Speakers in Population and Development Commission Spotlight National Measures to Embrace Migrant Flows, Balance Urban Expansion with Rights Protections
Gateway cities were critical entry points for immigrants from a wide range of countries, serving as hubs for the collection, circulation and dispersion of goods, capital and people, the Commission on Population and Development heard today as it continued its annual session.
Marie Price, Professor of Geography and International Affairs at George Washington University, said in a keynote address that immigration was changing the ethnic, linguistic and cultural make‑up of gateway cities around the world.
She said there was a tendency to view gateway cities as places of permanent settlement for immigrant newcomers. In practice, however, many functioned more like turnstiles, supporting a trend toward permanent temporariness, with limited access to long‑term settlement. And while immigrants played a fundamental role in a country’s labour force and social life, they were also victims of exploitation, vulnerability and residential segregation. More must be learned about short‑term mobility and circularity in migrant flows.
Ms. Price’s address punctuated a half-day of general debate during which delegates echoed those sentiments, stressing that that globalization, urban growth and human mobility were interrelated processes. Most highlighted the challenges posed by rapid urbanization. In that context, the representatives of Côte d’Ivoire and Uruguay said explosive urban growth had shed light on the need to control fertility and improve access to contraception, health care, education and training.
Delegates also drew attention to national measures to sustainably develop and expand urban areas, with Morocco’s delegate describing the “Alliance on Migration and Development” programme, which protected migrants’ rights and aimed to integrate newcomers into society as the country gradually evolved into a destination for migrants.
Indonesia’s delegate, in turn, described efforts to address rapid urbanization and help its cities embrace incoming migrant flows, broadly emphasizing the United Nations’ role in helping Governments improve migration data collection, facilitate technology transfer and design national development agendas that capitalized on migrants as “agents of development”.
India’s delegate meanwhile said the creation of fully serviced “green fields” around cities sought to accommodate the rapidly expanding population, while in Niger, efforts to modernize the city of Niamey by 2030 had resulted from personal engagement by the President to make the area attractive, added that country’s delegate. Mongolia’s delegate likewise drew attention to green provinces and sustainable cities initiatives pursued by the Government.
Also speaking today were representatives of Romania, Turkey, Sudan, Peru, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Japan, Costa Rica, Madagascar and South Africa.
The Commission on Population and Development will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 April to continue its general debate.
AISSATA ISSA MAIGA AMADOU, Minister for Population of Niger, aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the African Group, said his country’s urbanization rate was 22.5 per cent. The urban population was growing about twice as fast as the rural population as a result of natural growth and rural exodus. Housing was among the biggest challenges, mainly comprised of self‑built houses. Niger also lagged behind other countries in the region on urban infrastructure. While investments were needed, some programmes — such as one seeking to modernize the city of Niamey by 2030 — had resulted from personal engagement by the President to make areas attractive and international. More broadly, remittances were vital, as Niger was located at the heart of major migratory movements. Having observed the rise of human trafficking in Libya, Niger created the interministerial committee to implement the national policy on migration, with support from Germany, and established a national agency to combat human trafficking, both of which marked significant progress.
PAULOMI TRIPATHI (India), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that while migration brought new ideas, energy and cultural diversity to urban areas, unplanned urbanization and migration also posed serious challenges in terms of delivery of services and living conditions. Sustainable urbanization and ensuring a safe, orderly and regular migration was a mutually beneficial process, although it also constituted a collective challenge for all nations. India, with one sixth of the world’s population, was urbanizing at a rapid pace. Inclusiveness was the cornerstone of India’s development initiatives in the housing and urban development sectors, while the creation of well‑planned and fully serviced new areas or “green fields” around cities to accommodate the rapidly expanding population was also part of the strategy. Innovation and new technologies were at the heart of developing and adopting smart solutions applicable for different contexts.
