Experts on international migration from countries in the region inaugurated today the first regional preparatory meeting on the Global Compact for secure, orderly and regular migration, at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.
The regional consultation, which concludes tomorrow, is organized by ECLAC in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Its purpose is to produce inputs for governments as they negotiate the global compact.
The meeting’s inaugural session was headed by Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary; Louise Arbour, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for International Migration; Ambassador Juan José Gómez Camacho, Co-facilitator of the intergovernmental consultations and negotiations on the global compact on migration; and Laura Thompson, Deputy Director General of the IOM.
During her speech, Alicia Bárcena called on countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to fully incorporate migration into development agendas and especially into the 2030 Agenda, with an emphasis on rights and with equality at the center.
“This is not just a utilitarian viewpoint but instead a comprehensive viewpoint at the service of people,” she contended.
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary added that, clearly, the region “will be a pioneer in offering a jointly agreed-upon view regarding migration governance, through the imperative consideration of human rights principles, development and social inclusion that have been central to ECLAC’s proposals and, in particular, to the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development.”
Alicia Bárcena specified that some 30 million people native to the region currently live outside their country of birth, representing 4% of the total population. The foreign-born population residing in Latin American and Caribbean countries is equivalent to practically one fourth of the quantity of emigrants and just 1.1% of the region’s total population. Meanwhile, the immigrants who come from the Latin American and Caribbean region itself represent 62.8%, a figure that continues to grow in comparison with prior decades.
Mexico represents 40% of regional emigration, with some 12 million of its citizens living abroad. Colombia and El Salvador follow it in terms of numerical importance, she added.
In South America, the senior United Nations official said, the emigrated population totals 8.4 million people, scarcely 2.1% of the total subregional population, while the immigrant population is 4.7 million, or 1.2% of the total subregional population.
Louise Arbour, in her speech, affirmed that migration “can make an important contribution to addressing some of the world’s challenges, including climate change, sustainable development, gender equality, and population decline and ageing.”
She added that today "there is a clear need for principled and collaborative migration governance at the global, regional and national levels."
Juan José Gómez Camacho, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations, highlighted the enormous benefits of migration, which represents 3.4% of the global population and generates 9% of the planet’s wealth.
“Migrants contribute to the global GDP with a figure of around 7 trillion dollars annually. Remittances, meanwhile, total 350 million dollars a year and represent just 15% of migrant workers’ earnings, which means that the remaining 85% stays in the countries where they reside,” the Co-facilitator stated.
“We must foster the understanding that migration is a net gain,” the Ambassador said, emphasizing that the Global Compact is a unique opportunity to address the deep causes that affect migrants today.
Finally, the Deputy Director General of the IOM, Laura Thompson, said that the Global Compact is an invaluable opportunity to promote the positive effects of migration.
She noted that countries from Latin America and the Caribbean have made important contributions with regard to migration governance through the adoption of new migratory laws and policies and the creation of new entities such as, for example, MERCOSUR’s Residency Agreement, the instruments for free movement issued by the Andean Community of Nations and, more recently, some accords for free mobility approved by the Pacific Alliance.
The regional consultation is taking place in parallel to the preparatory process for the Global Compact and its global hearings. Among many other issues, it is hoped that a debate will be fostered around a regional vision on the human rights of migrants, the response to factors that drive migration, international cooperation and governance, irregular migration and human trafficking, and migrants’ contributions to sustainable development and decent work.