28 April 2017 – Recognizing that the issue of large movements of refugees and migrants is too vast for any one country to handle on its own, the United Nations convened a meeting of world leaders in September 2016 with the aim of finding durable solutions. At the summit, all 193 Member States came together around one plan, the New York Declaration, expressing their political will to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale.
Migration is a very big issue. It is very much part of public opinion these days. It is discussed in governments, around kitchen tables. It involves everybody. And it is not new.
UN envoy Louise Arbour
As a follow-up to the meeting, Secretary-General António Guterres last month appointed Canadian lawyer, prosecutor and jurist Louise Arbour as his Special Representative for International Migration.
Ms. Arbour – who has served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda – is tasked with working with Member States as they develop a first-ever global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, which is due to be adopted in 2018.
She also leads UN advocacy efforts on international migration, including providing support to the ‘Together’ campaign, a new dialogue about refugees and migrants to foster social cohesion while countering negative stereotyping and falsehoods about them. In addition, she provides policy advice and coordinates the engagement of UN entities on migration issues.
Ms. Arbour recently spoke to UN News about the need to enrich the narrative on migration which, she believes, focuses overwhelmingly on the negative aspects of migration and obscures the positive impact it has on the prosperity of many countries.
UN News: You were appointed as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration last month. Could you tell us more about the scope of the issue and the challenges ahead?
Louise Arbour: Migration is a very big issue. It is very much part of public opinion these days. It is discussed in governments, around kitchen tables. It involves everybody. And it is not new. People have been on the move for as long as there have been people on this Earth. But with modern communication technology, transportation, we have seen an increase in human mobility.
Migration comprises everything from refugees fleeing persecution and conflict zones to what we sometimes call economic migrants – people who sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not by choice, or are forced, decide to leave their country of birth or their country of origin often in search of employment or to be reunited with their families.
The best estimate is that there are today about 245 million migrants in the world. And I am not sure we are well equipped to facilitate safe, orderly, regular migration, which is the mandate that the General Assembly gave itself last September to bring some order to this.