BAYARMAA NARANTUYA (Mongolia) said urbanization in her country was evidenced by the fact that 65 per cent of its population lived in urban areas; with 70 per cent of those people in the capital city. As a result, Mongolia had pursued green provinces and sustainable cities initiatives. As an origin, destination and transit city for international migrants, irregular migrants were able to access basic services. Mongolia would continue to strive to implement the Cairo Programme of Action [adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development] and contribute to efforts to put in place a global agreement on safe, orderly and regular migration.
JOSEPH KOBENAN TANO, Deputy Director, Ministry of Planning and Development of Côte d’Ivoire, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that as an emerging country, Côte d’Ivoire was well aware of the demographic dimensions of development planning. Despite significant progress made on population issues, exponential growth had brought to light the need to control fertility and improve access to health care, education and training, as well as to create productive employment opportunities. Côte d’Ivoire was pursuing a “contraception revolution” and seeking to strengthen the health care system. Limited access to education, restrictive employment prospects and the unbalanced development of regions, as well as poverty, all factored into people’s decisions to migrate to urban areas. Some 57 per cent of internal migrants went to urban areas, particularly the capital city of Abidjan. Côte d’Ivoire still experienced marked migratory movements and hosted one of the largest migrant communities in Africa.
ELENA DOBRE, Director, Ministry of Labour and Social Justice of Romania, aligning herself with the European Union, said her Government was focused on increasing the participation of young people and vulnerable groups in the labour force and devising legislation that encouraged job creation. Protecting families was also a major concern, especially in times of financial and economic crisis. Consequently, family‑oriented policies were needed for future prosperity. More broadly, more than 2 million Romanians — 10 per cent of the population — worked abroad. As such, the Government had adopted legislative changes to facilitate human mobility. To protect workers abroad, it had also adopted legal mechanisms to regulate recruitment. In addition, Romania had participated in joint efforts to reduce the pressure of illegal migration in Europe, taking in 1,705 people under its internal relocation mechanism and another 80 people, under the European Union resettlement programme, who needed international protection. Romania’s priority was to provide all citizens with equal opportunity to participate in a society where basic needs were met and differences were respected.
ABDELLAH LARHMAID (Morocco), aligning himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said almost 60 per cent of Moroccans lived in urban areas, a figure that would reach 74 per cent by 2050. Morocco’s urban planning policy took into account all the Sustainable Development Goals, including increasing housing supply and decreasing vulnerability. Further, the Government had worked to reinforce urban infrastructure and improve access to health, education, drinking water and sanitation. As Morocco was becoming a destination country for migrants, the King had launched an “Alliance on Migration and Development” programme to protect migrants’ fundamental rights and help them integrate into society. The initiative considered the dignity of migrants, beyond a security approach, while other campaigns sought to regularize migrants as a way to help them access public services and employment.
GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey), stressing addressing migration patterns would be of great importance for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said most countries had experienced large population shifts, whereby large numbers of people were leaving rural areas for urban centres. Turkey was host to large numbers of Syrian refugees currently residing in temporary locations, where they had access to nationwide services, including education. To address social and health needs of women and girls, “safe spaces” had been established in urban areas across Turkey. Since 2015, hundreds of thousands of Syrians had received reproductive health services and psychosomatic support through those safe spaces.
ELHAM ABDALLA MOHAMED BABIKER, Director, Planning Department, National Population Council of Sudan, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country was mainly known for rural areas, although that dynamic was rapidly changing as more people migrated to urban areas. Policies for improving infrastructure had fostered rapid urban development, particularly as they had improved the movement of goods and people. Sudan had established a fund to develop housing options for poor families, although the lack of funding had proven a formidable challenge. Sudan had made progress in increasing access to safe drinking water and electricity in people’s homes, although cross‑border movements and human trafficking were still formidable challenges for Sudan, which was an origin, transit and destination country.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) reaffirmed his Government’s political will to reinforce the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development, while also pointing to great progress made over the last 20 years. Today, women played a lead role as development partners, he said, underscoring that Peru had been careful to balance people, natural resources and development, while managing the impacts of climate change.
