The Global Forum on Migration and Development was officially opened on Monday 27 October in Manila with 200 delegates and about 30 observers from civil society, academia and business.
Regional exchanges and thematic workshops were part of the agenda, in order to prepare recommendations for the Governmental Forum, which would take place two days later in the same venue.
Here are some of the impressions members of the Caritas Internationalis delegation.
Kamal Sioufi, President of the Board Committee of Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre
I believe that the exchange of information and communication is a very fruitful process, and sharing experiences related to the problems of migrants is interesting.
In this Forum, many problems were raised and but few solutions. The aim was to set practical recommendations which should be followed up in order to protect in a migrants dignity and human rights.
The problems highlighted in the Forum are found in many countries: lack of respect of human rights, lack of freedom, and trafficking.
The solutions should be developed on amended international laws and conventions. NGO’s could have their role to play in this.
I want this Forum to identify emerging problems with which migrants are confronted and will propose adequate solutions according to a time schedule which will be updated during evaluation.
Peter Verhaeghe, Migration officer of Caritas Europa
Caritas Europa was able to bring some of the issues and recommendations from our Migration Forum in September 2007 into the debate. The roundtable session on fostering opportunities for legal migration in particular was an excellent opportunity to express our concerns to the concept of “circular migration”, which is too often seen as a creating international workers with a limited set of labour rights related to social protection. We hope that our concerns will find their way into the intergovernmental debate on migration and development.
Martina Liebsch of Caritas Internationalis
It was a long list the chair of the Forum had to deal with at the end. I’ll just try to flag three issues, which had a prominent place in the discussions and found their way into the report presented to the governments.
1. The need for migration policies based on a human rights framework.
2. The demand repeated over and over again to ratify the relevant Conventions (Migrant Worker Convention and ILO Conventions).
3. Finally the issue of feminisation of migration and related issues like human trafficking and gender dimension of migration.
The ultimate goal should be migration out of choice. The upcoming notion of temporary migrants was broadly criticised, as little or no social rights are attached to it.
But it was not a Forum on Migration and Development yet, as experts and people from the development working field were almost absent, apart from diasporas organisations that engage in promoting the development of their countries of origin. It was more a Global Migration Forum.
Not even the compliance with the achievement of the MDG’s was an issue. I brought up the MDGs, as well as the idea about more concrete measurable targets, in order to assess progress during the next Forum. Many could agree on that. Yet, I’m not sure if it is found its way into the report delivered to the government.
Participation of civil society in policy dialogue and how to structure a future Global Forum were a topic for discussion. There was a broad consensus that the Forum should be brought back under the UN to make it more accountable. A true dialogue with the governments should be given space in the Forum and not just an exchange of declarations at the so-called interface session.
This session with representatives of the governments started with a kind of reality shock. The Secretary of State of the Philippines, in charge of chairing the governmental meeting, highlighted that the aims of civil society presented are too ambitious and long term. The governments would be looking at concrete problems and would expect civil society to highlight these problems and work on pragmatic solutions.
Moreover he highlighted that the government representatives attending the interface session were there on their personal capacity and not representing their governments.
It was a great opportunity to make contacts and many people, especially from the research area were interested in the work of Caritas. Something to build on for the further development of our work. It was also an opportunity for networking. Like for our colleague from Ghana, who met people from her and other African countries for the first time. There was an initial agreement that the work in West Africa should be better interconnected.
But at the end also a feeling of anger about the lack of transparency emerged.
A delegation out of the delegates of the civil society conference was set up to participate in a part of the Governmental meeting. Who were these delegates was never made public and even we among the faith based organisation only learned in the last minute who would represent the churches and faith based organisations.
There was also the feeling that all the good recommendations were presented in a kind of show-format during the interface session, which did not really help to make our point. So there are a lot of lessons to be learned about better coordination and cooperation and preparation.
Regional meetings prior to the next Forum, which will be hosted by Greece, could be a way forward.
Some of the representatives of the faith based organisations met for a debriefing after the end of the conference. We should use our networks to get better prepared for the next Forum.
A last word about Manila and the people there, all those who assisted us, in the venue and in the hotel. A big lesson to be learned about being friendly and helpful!