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Global Forum on Migration and Development

By Filomenita Mongaya Høgsholm

As migration increases every day, there is evidence to suggest that it brings with it many benefits for development in both countries of origin and in destination countries. However, there is a very complex relationship between the two, and many actors in the development sector have long wanted to delve into the links between them.

It was the UN Secretary General at that time, Kofi Annan, and his Special Envoy on International Migration and Development, who tabled at the High Level Dialogue on the same topic the importance of a UN-level meeting for this area. So on 14–15 September 2006, within the framework of the General Assembly of the UN, it became reality to devote international attention each year to one of the most significant phenomena in modern history: migration, and how it could be harnessed for development.

In July 2007, the first meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), which this UN-level meeting has come to be called, was held and hosted by the government of Belgium, in Brussels, the heart of Europe.

The GFMD is, among other things, an intergovernmental forum: a meeting of governments alternately hosted by a migrantreceiving and a migrant-sending country (after the Brussels meeting in 2007, it was Manila, the Philippines, who hosted the second conference in October 2008). The GFMD has three goals:

  • to bring together government expertise from all regions to enhance dialogue, cooperation and partnership in the areas of migration and development;
  • to address in a transparent manner the multidimensional aspects, opportunities and challenges related to international migration and its links with development; and
  • to foster practical and action-oriented outcomes at the national, regional and global levels.

In 2009, the GFMD will again take place in a migrant-receiving country, Greece. Athens, the Greek capital, will be hosting this annual meeting of governments and stakeholders in the migration nexus, including NGOs and migrant groupings who want to be heard. In the context of the GFMD, it is considered vital that civil society groups are heard, so each host country takes it upon itself to choose some 200 delegates from all over the world, representing different sectors of society: immigrant organisations., migrant-rightsfocused NGOs, labour unions, immigrant media representatives etc. who are able to push the agenda through constructive discussions in roundtables and plenary sessions. The results of the two days of intense discussions on migration and development are then collated and presented to the governments who meet the following two days.

There is another forum within the context of the GFMD that creates space for alternative views and opinions to be presented. This goes under the parallel events, the ‘people-led’ activities, collectively called the People’s Global Action (PGA). As in other international UN-level conferences, a wide range of people’s organisations organise different kinds of activities and happenings to focus on the burning question of the day. These could be the familiar demonstrations, alternative conferences, cultural events etc. Some migrant coalitions prefer to hold congresses or discuss more pointedly the issues that bind them together – for example, migration and development policies – or to take a more popular topic: remittances. It is worth mentioning that remittances are now four to five times higher than the amounts of Official Development Assistance (ODA) that developing countries receive.

The annual GFMD thus is a unique space in which governments, while discussing bilaterally and multilaterally and perhaps negotiating certain agreements, are also able to hear and, hopefully, act on the recommendations of civil society and people’s organisations.

First published: WIDE October 2009 Newsletter

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