High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development

Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga. Unofficial translation, check against delivery.
Speech of Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, New York, 3rd October 2013

Mr President

For a long time, Switzerland was a country of emigration. Today, measured against the country's population, Switzerland has one of the highest rates of immigration worldwide. Immigration makes an important contribution to Switzerland's economic, social and cultural development. Nevertheless there are circles that wish to restrict immigration.

This is not so in many other European countries: they are trying to attract more migrants because they have a shortage of labour in many sectors. At the same time Europeans in countries particularly affected by the financial crisis are seeking new prospects in other continents.

These examples show: migration is constantly changing and with it the demands it places on states. Today many countries are at once countries of origin, transit and destination. This means very different countries in different continents have things in common when it comes to migration. This is an important chance: where there are similarities, there are automatically opportunities for cooperation.

Switzerland fosters this cooperation through bilateral partnerships on migration. On the basis of regular dialogue, we carry out joint projects to learn from each other and find solutions to problems – in the areas of regular as well as irregular migration.
For issues of regional or global significance, bilateral cooperation does not go far enough, however. It needs to be complemented by multilateral dialogue. With the Berne Initiative in 2004, Switzerland took the first step in a continuous effort to foster open dialogue on migration.

Dialogues need strong partners. I would particularly like to acknowledge the important role of Sir Peter Sutherland and the valuable work of civil society in this regard. The five-year action agenda is a constructive contribution to this high-level dialogue and beyond.

We also welcome the recent decisions of the GMG and will continue to support its work. However, Switzerland would also like to invite the GMG to consider the opportunity of a joint debate on how to make the group a stronger partner at policy and operational level.

A dialogue on migration and development should remain on the UN agenda. We are convinced of the value of regular high level dialogues. These allow us to take stock of the situation and set the agenda at the political level. At the same time, they complement expert-level processes such as the GFMD, to which Switzerland will continue offer full support, as the main stateled platform for global dialogue.

Mr President

The report by the UN secretary-general outlines an eight-point agenda for action we can fully subscribe to. Let me highlight three aspects of this agenda:

Firstly, human trafficking is an unspeakable violation of the most fundamental human rights of women, children and men. It is our duty to prevent trafficking, protect the victims, punish the perpetrators and join forces through partnerships. Switzerland has recorded these principles in a national action plan and is determined to put an end to this modern form of slavery.

Secondly, although not formally reflected in the current framework it is widely acknowledged that migration has contributed significantly to the achievement of the MDGs. Switzerland will work for the integration of migration in all relevant fields of the post-2015 framework.

Thirdly, Switzerland endorses the secretary-general’s call for better protection of the human rights of migrants. Migrants around the world find themselves in terrible situations. A pragmatic and coordinated approach among all actors is needed to effectively protect the rights of migrants.

Mr President

Strong international cooperation is important. It cannot, however, free a state of its responsibilities.

States carry the primary responsibility for protecting the rights of migrants and helping them to integrate, while expecting them to contribute to the harmonious life of their communities. Our societies will only enjoy the benefits of migration when the state meets its responsibilities in this regard.

Thank you.

Last modification 03.10.2013

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