Population and Development Commission Opens Session amid Calls to Unleash Huge Growth Potential of Urban Areas, Especially for World’s 1 Billion Migrants

Rapid urbanization presented some of today’s greatest modern development challenges, yet if effectively harnessed � especially by the world’s 1 billion migrants � it could unleash tremendous growth opportunities, speakers said today as the Commission on Population and Development opened its fifty first session.

Overly rapid urbanization and poorly managed migration pose serious challenges to sustainable development, said Elliot Harris, Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development and Chief Economist in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, one of five United Nations officials to open the 2018 session under the theme, Sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration.

More than 4 billion people lived in urban areas, he said, compared to about 750 million in 1950. Meanwhile, the number of migrants � those living outside their country of birth � had grown from 160 million in 1994 to 258 million today. He urged national and local governments to work together in implementing policies that reaped the development benefits of urbanization and migration, while managing the potentially negative aspects.

Along similar lines, Gora Mboup, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gora Group, noted that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, only 2 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. By 2050, 70 per cent would live in cities and towns, in part to be closer to family and education opportunities, and increasingly due to conflict and disaster.

In that context, he drew attention to the proliferation of slums in megacities � those with 10 million or more inhabitants � across Asia and Africa, where people did not enjoy land tenure and feared eviction. If accepted, and with the right mix of cultural and social integration efforts, migrants could help create sustainable economies.

Against that backdrop, Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed said international migration was becoming much more complex. A record number of people faced severe insecurity and were forced to make gut wrenching decisions to move. The polarizing rhetoric and xenophobic policies emerging around migration were borne more out of fear than fact. On the whole, migrants made a positive contribution to societies.

Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), underscored that a record 65 million people had been forcibly displaced in 2017. UNFPA had travelled to a number of gateway cities to interview migrants about their experiences. They face serious risks and abuses during and after their moves, and things are much harder than they had expected, she said. Even so, they almost universally say they would do it all over again.

In the ensuing general debate, senior Government officials and representatives provided examples of how urbanization was affecting their countries and regions, with Nigeria’s delegate, on behalf of the Africa Group, stressing that 55 per cent of Africans would likely reside in towns and cities over the next 15 years. Migration and human mobility in Africa are dominated by movement from rural neighbourhoods to modern cities, he said, adding that by 2063, an estimated 62 per cent of the population would be found in urban centres. Those trends would have wide ranging implications for policy decisions.

With more than half of the world’s population living in city settings, urban poverty and inequalities posed significant obstacles to fulfilling human rights for all, said Austria’s representative, on behalf of the European Union. Innovation would be essential for harnessing the economic potential of sustainable cities, as would access to sexual and reproductive health care for fast growing urban populations.

Drawing attention to national efforts, the representative of Belarus said his country was pursing policies to stimulate the development of small- and medium sized towns and cities. The Government sought to create agro towns with modernized infrastructure and quality public services. Meanwhile, 2018 had been declared the Year of the Hometown in Belarus, with a renewed focus on revitalizing rural areas and mitigating the overpopulation of cities.

In other business, the Commission elected Jawad Ali Chatha (Pakistan), Nicola Barker-Murphy (Jamaica) and Rene Lauer (Luxembourg) as Vice-Chairs for the session, as well as Mr. Ali Chatha as Rapporteur. It also adopted the provisional agenda for its current session (document E/CN.9/2018/1), and approved its organization of work (document E/CN.9/2018/L.1).

Also speaking today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Egypt (also on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Qatar, Philippines, China, Mexico, Poland, Ghana, Jordan, Brazil, Republic of Moldova, Argentina, Thailand, Burkina Faso, Norway, Germany, Cuba, Pakistan, Iran, Honduras, Israel, Ecuador and Switzerland.

Presenting reports today were Jorge Bravo, Chief of the Demographic Analysis Branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division; Benoit Kalasa, Director of the United Nations Population Fund Technical Division; and Rachel Snow, Chief of UNFPA’s Population and Development Branch.

Ion Jinga, Chair of the Commission’s fifty first session, and John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division of Department of Economic and Social Affairs, also delivered opening remarks.

The Commission on Population and Development will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 10 April to continue its general debate.