FELIX ALIE KOROMA (Sierra Leone), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, described projected population growth in his country and the additional pressures that would exert on services and facilities. For young people, who comprised 80 per cent of the population, investments in social and economic activities were needed, as they were leaving to pursue jobs and better lives away from home, with many facing the dangers of illegal cross‑border migration over the Mediterranean. Since the forced displacement stemming from conflict in the 1990s, Sierra Leone had seen an upsurge in the growth of informal settlements around cities, which had put pressure on facilities and made service provision unsustainable. Sierra Leone looked forward to increased technical and institutional capacity‑building to assist in the implementation of municipal development plans, provision of social and economic services and investments in young people.
DURUIHEOMA EZE, Chairman, National Population Commission of Nigeria, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the phenomena of urbanization and migration were beyond the capacity of any one developing country. Those most affected by migration were young people, women of childbearing age and the working class. The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria was predicted to be the third most populous country in the world by 2050. Over the last 50 years, its population had grown at an annual rate of 6.5 per cent. Urbanization trends coupled with the large number of internally displaced persons in Nigerian cities posed critical challenges, as those cities grappled with widespread poverty, unemployment and inadequate health care. Urban mobility challenges must be managed, and as such, Nigeria sought to attain the Sustainable Development Goals through a particular focus on its national urban development and migration policies.
REIKO HAYASHI, Director, Department of International Research and Cooperation at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research of Japan, said her country had entered into a phase of population decline, but Tokyo’s population continued to increase and the city was the first choice for internal migration. Advocating efforts to encourage people to not move, she said that as of June 2017, more than 2 million foreigners resided in Japan, a figure which was steadily increasing. Strengthening customs and border patrols was important. Stressing that international migration should not cause brain drain, but rather benefit everyone, she said the phenomenon should be managed by receiving and origin countries.
ROLANDO CASTRO CÓRDOBA (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77, said half the world’s population lived in cities and most countries were rapidly urbanizing, posing significant challenges for societies and the environment. Energy and natural resource use must be reduced. It was also important that urban growth did not lead to marginalization or social exclusion, which would only increase poverty in urban areas. Strong, active societies could improve the quality of life by reducing crime and increasing the accountability of regional and local governments. Further, public policies must consider the phenomenon of international migration, since it was cities that generally attracted people in both transit and destination countries. Sustainability was the cornerstone of social and economic development, which was why Costa Rica had integrated it into its public policies, including those related to urban development.
ELBIO OSCAR ROSSELLI FRIERI (Uruguay), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country had made progress with legislation and public policies aimed at taking a person‑based approach to development, which was seen as a universal right. A gender focus must be central to all State action to consolidate democracy, and Uruguay had moved toward a more inclusive development model. It had an advanced legislative framework for marriage equality, gender identity and the employment of groups that had traditionally been “left behind”, such as domestic workers. Since 2005, Uruguay had put in place laws and programs that recognized those rights as human rights, without discrimination. It also had a framework that allowed for voluntary abortion, assisted fertilization, universal access to free contraception, integrated care for those with HIV and AIDS, and sex education at all levels. In recent years, Uruguay had moved away from being an origin country to being a destination country for migrants.
JEAN GABRIEL RANDRIANARISON, Secretary‑General, Ministry of Economy and Planning of Madagascar, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said that while economic growth was strong, demographic growth was among the highest in sub‑Saharan Africa. Further, dependency among people under age 15 and over 64 years was high compared to rates of other emerging economies. Human mobility and rural exodus were a reality, notably in the capital. The Government had prioritized migration and considered the diaspora a generator of development. A diaspora forum in November 2017 offered a platform for exchanging ideas on how to make diaspora members real actors in Madagascar’s development. Noting that the Government had adopted family planning objectives through 2020, he said improved national statistics were important. A census was under way, and the population policy had been updated to focus on migration and urbanization.
