Mr. Martin Nesirky, the Spokesperson for The UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, speaking to the UN accredited PRESS, Monday July 15th, ended his daily briefing by saying:
“This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General spoke to a large group of representatives from non-governmental organizations and the private sector on international migration and development. He emphasized the need to establish sustained and strong partnerships between different actors to harness the benefits of migration and improve the situation of migrants. He also commended the role played by civil society in building such partnerships.
He said that the General Assembly was meeting on international migration and development in October, and that this was an opportunity for member States to lay the foundation for improved local, regional and international migration policies.” That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes, Pam?
There was not a single question on this topic!
This statement relates to full three days of activities right here at the UN Headquarters in New York and across the street in the Church Center – which followed a full year of preparations outside the UN in a process that was started in 2006 when there was a UN General Assembly mandated first “High-Level” Dialogue on this topic and was succeeded by yearly meetings and further regional meetings.
Now we are at the preparation stage for the October 3-4, 2013 Second United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development with next planned meeting already for 2014 in Sweden, the home turf of Ambassador Ian Eliasson, the current Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. And all of this in the name of figuring out the UN activities in the post-2015 era – as mandated at the 2012 RIO+20 Conference.
At Rio the recommendations included the removal of the non-producing Commission on Sustainable Development and its replacement with a High-Level Panel that will look into the creation of a system of Sustainable Development Goals that will follow in 2015 after the expiring Millennium Development Goals – and this allows for an unusual opportunity to try for making the avoidance of the need of Migration into a Sustainable Development Goal. But the UN seems to oppose this by all the means it has – and I will explain.
You see – when I walk the streets of New York these days I bump into people. This is because the daily temperature reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit and people do not walk in a straight line. You must try to anticipate which way they will deviate – and I am as guilty as anyone else – this because global warming and Climate Change are already here with us. Relating to our topic here – MIGRATION occurs now not just because people are attracted by magnets of freedom from dictatorships, from religious or sexual oppression, or because of a chance to better education, but now – more and more – there is the push of hunger – climate change has made it impossible to support populations in their country of origin and this migration has become the highest security issue in our days. If heat and Climate Change is impacting New York, just think what this has done in Mali or Darfur!
The UN is not blind to this. The UN Secretary-General was supposed to be the opening speaker at the Monday, July 15, 2013 event at the meeting at the UN General Assembly with Mr. Vuk Jeremik, President of the General Assembly as Chairman of the session. But Mr. Ban Ki-moon chose to be on a July fact finding tour of Europe that took him to see the effects of glaciers melting in Iceland, and a visit in Paris on Bastille Day with the French troops fighting in Mali.
Both above visits, as well as the meetings in-between, would have made a great story had the UN Secretary-General returned to New York and told on Monday July 15th his impressions to the meeting here. But this seemingly did not cross his mind, and surely this is no reflection on the way Mr. Elliason presented the case. It must be said that seven years ago – at the first dialogue – Mr. Eliasson presided because it was his position of President of the UN General Assembly, so he is well versed with the issues – the roles of Civil Society, Labor Unions and Employers’ organizations, diaspora organizations, and academics. He stressed that the challenge is to reach to the help of the media – “Knowing the facts is the source of wisdom” he quoted.
Mr. Eliasson said he wants to see as a post 2015 program a five year action program in five areas of priority:
– the cooperation between States,
– a comprehensive data system of migration facts,
– the integration of the migrants into our societies and economies,
– plan migration with labor markets and development consideration,
– a framework for managing migration from crisis and violence regions.
What he did not mention is the right of people to avoid migration that was pushed upon them because of changes in the local environment.
Mr. Jeremik reminded us of the Rio vision for the post-2015 as an aspiration to strive for equitable approaches to overcome poverty and inequality.
At the meeting on Monday participated over 200 Civil Society organizations and 80 UN member States.
The main organization was in the hands of Switzerland and Swiss based NGOs like Caritas, The International Catholic Migration Commission, The Global Economic Forum, with with Ms. Susan Martin of Georgetown University, Institute for the Study of International Migration that awards you a Certificate on the subject, and Mr. Dennis Sinyolo, Education and Employment Coordinator at Education International, as moderators.
I sat through the full three days and saw that very good people from all over the globe were present – but by no means was this an objective success.
