The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies welcomes the opportunity to take part in this debate, and looks forward to working as closely as resources permit in the further development of international cooperation on the issues brought forward to the Commission for Social Development.
The International Federation also welcomes the processes which have resulted in the publication of the very useful background paper before the Commission, and congratulates the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on the initiatives which have brought this material before the Commission and the wider United Nations system.
We recognise that the debate on the economic and social dimensions of international migration is still in a relatively formative stage, at least in the United Nations. It is, however, a debate which has engaged governments, experts and NGOs at regional and national levels for some time, and it is our hope that the further work to be done will give high priority to ensuring that UN activity is in harmony with that being done at regional and national levels.
With that in mind, the International Federation wishes to bring it to the attention of the Commission and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs that the social dimensions of international migration have been issues of the highest priority to it for many years. The nature of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as auxiliaries to the public authorities in their countries in the humanitarian field, means that in many countries the National Society and the authorities are mutually engaged and working together to address many of the issues which are exposed in the background paper.
In their dialogue they address not only international migration as it is described in the background paper, but also related issues as they affect asylum seekers and internally displaced persons. Significantly, the engagement also addresses the needs of people who have migrated within their country but whose circumstances can be very similar to those of international migrants. This was a key element in debates in the supreme body of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the Council of Delegates, in 2001.
That debate culminated in the adoption of Resolution 2001/4 which called on the International Federation and National Societies to develop a Plan of Action addressing migration and resultant vulnerability. This was a turning point for the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, in recognition of the increasingly mixed flows of population movement and emphasises that the application of the Red Cross Red Crescent approach to base responses on needs rather than categories of persons. This starting point - starting with vulnerability and need - may by itself be a valuable contribution to this debate in the United Nations.
Our experience, over many years, indicates that this is not a new or emerging issue, nor is it a new trend. It is, as we have said before in debates at other UN bodies which address aspects of the migration debate, an issue which desperately needs new approaches if it is to be addressed with sensitivity and with an attitude which recognises the importance of migration in the wider context of social and economic progress. This has many dimensions, with work being done all around the world, but a specific example is also available from the work of European National Societies to implement their 2002 pledge to address the vulnerability that commonly attaches to migration, however it occurs.
For these reasons we very much hope that the debate in the Commission will set the stage for an holistic discussion of the way population movement - in whatever legal language it is defined - affects individuals, groups, societies, economies, states and the welfare of our planet. It is a discussion which is very necessary, unfortunately, and needs to encompass the vulnerability that results from the situation which population movement inevitably produces.
These were among the considerations in the minds of the European National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies when they adopted their Berlin Charter at their most recent regional conference, in Berlin in 2002. That Charter, which was introduced to the United Nations in New York by the Permanent Mission of Germany later that year, included a Plan of Action on Migration, a copy of which we are making available to the Commission today.
The essence of the Charter's Plan of Action is that the extent and complexity of migration puts it beyond the capacity of a single organisation or government to handle. It states that communication and cooperation, including with the people involved, and the building of networks, is essential.
For that reason, the International Federation agrees with the generality of the need for improved international cooperation set out in the background document, but it believes the proposals would be enriched if there were more attention given to the need to involve the real stakeholders in the debate - communities, including those affected by migration.
The strength of the Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies comes from their base in the community in every country in the world. This was why the Berlin Charter contains a commitment from National Societies to improve their cooperation and build appropriate networks in order better to protect, support and assist migrants and their families, regardless of status.
A good example of this networking is PERCO, the Platform for European Red Cross Cooperation on Refugees, Asylum-Seekers and Migrants. The need for such a Platform was identified in 1997, and it now has 17 National Society members. A lot of what it does involves the exchanges of experience mentioned in the Commission's background document, but it also gains experience from the Population Movement Program in Central and Eastern Europe supported by the International Federation and operated by National Societies.
The latter is not linked to PERCO, but is also an example of action programs in support of affected people in a community-based manner, such as the Social Integration Mobile Teams for minority returnees in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Formerly Deported People in the Crimea, and community development programs such as in Azerbaijan. From access to PERCO experience and first hand field work through the Population Movement Programme, the International Federation is often in a position to offer analysis and take part in policy discussions on many of the topics listed in the background document as subjects listed for future work. The recommendations which follow are often, by virtue of the status of the dialogue maintained by National Societies in their countries, of particular value to government policy-making.
