High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development - Roundtable 3

Conseillère fédérale Simonetta Sommaruga. La parole prononcée fait foi.
Renforcement des partenariats et de la coopération dans le domaine des migrations internationales, moyens d’intégrer avec efficacité la question des migrations dans les politiques de développement et promotion de la cohérence à tous les niveaux. Remarques préliminaires de la conseillère fédérale Simonetta Sommaruga.

Mr. Co-chair, Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I remember very well the signing ceremony of the Migration Partnership between Switzerland and Nigeria. It was in February 2011 and was the first agreement of this kind that Switzerland had developed with an African state. Little did I realise at the time that some two and half years later, I would have the honour to co-chair with His Excellency, the Honourable Minister of Interior of Nigeria, Patrick Abba Morro, the third roundtable on cooperation mechanisms in the field of migration. For me, this event attests to the success of our migration partnership, one that has enabled regular, open and constructive exchanges to take place in the field of migration.

I had little idea either at the time that within less than three years, we would have developed together almost twenty projects in the area of migration and development. Let me cite three examples to give you a concrete idea of our migration partnership: firstly, last summer, several young Nigerians took part in an intensive training programme in the polytechnic domain at the international headquarters of Nestlé in Switzerland. Then, just one month ago, five young employees of the Swiss government had the privilege to participate in a diplomatic training programme in Nigeria. And thirdly, a project is currently being implemented to support agricultural institutes in Nigeria in training young people.

These different initiatives not only show what we have accomplished with our Nigerian partners but also demonstrate that it is possible to develop coherent and efficient bilateral mechanisms in the field of migration. They also show, however, how complex a phenomenon migration has become, one that will continue to concern all countries, both within and outside their borders. International migration involves a wide range of stakeholders - actors with different interests that at times are even contradictory. Moreover, in our globalised world, migration is increasingly linked to other global questions such as development, trade, human rights or climate change.

This complexity creates a major challenge with regard to coherence for governments. It is much easier to talk about coherence than to achieve it, and in truth, government policies are not always models of coherence. This seems to be especially the case for policies affecting migration and development: interests and policies sometimes come into conflict, but this is not as bad as it may at first seem because it forces us to consider all the interests at stake and to strike a balance. I will illustrate this with the following examples.

Countries tend to protect the competitiveness of their agricultural sector with subsidies limiting de facto access to market for developing countries. This undermines free and fair global competition and can reduce the possibilities for developing countries to export their products, thus hindering their economic development. Industrialised countries are compelled to drastically reduce their CO2 output in view of the disastrous effects of CO2 emissions on climate. In contrast, industrialising countries may consider themselves entitled to more relaxed rules, feeling rightly so that it is finally their turn to catch up and flourish. Private sector companies may seek to increase their competitiveness through more flexibility to hire migrant workers in time of need and to lay them off in time of low output. However, this would not only conflict with our social responsibilities but also with our interest in supporting the integration process.

There are legitimate concerns on both sides of the issue, and they must be weighed carefully to achieve balanced policies. We should however not preach coherence unless we are willing to concede that sometimes our own polices seem contradictory. More importantly, we should pursue our efforts to achieve greater coherence. I would like to underline the
following four key elements that could contribute to a coherent approach in migration policies.

Firstly, a coordinated approach at the national level is a central precondition for gaining a better understanding of migration and for developing better adapted policies. It is with this in mind that in 2011 my government adopted both a new policy on international migration and a new mechanism for cooperation between ministries. As a result, the relevant government agencies and organisations that deal with policies affecting migration now meet on a regular basis to find common ground, discuss concrete projects, and prevent and reconcile possible conflicts of interests. The Swiss foreign minister and I are coordinating our international contacts and the messages we wish to convey more closely and systematically than before. Such mechanisms are simple to implement and clearly have a positive impact on the coherence and efficiency of our policies. The added value of coherent policies is undeniable. That being said, each ministry must not lose sight of its own specific mandate.

Secondly, coherence requires an appreciation of the linkages between migration and other key political issues, in particular development. It is therefore crucially important to devote more resources and to give more thought to integrating migration in our so-called development policies. This is why Swiss development policy covering the period from 2013 to 2016 includes migration as a priority global theme. I can think of a multitude of concrete projects, both small and large, that we have launched with our partners, for example, to be able to benefit from the potential of the diaspora for integration and for the development of the countries of origin. At the same time, education or employment policies, for example, still have potential which has hardly been tapped to help improve the integration of migrants in Switzerland. The discussion which is currently starting in the context of the post-2015 agenda clearly offers an opportunity to pursue the work in this field that has just started.

Thirdly, a coherent approach requires both bilateral and multilateral partners. At the bilateral level, in 2008, Switzerland developed the innovative instrument of migration partnerships that we have since established with a number of states, including Nigeria, as I mentioned earlier. These partnerships give us the possibility to develop a shared understanding of the issue, to launch joint projects to promote the opportunities that migration offers, while joining forces to fight the negative aspects that it can also create, such as irregular migration and trafficking in human beings.

At the global level, during the last seven years, the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) has been the pivot on which the states have been able to develop a dialogue and build the confidence that was indispensable to address the issue of migration. The different regional consultative processes at the regional level have also strengthened the dialogue. However, we must find, now and in the future, a better way to make these different dialogues interact with each other in order to be able to strengthen the linkage between the reality experienced by migrants, national and regional policies, and the discussions at the multilateral level.

Finally, we must also strengthen the cooperation and the partnerships between the states and all other stakeholders in the system. Yesterday, in a side event that I chaired with the Government of Bangladesh, we discussed the importance of alliance-building between the various international stakeholders to create the political will to promote the integration of migration in the post-2015 agenda. The agencies of the Global Migration Group (GMG), the academic world, unions and civil society organisations, that are often closer to the reality of migrants, have a fundamental role to play in all aspects of migration. New cooperation mechanisms between the states and the private sector must moreover be identified in order to ensure, among other things, ethical methods of recruitment. Finally, those who are paradoxically often left out of the discussions, the migrants themselves, must be able to find their place within the system.

I thank you for your attention.

Last modification 04.10.2013

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