas and conflicting
priorities in addressing migration." Minister Ghobash went
on to say the U.A.E. and other like-minded states that depend
on migrant labor are interested in developing a framework of
policies for contractual migrants that encourages their
"circular migration." The policies would cover the entire
cycle of migration from recruitment and pre-departure
preparations in the countries of origin, through employment
in the countries of destination, to the return to and
reintegration of the migrants in their countries of origin.

Civil Society Views

6. Although not officially part of the Forum, civil society
groups held two days of roundtable discussions before the
official government meetings and were allowed to present
their recommendations and conclusions to the Forum
delegations at the closing session. The civil society groups
recommended reducing the transaction costs of migration to
yield greater economic benefits to both host and origin
nations. They suggested that banks and other financial
institutions create more innovative savings accounts,
funds-transfer programs, and other financial instruments to
reduce costs and offer greater choices to migrants for
allotting their salaries and remittances. The civil society
groups underscored the need for strong sanctions against
traffickers and exploitative employers and recruiting
agencies. They also recommended that host and origin
countries inaugurate pension portability programs and allow
migrant workers access to social security systems.
Recognizing that many "irregular" migrants are victimized in
transit or detained at the border, they recommended that
governments provide repatriation grants for those who want to
return home. They did not specify which governments should
pay for the repatriation. They were supported in that
sentiment by the opening remarks of Undersecretary Conejos,
who said, "We must put the interests of the poor and
disadvantaged ahead of the rich and powerful. We want to
focus on rights, especially of 'irregular' migrants."

7. Some civil society groups recommended that migrants be
given dual citizenship rights, the right to vote, and
employment opportunities equal to those available to host
country nationals. The civil society groups claimed that
enforcement alone does not control "irregular" migration and
that countries of destination should regularize the migrants
by offering more work visas for longer periods and provide a
path to citizenship for all migrants who want it. They also
recommended that the Forum address the negative impact
migration has on labor-exporting nations, particularly as it
relates to families left behind and the "brain drain" of
skilled workers and professionals. The recommendations were
not specific but ranged from conducting studies to using
remittances to fund community development projects.

Government Roundtables Report

8. There was a consensus that the fundamental purpose of the
Forum was to foster dialogue among governments, but that the
Forum would not be responsible for implementing policy.
After the two days of the government roundtable discussions,
Mr. Sutherland observed, "We listened to each other without
finger pointing. There is evident linkage between migration
and development. (The Forum) is not responsible for
follow-up actions; that is an issue for the individual
states, and we do not and will not force states to report or
act on (Forum) points." The UN wants to draw more
development experts and policymakers into future fora and not
concentrate solely on migration. The roundtable reports
concluded that protecting the human rights of migrants would
benefit not only the migrants, but would also contribute to
the development of the countries of origin and the host
countries. They noted that globalization, with its increased
movement of goods, services, and ideas, also requires the
increased movement of labor.

9. The roundtables suggested establishing a common lexicon
or dictionary of terms to promote commonality of
understanding and the feasibility of issuing diaspora bonds
in order to harness diaspora assets beyond merely remittance
flows. Their conclusions agreed with the civil society
groups that effective measures need to be introduced to
reduce exploitative and abusive practices such as migrant
smuggling and trafficking in persons. The government
roundtables decided to set up an ad hoc working group to
collect data and research on migration and development, with
a view to achieving more coherence and cooperation among key
actors in these areas. They proposed increasing the
opportunities for legal migration by establishing migration
programs that better match the skills of job-seekers in the
developing nations with real jobs in the developed nations.

On to Athens

10. The next Forum will be held November 4 - 5, 2009, in
Athens, Greece. Deputy Minister of Interior Athanassios
Nakos represented Greece at the Manila Forum and noted during
his remarks at the closing session, "Orderly migration, with
due respect for the migrants' human rights, is part of -- but
not a substitute for -- development." He said that when it
hosts the next Forum, Greece will strive to maintain the
momentum created in Manila. The Athens meeting will use the
same structural framework of meetings as in Manila and will
examine the Forum's linkages with the UN and its relationship
with the Global Migration Group and will examine future
funding sources and responsibility for follow-up actions.

Forum Will Remain an Informal Consultative Body
--------------------------------------------- --

11. Forum participants did not have a unified view on
migration, and their statements featured the demands and
concerns of both the labor-exporting and labor-importing
nations. Countries such as the U.A.E. that depend heavily on
migrant labor for their construction and service industries
-- currently 71.4 percent of U.A.E.'s population are
international migrants -- advocated policies to manage
migration in an orderly manner that would enable them to
benefit from contractual labor without allowing the migrants
themselves to become a dominant political force within the
country. The U.A.E. and other like-minded nations want to
pursue policies that lead to circular migration. While there
was clearly pressure from some delegates to eliminate the
distinction between legal and illegal migration, there was no
consensus or support for UN or any other extra-governmental
infringement of national sovereignty in dealing with the
issue. The Forum also recognized the role geography plays in
the pattern of migration and affirmed that each nation needs
to formulate appropriate responses to manage its own
migration situation. The Forum was united on the need to
protect migrants from exploitative and abusive practices and
to support bi-lateral and multinational programs to ensure
that migration is not used as a substitute for development in
the countries of origin. The UN does not intend to bring the
Forum into the UN as a formal decision-making body, and there
was no recommendation by roundtable participants that the UN
should do so.


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