Starting with the strong Swiss presence I must say that as Migration means Emigration from one place and Immigration to another – this except Migration within the same country, Switzerland is a country of poor record as it does not allow citizenship except when the candidate is weighed in gold – and I am not abstract on this – Just think of the Agha Khan and his Swiss based Foundation. So, when A good looking lady presented herself as a migrant from El Salvador to Switzerland, with dual nationality and diamonds sparkling from her earrings, spoke about the Global Economic Forum backing the economic advantages that come from migration – I had to wonder about what I was hearing. Then let us not forget that simple mortals could not stay in Switzerland when their life was in peril. In general – I was more impressed by the people in the room then by some of the presenters, as in UN fashion – the good turns easily into the trite, and good ideas can produce easily flying meetings that are not free to the introduction of ideas born outside the initiating circle. Trying to introduce the notion that the UN is changing and that MDGs are ending with new SDGs taking their place, and the fact that the UN just opened this month the office for Sustainable Energy – the SE4All concept, and that right now there is an opportunity to talk of migration in context of Climate Change – all that was beyond the interest of the organizers and the moderators – but very much of interest of many of the participants.
Civil Society is surely a mixed bag, and the stress on remittances from the Migrants back to their families in the homeland become very important part of the economies of some oppressive governments – so, indiscriminately stressing the economic value may not be any better idea then using military from countries in trouble in order to beef up the troops of UN Peace-Keeping forces in other countries in trouble, when the pay for this service is income for the government that sends these troops. This comment may have nothing to do with the subject at hand but is important to the understanding of the depth of the problem when you work in he UN context.
Without delving further in depth of what was said, this because the meetings were just an interactive exercise that will generate its own papers, the real news this Monday were not the Civil Society NGOs that were allowed to participate – but rather those organizations that were excluded in total lack of transparency and thus gave a blue eye to the UN institution as a whole.
The subject came up when the United States pointed out that three NGOs were eliminated from participation this last week by being BLACKBALLED by some secret member State. These were three organizations – one registered in the UK and two in Israel and the UN does not release the names of the countries that objected to their participation. TO ME THIS WAS THE REAL NEWS OF THE MEETING – COVERING ON ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT WERE SAID AT THE MEETING.
After the US, spoke also Israel and the EU, and eventually this became an important part in the summary of the meeting, when at the end it was presented by the Chef de Cabinet to the UNGA President, Mr. Dejan Sahovic, who is also from Serbia like the UNGA President.
Mr. Sahovic explained that this had nothing to do with the organizers of the event but is a UN given. Whenever there is an event at the UN, after Civil Society makes up the list of registered NGOs, these lists are distributed to all governments which have then the veto right against any line on that list.
OK, we knew that China will take out any NGO that is based in Taiwan, but how is it that an observer organization at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), that is competent in the subject matter and is very active, could be eliminated? To make it sound even worse – the UN does not release the name of the blackballing country and the delegate for the EU said clearly that the EU is worried about the lately decreasing importance of Civil Society at the UN.
I followed up trying to find who are these three blackballed organizations, but will not allow myself to express a guess to who was the blackballing State as this guesswork is easy – but we refuse to do it. Nevertheless, we must say that wonders do happen at the UN sometimes.
In this case it was with two NGOs with interest in Human Rights of Women – specifically women in Arab lands – even more specific – in Saudi Arabia – they DID SPEAK UP.
Lala Arabian from a Beirut based NGO INSAN, part of the Arab Network for Migrants, which I was told speaks a fluent English, decided to speak out in Arabic against the treatment of Arab women – specifically in Saudi Arabia. Further – A woman in an impeccable English, coming from a United Arab Emirates NGO, but probably living overseas, made a similar statement from the floor. I did not note her name but she came from www.migrant-rights.org/category/g…
The Three NGOs that were absent are:
1. The Institute for Human Rights and Business Limited (IHRB) is the British organization.
They partner with the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) on issues like the establishment of the new Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business headed by Vicky Bowman.
They specifically look at how to persuade business to respect Human Rights with Migration one of the specific topics. June 17-18, 2013 they just had a meeting in Tunis on the subject of Free Internet. Is this what some despot did them in for?
2. Microfy – “Microfinance for African refugees and migrant workers in Israel” – an Israeli based NGO that provides assistance to African refugees and asylum seekers, many of them who fled the genocide in Darfur. www.microfy.org Clearly a highly ethical organization that might have difficulty being listened to by despots.
3.”The Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI)” advises governments and NGOs around the world on migration and integration.
CIMI has Observer Status wit the International Organization foe Migration (IOM) since 2003 and participates actively in all its meetings.
CIMI also partners with many other national and International organizations including the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
This information was confirmed by Ms. Michele Klein Solomon, the Permanent Observer for IOM at the United Nations. CIMI is also based in Israel.