JACQUES VAN ZUYDAM, Chief Director, Population Division of South Africa, said cities in his country had experienced rapid population growth. Stressing that African migrants were younger than those in other parts of the world, which could present opportunities, he said they nonetheless remained vulnerable, especially children, women and persons with disabilities. More broadly, international migrants were vulnerable to disease, as well as unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. The protection of migrants’ human rights was a fundamental component of any development strategy, he said, stressing that migration was a catalyst for development.
MUHAMMAD RIZAL MARTUA DAMANIK, Deputy for Training, Research and Development of Indonesia, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that with more than 244 million migrants around the globe, the multidimensional nature of migration must be appropriately addressed. Describing Indonesia’s efforts to address rapid urbanization and help cities embrace the incoming flow of migrants, he also reiterated the importance of the United Nations in helping Member States respond to shifting population dynamics. More specifically, he suggested the Organization help countries improve their migration data; facilitate the transfer of technology and innovation, and design national development agendas that capitalized on migrants as “agents of development”.
Keynote Address and Interactive Dialogue
MARIE PRICE, Professor of Geography and International Affairs at George Washington University, delivered a keynote address under the theme “Urban settlements as global immigrant gateways”, stressing that globalization, urban growth and human mobility were interrelated processes. Data demonstrated an absolute growth in the number of immigrants. Proportionally, however, migrants represented only 3.3 per cent of the global population in 2015 and 3.4 per cent in 2017. In developed countries, immigrants represented a larger share of the population — around 12 per cent in 2017, versus 2 per cent in developing countries. In metropolitan areas in developed and developing countries, immigrants accounted for a far larger percentage of the total population. In cities around the world, immigrants played a fundamental role in the labour force and social life.
She said that today’s gateway cities were viewed as critical entry points that drew from a wide range of sending countries, facilitating cultural exchange and serving as nodes for the collection, circulation and dispersion of goods, capital and people. Yet, there was a darker side to those destinations, with foreign labour experiencing exploitation, vulnerability and residential segregation. There was a tendency to view gateways as places of permanent settlement for immigrant newcomers, especially because the literature on cities and immigrants drew from the experience of traditional countries of settlement such as Canada, the United States or Australia.
For many North American cities, she said the increase of foreign‑born residents counterbalanced an outflow of native‑born and foreign‑born people, according to United Nations estimates in 2015. In the last two decades, many European cities had seen their foreign‑born population grow sharply, both from economic migrants and refugees. Major immigrant destinations in the Gulf region continued to grow, most notably Abu Dhabi and Doha. There were many gateway cities that supported circular flows, functioning more like turnstiles than places of permanent settlement. Immigrants regularly moved through “urban turnstiles” in places such as Doha, Kuwait City or Dubai, often in highly precarious and temporary conditions. In practice, such urban gateways supported a trend toward permanent temporariness, with limited access to long‑term settlement.
She went on to note that there were emerging gateways that had evolved from the 1990s onward, as globalizing trends reorganized the world map, and countries experiencing labour shortages had set up mechanisms to recruit foreign workers. Examples included Seoul, Santiago and Johannesburg. There were 22 metropolitan areas with more than 1 million foreign‑born residents, accounting for nearly 1 in 5 of the world’s foreign‑born population in 2015. Immigration was changing the ethnic, linguistic and cultural make‑up of gateway cities around the world. There was a need for standardized definitions and categories, she said, stressing that more must be learned about short‑term mobility and circularity in migrant flows.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers sought advice on the various aspects and consequences of migration.
Ms. PRICE replied that because migrants would often locate to metropolitan areas, cities could be proactive and inquire about the diverse needs of immigrants with a specific checklist in order to accommodate those needs and help integrate migrants to societies. She cited some cities which had implemented “one stop centres” where migrants could receive help in managing different aspects of their lives.
Looking towards 2030, she predicted that while mobility would increase, its patterns would change and South‑South movements would be more frequent. Highly diverse populations, created as a result of migration, could be a source of both tension and opportunity.