Opening Remarks

ION JINGA (Romania), Chair of the fifty first session of the Commission on Population and Development, said that over the coming days, the Commission would have the opportunity to listen to keynote speakers and panellists who would highlight the linkages between urbanization and migration, the opportunities and challenges of international migration on the United Nations global development agenda and the cities at the forefront as receivers of migrants. Efforts would be made to avoid duplication of work being undertaken by the General Assembly, although important topics would be considered that lay at the juncture of sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration; thereby supporting the Global Compact process, without interfering with it. Despite that in two of the last three years the Commission had been unable to reach consensus on the draft resolution on the special theme, he voiced hope that all would understand the critical importance of achieving a successful outcome for the session.

AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, speaking on behalf of the Secretary General, said the Commission’s theme, Sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration, spoke to a shared commitment to a more peaceful, inclusive and sustainable world. While populations were linked as never before, they were also distinct and changing rapidly. With increasing urbanization and people moving at high rates, international migration was becoming much more complex.

Such dynamics were further fuelled by growing drivers of displacement such as conflict, she said. Indeed, more and more people faced gut wrenching decisions to move amid insecurity, while others sought greater economic opportunities. Migration was an essential feature of our globalized world and, on the whole, migrants made a positive contribution. However, polarizing rhetoric and xenophobic policies were borne out of fear more than facts on the ground.

More broadly, there was a need for Governments and the international community to invest in people, she said, citing SAPound o Paulo as a success story in embracing migrant communities, helping their families and protecting their human rights. The vision and values of the Programme of Action, adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, provided a foundation to help safeguard refugee rights, including those of women and girls. It would protect refugees and people in transit, and help people benefit from the fruits of urban development.

The issues discussed this week were integral to advancing Goals 10, 11 and 1 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said, as well as the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. Moving forward, she called for an improved collective understanding of the changing situation and for the integration of data into planning and interventions. The Commission, with its focus on population data and evidence based policy making, played a vital role. Likewise, reform of the United Nations development system would help Governments address such issues and improve the ability of United Nations country teams to support planning based on fast moving population changes.

In conclusion, she said our shared human story was a mobile one that included people searching for a better way of life. Many of us have a family history that made us who we are today, she said, before calling for action oriented recommendations that protected all on the move, as well as a focus on creating cities that were welcoming of new arrivals.

NATALIA KANEM, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that this session’s theme would focus on issues that were central to people around the world, including health, livelihood, safety and the future. Some 1 billion people alive today were migrants, she said, highlighting that in 2017, a record number of people � some 65 million � had been forcibly displaced. UNFPA had travelled to a number of gateway cities to interview migrants and had heard about the challenges they faced in their cities of origin, as well as in the cities where they were attempting to make their new homes. Those young people had been honest. They face serious risks and abuses during and after their moves, and things are much harder than they had expected, she said. Even so, they almost universally say they would do it all over again.

She said both the Cairo Programme of Action [adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development] and the 2030 Agenda recognized the importance of addressing the drivers of migration: poverty, illness, discrimination, violence and the consequences of conflict or climate change. One of four young people lived in places where violence and armed conflict were prevalent. Despite claims otherwise, it had been demonstrated that a bulging youth population did not correspond to increased violence. Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health was critical and must include migrant and mobile groups, refugees and crisis affected populations. Barriers to services � such as cost, overcrowded health centres, language differences, lack of transport, pollution and insecure housing � must be removed, she said.

ELLIOT HARRIS, Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development and Chief Economist, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the reports prepared for this year’s session illustrated the degree to which urbanization and human mobility affected a growing number of communities worldwide. More than 4 billion people lived in urban areas today, compared to about 750 million in 1950, while the number of international migrants � those living outside their country of birth � had grown from 160 million in 1994, when the International Conference on Population and Development had taken place in Cairo, to 258 million today. Overly rapid urbanization and poorly managed migration pose serious challenges to sustainable development, he said. National and local governments should work together to implement policies that reaped the development benefits of urbanization and migration, while managing the potentially negative aspects.

