UN High Level Dialogue on Migration: A choice or a desperate necessity?

migrarParticipating in the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development has given UNU-GCM an opportunity to learn more about the way in which such discussions work in practice. In particular, it was interesting to see how the real-world events that were unfolding at the time of the conference affected the discussions inside the chamber. During the week of the UNHLD, the tragic fire onboard a migrant boat off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa led to the deaths of a still unknown number of persons who were crossing the Mediterranean from Misrata in Libya. It was hard for the emerging facts about this event not to be present while discussions between world leaders continued about how to ‘make migration work’ (the slogan for this year’s HLD).

In his concluding remarks to the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development 2013, the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, called for a minute’s silence to honour those who had died in the boat incident. As delegates, press, advisors, and security guards stood in silence, it was hard not to wonder what had been in the minds of those on that boat in their last hours. And what is in the minds of those whom they left behind, both in the Mediterranean Sea and in their towns and villages. In that room, very few were not migrants, but the events that week in the Mediterranean made very clear the extreme inequalities in the migration process.

This year has seen the language of migrant rights throughout the discourse at the highest level. However, it has also seen increasing reference to making migration a genuine choice. One of the civil society groups present at the surrounding events made this clear with a slogan printed on their shirts:

‘migrar debe ser una alternativa, pero NO la única opción’

migration must be an alternative, but NOT the only option

The main official outcome of the event was the unanimous adoption by Member States of a five-page ‘Declaration’. It is hoped that the recognitions, acknowledgements and affirmations of this document might contribute to tangible change in the way in which global and national migration policy is developed. In the meantime, migration will continue, for some, to be a desperate and dangerous necessity.

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