Remarks by Abdullah Shahid, President of the General Assembly, at the plenary segment for the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF).
Mr. Secretary General,
Mr. Director General of the International Organization of Migration,
Distinguished delegates and stakeholders,
We meet today, three years on from the landmark adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, a monumental achievement which established the first ever international framework for cooperation on international migration.
Global challenges continue to converge and affect both migration patterns and the living conditions of migrants. 281 million international migrants, accounting for 3.5% of the world's population, now look to us for solutions.
While many migrants leave their countries of origin for work, others are forced to undertake their journeys due to conflict, poverty, violence, environmental degradation, and climate change, among other reasons.
Regardless of their circumstances, the international community has a responsibility to ensure that the human rights of everyone involved are respected.
This brings us to today - the first International Migration Review Forum.
Here, we will discuss progress, identify common challenges, rectify failures, and explore avenues to strengthen partnerships between states and stakeholders.
Here, we will come together in support of migrants and commit to actions that uphold their dignity and rights in countries of origin, transit, and destination, while strengthening the capacity and resilience of host-communities.
Much of what we will discuss today will follow from our discussions during the informal hearing, round tables, and policy debate.
My friends, I am very glad to welcome among us many migrants, who number among the many diverse stakeholders present throughout this process. You have played a pivotal role in shaping the Forum, and your presence this week enriches and deepens our exchanges.
The Global Compact on Migration has demonstrated its value. It is adaptable, relevant, and responsive to crises.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Compact has remained a source of inspiration. Its principles proved salient in responding to migration-relevant shocks and challenges resulting from drastic restrictions in air travel and cross-border mobility, as well as from the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.
It provided coherent and replicable practices for international cooperation in managing migration – while always emphasizing its human dimensions.
It engages people and institutions across society, at all levels, to ensure that migrants and host communities get the support they need and deserve.
I thank the United Nations Network on Migration for the key role they have played in ensuring system wide coordination and coherence, supporting the full implementation of the Global Compact.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the integral role migrants play in our communities, including through lifesaving work in healthcare and in supporting critical supply chains.
Yet, tragically, migrants have often borne the brunt of the pandemic's health and socio-economic fallout. They were more at risk of disease, and have faced more difficulties accessing diagnostics, treatment, and vaccines. Compounding this, they were especially vulnerable to discrimination, job loss, and a lack of access to social safety nets.
Today, we acknowledge these failures and we strive to do better; to transform attitudes towards migrants and migration in a positive manner.
Today, we reaffirm the relevance of the Compact as the only globally agreed and comprehensive framework to facilitate safe, orderly, regular, and responsible migration.
By drawing upon its principles, we can address the challenges faced by migrants and host communities.
By applying them intelligently and with foresight, we can shape a migration regime that will save lives and strengthen our communities.
We must act now. Unregulated migration and the lack of predictable legal pathways comes at a terrible human cost. A cost in lives lost on perilous journeys across deserts, oceans, and rivers. And a cost in lives ruined at the hands of smugglers and traffickers.
Consider this for a moment: Between 1 January 2019 and 24 November 2021, at least 8,436 migrant deaths were recorded globally. A further 5,534 migrants went missing and are presumed dead. And these are just the reported numbers.
Behind every number is a family, a community, a life. They seek what we seek. They dream what we dream – Opportunity. Dignity. A better life.
Our ability to protect and to integrate migrants is not only a barometer of the health of our institutions – but of the empathy we feel for our fellow human beings; of our will to do right by our own conscience; of our commitment to upholding the basic human rights of all.
As we try to make our recoveries pick up pace and get back on track to meeting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we will need the contribution of the whole of society, and that includes migrants. In fact, we will make no progress on achieving our SDG targets without their inclusion.
Migrants are essential to all aspects of sustainable development. Through their work, their remittances, and the links they build between countries, they reduce poverty, provide vital services, and support families and communities in countries of origin, transit, and destination.
We are uniquely situated to shape a migration regime that can tap into those benefits. One that addresses the adverse drivers of migration, so that all migrant movements are the result of voluntary and well-informed decisions, that will position migrants to better contribute to the SDGs and empower communities.
This Forum is the culmination of months of preparations. I thank all those who helped drive and shape the national and regional consultations. And I acknowledge the vast preparatory work that has gone into developing national plans and preparing innovative pledges.
During these two days, we will look at the progress we made. We will then look to the future, and to the pledges and contributions that you will announce. We will identify priorities for collective focus as we move into the next four years.
During this inaugural IMRF, we will adopt the first declaration of progress. This is of profound importance, as this will set the tone and tenor of every subsequent forum.
This is a historic moment: one that calls for a united effort.
Let us support one another and build alliances.
Let us endeavor to find common ground on how to reinforce international cooperation.
Let us shape a global migration regime that is just and humane.
One that benefits all of us on this planet, all of humanity on the move.
I look forward to our discussions and I thank you.