We do not want to pretend that the National Societies in the International Federation are far ahead of the debate which this Commission is developing. We have identified a great deal of practical and substantive work which needs to be done, and we are well aware of the need for this to be done in partnership, and to be led by governments. We have, however, also noted that many of the obstacles which have made this debate such a high priority have come to prominence because governments, in general, have not been attentive to the way migration changes the patterns of life and behaviour in their countries.
This is why a related central policy issue for the International Federation is action to combat discrimination, to promote tolerance and respect for cultural diversity. It is a global action, but rooted in local action. We believe that the issues confronting us all now, exemplified in the background document, cannot be satisfactorily addressed without action at all levels and particularly at the local level.
This is the paradox. International migration is by its very nature the concern of central governments, but the action that must be taken to accommodate changes in population make-up has to start at the local and community level. Our experience, in very many countries, is that there is a significant disconnect between national policy and local implementation. The Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies are ready to join dialogue at all levels to help identify the best means to overcome these problems.
The International Federation has sought to maintain its dialogue with the different levels in all parts of the world. The Berlin Charter's Plan of Action, mentioned several times in this statement, has found resonance in all other regions, and has been specifically noted in subsequent regional Red Cross Red Crescent Conferences held in the Americas and the Asia-Pacific regions in 2003. It has led to an opening of eyes to the parallel tracks along which the international and local debates must move.
It has also inspired the International Federation to upgrade its relationships with a number of important fora working in the field. One such is Metropolis International, a forum bringing together a network of experts, practitioners, NGOs, people affected, academics and governments from around the world. Although many of its members are in Europe, its value comes from its global character, with representation, including from governments, in North and South America as well in Asia-Pacific and Africa.
Metropolis International's network functions through annual conferences at the global level as well as regional meetings. The first annual international conference was held in Milan in 1996, and the ninth will be in Geneva in September-October 2004. Its theme, "Cooperative Migration Management" is profoundly interwoven with topics which are central to the background paper produced for this Commission, and we look forward to seeing ideas from this Commission debate enriching discussion in Metropolis.
In my capacity as the International Federation's representative to Metropolis International, I will do my best to work with others to bring those ideas forward. I will also ensure that your outcomes and the character of your debate reaches the Metropolis national-level networks and benefits the discussions they regularly hold at that level.
Metropolis International has already achieved a lot, in a direct policy-making support sense, and the International Federation commends it to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs as a network whose accomplishments reach to many of the topics listed for potential future discussion by the Commission.
The background document also refers to the significance of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, and notes that the follow-up to that conference has not devoted much time to the issue of international migration. It also notes, however, that the regional commissions of the UN system have done considerable work on the issue. In this regard, the International Federation records its appreciation for the valuable reference material published by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago de Chile, and for the way the issues were able to be addressed in the 2002 Asia-Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok and the 2004 European Population Forum.
The European Population Forum, in particular, gave States and experts an opportunity to discuss in depth issues of the type brought forth in the background paper presented to the Commission. The International Federation took an active part in this Forum, and noted that one of the most valuable outcomes was the building of a new network to support further work. One element of that further work which is of particular interest to the International Federation is the Bern Initiative, sponsored by the Government of Switzerland, especially as it is now reaching more to expertise beyond States for its development.
It is, however, our hope that the subject will be able to be brought to much more prominence at the global level. There are many important meetings and conferences ahead of us, such as for example the Human Movements and Immigration World Congress in Barcelona in September 2004. There are, in fact, so many that we fear that focus could easily be lost. For that reason alone, quite apart from issues of substance, we particularly welcome the establishment on 9 December 2003 of the Global Commission on International Migration.
We look forward to it developing its work program and activities, and to working closely with it, at both international and national levels. We are particularly pleased that its Co-Chairman, Mr Jan Karlsson, is able to be in New York during this debate, and assure him and the other Co-Chair, Ms Mamphela Ramphele, of our support for the initiative.