Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Statement at the Panel Discussion on Political Participation in Times of Mass Migration and Refugee Crises

Dec 9, 2016

I thank the representatives of the Irish Mission, the Mexican Mission and International IDEA for co-hosting this event together with UNDP.

I would like to welcome Ms Njeri Kabeberi, Executive Director of Greenpeace Africa, CEO of the Civil Society Reference Group (CS)-RG) and Chair of the board of the International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC); and the distinguished panelists and participants to this important dialogue.

Migration and displacement have occurred in record numbers in 2016. The number of displaced people (65 million) has reached its highest level since World War II. In total, more than 244 million people now live in a country other than the one in which they were born.

Political rights are human rights, and that all women and men, regardless of their migration, refugee, or other status, have the right to participate in political affairs, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and affirmed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the CEDAW.

During the September 2016 Session of the United Nations General Assembly, world leaders adopted the ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants,’ which reflects the growing international awareness and political will to protect the rights of refugees and migrants.

New York Declaration is – in the words of the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, – a breakthrough in our collective efforts to address the challenges of human mobility.

The commitments of the ‘New York Declaration’ include to start negotiations leading to an international conference with the ultimate goal of the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018, and express hope that political participation will be seen as a topic necessarily covered in the 2018 policy documents.

Political participation and inclusion of migrants and refugees is also crucial for achieving Agenda 2030, as specifically provided for in goals and targets 8,10,16, and 17, as well as in national and regional peace and reconciliation processes.  

UNDP works on “inclusivity” and “participation” which are crucial elements of legitimate and credible elections and other political processes (such as the adoption or amendment of constitutions), which play key roles in all contexts, including post-conflict and transitional settings.

The global, regional and donor commitments and discussions on migration and mass movements have not yet sufficiently focused on identifying and addressing the challenges that arise from ensuring that all migrants and refugees can fully exercise their political rights.

The United Nations as a system is fully equipped to address the challenges associated with realizing political participation of all displaced people, for instance standing ready to deploy the capacity to facilitate large scale out-of-country voting exercises, which will also contribute to more inclusive and more sustainable peace and development.

However, out-of-country voting is only one element of the political participation of migrants and refugees, and that the entire UN system needs to increase the focus on, and provide comprehensive support to, ensuring their full political participation.

While the out-of-country voting of migrants and refugees in neighbouring countries has been a regular feature of recent Security Council-mandated support to post-conflict elections (such as in Mali, CAR and Iraq), facilitating the right of candidates to register from abroad, and to campaign from abroad, to date, has not yet been supported by the UN.

The strategic advantage that UNDP’s integrated approach to inclusive political processes – which brings together UNDP’s work to foster state-citizen relations in protecting and expanding space for civic engagement; facilitating constitution-making and political dialogue strengthening electoral cycles, capacitating parliaments, and promoting women’s political participation – can contribute to this issue.  

Furthermore, UNDP works alongside, DPA, UNHCR, and DPKO amongst other to support durable solutions with Member States and develop policies and initiatives in support of migrants and refugees, and host countries, alike.  I would like to reaffirm UNDP’s commitment to supporting Member States to deliver on the commitment expressed in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and to the forthcoming discussions on a global compact on refugees, to take place in 2018, and beyond.  


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