In December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 18th December International Migrants Day. On that day in 1990, the Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The theme for 2019 is “We Together”.
Throughout human history, migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life. Today, globalization, together with advances in communications and transportation, has greatly increased the number of people, who have the desire and the capacity to move to other places.
This new era has created challenges and opportunities for societies throughout the world. It also has served to underscore the clear linkage between migration and development, as well as the opportunities it provides for co-development, that is, the concerted improvement of economic and social conditions at both origin and destination.
Migration draws increasing attention in the world nowadays. Mixed with elements of un-foreseeability, emergency, and complexity, the challenges and difficulties of international migration require enhanced cooperation and collective action among countries and regions. The United Nations is actively playing a catalyst role in this area, with the aim of creating more dialogues and interactions within countries and regions, as well as propelling experience exchange and collaboration opportunities.
Since the earliest times, humanity has been on the move. Some people move in search of work or economic opportunities, to join family, or to study. Others move to escape conflict, persecution, terrorism, or human rights violations. Still others move in response to the adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters, or other environmental factors.
Today, more people than ever live in a country other than the one in which they were born. In 2019, the number of migrants globally reached an estimated 272 million, 51 million more than in 2010. International migrants comprise 3.5 per cent of the global population. Compared to 2.8 per cent in 2000 and 2.3 per cent in 1980, the proportion of international migrants in the world population has also risen.
While many individuals migrate out of choice, many others migrate out of necessity. The number of globally forcibly displaced people topped 70 million for the first time in UNHCR’s almost 70 year history at the end of 2018. This number includes almost 26 million refugees, 3.5 million asylum seekers, and over 41 million internally displaced persons.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes for the first time the contribution of migration to sustainable development. 11 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals contain targets and indicators relevant to migration or mobility. The Agenda’s core principle is to “leave no one behind,” not even migrants.
Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration. IOM works to ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people. In 2016, IOM entered into an agreement with the United Nations, becoming one of its specialized agencies.
Large-scale movements of refugees and migrants affect all UN Member States and they require closer cooperation and responsibility-sharing. In 2016, the UN General Assembly convened a high-level plenary meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants. The UN Secretary-General prepared the report ‘In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants’ with recommendations on the issue.
UN member states adopted a set of commitments, known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, The New York Declaration acknowledges the positive contribution of migrants to sustainable and inclusive development, and commits to protecting the safety, dignity and human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migratory status.
As a result of the New York Declaration, UN Member States agreed to work together to develop the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, adopted at an intergovernmental conference on international migration in December 2018 in Morocco. The GCM covers diverse issues such as strengthening labour rights for migrant workers, improving migration data as a basis for evidence-based policies, saving lives and establishing international efforts on missing migrants, and many others.