10 December 2003


NEW YORK, 9 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, at the launch of the Global Commission on International Migration today in Geneva:

I’m happy to be able to join you for the launch of the Global Commission on International Migration.  I congratulate the Core Group of States from both North and South on taking this initiative.  And I’m very pleased that Jan Karlsson and Mamphela Ramphele will serve as Co-Chairs.  Jan and Mamphela, you and the Commission have my strong support.

Migration is as old as humanity, and it is a vital part of our future.  And while migration policy is made at the national level, it has obvious international impact. 

States have become more aware of this in recent years.  In particular, they have become more aware of the economic importance of migration -- for both poor and rich countries. 

Migrant remittances are a vital factor in development.  The sums transferred to developing countries are large -- and they are growing fast.  And in developed countries, migrant labour is increasingly important, particularly in view of current demographic trends.

But this is not only an economic issue.  It is a human rights issue too.  Migrants are often vulnerable to human rights abuse -- on their journey, at borders, and in the countries they migrate to.  Greater international cooperation is needed to fight smuggling and trafficking, and to build more comprehensive regimes to protect the human rights of migrants.


Unfortunately, in some countries, the debates surrounding migration have generated more heat than light.  The problems of migration have sometimes been exaggerated.  And migrants themselves have been vilified, particularly in debates about asylum seekers. 

Of course, there are legitimate concerns about migration, and these need to be addressed.  But we must not lose sight of the enormous potential benefits of migration, to receiving countries, as well as to migrants themselves and their countries of origin.

I am convinced that win-win outcomes are possible, if we approach this issue rationally, creatively, compassionately and cooperatively.  I am sure that is the approach that the Commission will take, and that is why today’s initiative is so important.  The States that have come together to form this Commission are clearly committed to finding a way to manage international migration better.

Our approach to migration will be an important test of our commitment to universal values, and of our capacity, as an international community, to cooperate for mutual advantage.  The Commission’s work is therefore vital -- to countries of origin, countries of transit, countries of destination, and migrants themselves.

The Commission, of course, is an independent body.  But we at the United Nations are ready to help it in any way we can, including through consultations and the provision of data and information. 

I certainly look forward to receiving its final report.

I am sure it will help promote greater public understanding.

I trust it will help us win broad acceptance for a normative framework that has human rights at its heart.

And I hope it will also point the way to a better institutional framework for handling migration at the global level.

In short, I believe it will help us move forward on this vital issue, for the benefit of all.

Thank you very much.

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