A Reflection of Progress


First published in "G7 Italy: The Taormina Summit", May 2017 issue)

The world’s experience with globalisation — the widespread transfer of peoples, technologies and cultures — did not begin in our time. Scholars argue that it dates back to 1492, when European migration, together with movements of Asians, Africans and Native Americans, forged the global relationships that help shape life to this day.

This centuries-old process has led to ever freer trade networks for goods and services, and ever increasing human mobility — the labour and intellectual property components of our codependent economies — to raise prosperity globally.

Migration embodies all we have accomplished in responding to human ambition and promoting the dignity and freedom of men and women worldwide. Yet it is that progress — which has lifted billions from poverty — that now is being shaken to its core, with a return to antimigrant nationalism. This is a threat we cannot ignore.

Fighting fear of change

The forces doing the shaking arrive under different names: ‘populism’, ‘xenophobia’. Each is a side of one coin: fear of change on one side backed by susceptibility to media images that pound away at only negative tropes, often having little basis in fact.

‘Your jobs are deserting you’, goes one trope, as corporate growth is thought to flee to other countries. Or ‘your country is disappearing’, as foreigners teem onto your shores. Or ‘these newcomers just won’t beassimilated’ — as if such criticism was not levelled at, and debunked by, every wave of ‘newcomers’ that ever arrived before.

Nonetheless, we have to face these fears and push back. We must all — be we leaders in government, civil society and the corporate world — demonstrate the many ways we can communicate a different message. At the International Organization for Migration (IOM), communicating this message is one of our core missions.

One way we do so is with the United Nations ‘Together’ campaign, which combats stereotypes of migrants and refugees with positive stories that reveal the energy released to benefit us all when newcomers renew our cities, establish new industries and create opportunities for all in their new surroundings.

Great successes

IOM’s ‘I am a migrant’ campaign profiles individual migration success stories online. For example, Jim Yong Kim, the Korean preschooler whose journey through a Texas and Iowa childhood led ultimately to Washington DC, where today he is President of the World Bank.

Or Cecilia Violetta López, the daughter of itinerant farmworkers from Mexico, who from a childhood in Idaho rose into a classical music career, performing in La Traviata and Madam Butterfly on the world’s great opera stages.

A universal movement

Of course, we must do more than demonstrate how migrants triumph over adversity to join us. We need to show how they make us all — whether we come from countries where our family roots extend back generations or whether we are still waiting for the children who will be the first to claim our ‘native’ status.

The ‘us’ I am speaking of are those thriving within any free society that welcomes the talent of the young. The foreigner who arrives as a restaurant worker but becomes an award-winning chef. The sian website designer whose talents are spotted by a recruiter far away in Europe, who then sends the designer to join a start-up in California. Or the entrepreneur who travels ‘here’ to earn a fortune, gain skills and, through both, enrich those ‘back home’.

I speak here in generalities to demonstrate just how universal this movement across has become. Any of these examples play out across boundaries that barely existed a generation ago.

Remarkable stories

These are not journeys that occur solely between poor lands and richer ones, but anywhere. We could be talking about the Nigerian trader now working in Guangzhou, which is home today to nearly 200,000 West Africans. Or the Ethiopian jazz musician who has won legions of fans in Johannesburg. Or the Sénégalais who in 2016 won Best Paris Baguette prize for his exquisite baguettes. Or the turban-wearing fan who has become a sensation in Canada doing Hockey Night in Punjabi broadcasts from his new home in Vancouver.

Just as remarkable, and possibly more important, are the hidden stories that affect all of us: the thousands of migrant health workers filling crucial labour shortages everywhere from Iceland to Zimbabwe. Or those risk-resistant new homeowners who relentlessly restore abandoned neighbourhoods in cities such as Liverpool, Detroit or Dresden.

There is a proverb: as long as books stay open, minds cannot be closed. We might say something similar about the future of our planet: as long as borders remain open, humankind must remain free. Let’s work together to make that hope real.


About the autor:

William Lacy Swing - Director General of the International Organization for Migration.


Multilateral cooperation, a key for migration governance

Categoria: Migration Governance
Autor: Guest Contributor

Migratory movements in Central and North America have been determined by diverse political, economic, environmental, social and cultural factors. Due to their complexity, migration processes at national and regional levels reveal a great number of challenges, so cooperation and dialogue between countries and agencies is essential to address them properly.

Inter-state consultation mechanisms on migration (ISCM) are forums run by States in which information is exchanged and policy dialogues are held for States interested in promoting cooperation in the field of migration. These mechanisms can be regional (regional consultative processes on migration or RPCs), interregional (interregional forums on migration or IRFs) or global (global processes on migration).

There are 15 Regional Consultative Processes on migration active in the world, but few as consolidated and with as much experience as the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM), created in 1996.

The RCM is a regional consultative process on migration to exchange experiences and good practices in ​​migration at a technical-political level. The coordination of policies and actions is carried out by its eleven member states: Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Created at the first Tuxtla Summit, the RCM is governed by the following objectives:

• Promote the exchange of information, experiences and best practices.

• Encourage cooperation and regional efforts in migration matters.

• Strengthen the integrity of immigration laws, borders and security.

This poses a great challenge, since it involves the balance of security issues at each country’s level as well as at a regional level, the search for national prosperity and economic improvement, and the rights of migrants in accordance with international agreements and conventions.

 "The issue of migration has many challenges, and among them is public opinion. Sometimes the issue of immigration is not so popular, if it is not addressed in an appropriate manner. There is a lot of misinformation about migration issues, and countries’ efforts are not always recognized," said Luis Alonso Serrano, coordinator of RCM’s Technical Secretariat.

The RCM works with three different liaison networks: the fight against trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, consular protection, and the protection of migrant children and adolescents. This year, the RCM is going through a re-launch process, led by Guatemala as Presidency Pro-Tempore, to innovate and be at the forefront in meeting regional objectives. The RCM is a dynamic process and evolution is one of its main characteristics.

Among its achievements is the establishment of different assistance projects for the return of vulnerable migrants, training workshops and seminars on migration issues, and technical and institutional assistance to the migration authorities of RCM’s member states.

The RCM has also published a comparative analysis of the legislation of Member States on trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, which is periodically updated, as well as a series of guidelines and manuals for migration governance.

However, of all its achievements, the most important achievement of the RCM is teamwork: the commitment of continuous dialogue between countries characterized by different economic, socio-cultural and migratory realities. This regional consultation process provides a space for equal representation and participation to government delegates, facilitating the identification of matters of common interest, as well as needs, objectives and areas of action.

The efforts of the RCM are complemented by the work of other regional entities interested in migration governance, such as the Central American Integration System (SICA). Currently, SICA and IOM are developing a study on the causes and consequences of migration in the region, to develop a regional action plan to address the phenomenon.

As Serrano explains: "The immigration issue does not belong to a single country on its own. Through the exchange of experiences and good practices, a dialogue between peers is created to share challenges. You not only learn from the good, but also from the opportunities for improvement, in order to strengthen migration governance and ultimately reach the target population: the migrant population, whom we owe our work to. "

For more information about the RCM and access to documents and publications, visit: http://portal.crmsv.org/