He underscored the Department’s commitment to address development concerns and take steps to advance human progress. In terms of population, that included the production of global datasets to help Member States take decisions, as well as facilitating and supporting major global conferences and intergovernmental discussions. The Department also provided policy advice to countries implementing the outcomes of United Nations conferences, and supported Governments in building national capacities. In all areas of its work, the Department collaborated with relevant United Nations agencies, researchers and civil society. Indeed, the Organization was carrying out transformative reform, aimed at taking down institutional silos and reinforcing coordination, while better serving Member States.

JOHN WILMOTH, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the Commission had an important opportunity this year to demonstrate its relevance as an expert body of the Economic and Social Council. In recent years, the Commission had been challenged to achieve consensus around a resolution on its special theme. This year, however, by keeping its focus on negotiations on the theme itself, and working closely in a spirit of collaboration and compromises, it could achieve a successful result.

Migration had been among the Commission’s top agenda topics over the past quarter century, with that word featured in 5 of the 24 special themes discussed since 1995, he said. By comparison, the words urbanization and cities each appeared just once. Recalling that the Economic and Social Council had affirmed that the Cairo Programme of Action would remain the source of the Commission’s action, he said the Population Division sought to improve its capacity to complete its work programme in a timely manner; improve the sustainability and efficiency of key work streams; enhance the quality, relevance and dissemination of its outputs; and better service the Commission and other intergovernmental processes.

Statements

MOHAMED EDREES (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said urban and rural development and management must be people centred and age- and gender responsive, with all human rights and fundamental freedoms realized. Further development progress required the full participation of youth. International organizations, regional groups and civil society should together promote capacity building and technical cooperation, he said, underscoring the Group’s recognition of migrants’ positive contributions to inclusive growth and sustainable development. He called on all States to fulfil their human rights commitments and ensure humane treatment of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants, regardless of their status.

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that ensuring the respect, protection and fulfilment of universal human rights for all, gender equality, women’s and girls’ empowerment and ending discrimination and racism were absolute necessities for the achievement of sustainable development and poverty eradication. More than half of the world’s population lived in urban settings, with urban poverty and inequalities posing significant obstacles to fulfilling human rights for all. Urbanization presented some of the greatest development challenges, as well as tremendous opportunities. Innovation would be essential for harnessing the economic potential of sustainable cities. Another challenge was to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health care for fast-growing urban populations, particularly adolescents and those living in vulnerable situations.

ALADE AKINREMI BOLAJI (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the global population was expected to increase by more than 400 million in the next five years, with 90 per cent of that growth to occur in urban areas. Africa represented a significant part of that shift. The continent was projected to become more urban than rural in the next 15 years, with some 55 per cent of Africans residing in towns and cities. Those trends would have wide ranging implications for policy decisions. Mobility, including internal displacement, took various forms in Africa due to factors such as terrorism, civil wars, drought and natural disasters. Nevertheless, migration and human mobility in Africa are dominated by movement from rural neighbourhoods to modern cities due to rapid urbanization, he said, and by 2063, an estimated 62 per cent of Africa’s population would be found in urban centres. As such, it was important to address the links among urbanization, migration, human mobility, agriculture and rural development through investment in people, particularly women and the youth.

CELESTE KINSEY (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, emphasized the need to respect, protect and promote human rights for all. That involved addressing discrimination, violence and human rights violations, including those against women and girls. Collective action and strong partnerships with a wide variety of stakeholders, including civil society, would have the greatest impact on sustainable development, she said, emphasizing the three countries’ commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. She described as vital the partnership between the Population Division and UNFPA, noting also the need to avoid duplication of negotiations between the Commission and the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

SALEH BIN MOHAMMED AL NABIT, Minister of Development Planning and Statistics of Qatar, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the Arab Group, said the Commission’s theme was of great importance given existing poverty, conflicts and natural disasters, which increased both internal and external migration. Indeed, migration and development were two faces of the same coin. In view of mounting crises and conflicts, unregulated migration had become a daunting challenge. Human trafficking and exploitation made matters worse. He highlighted the importance of investing in the entire population and the development process. For its part, Qatar supported refugees and internally displaced persons around the world in cooperation with international organizations and national civil society groups. It also worked to combat human trafficking and modern slavery, given their links to migration. Over the past 10 months, Qatar had experienced an unjust blockade that contravened international law. Yet, it continued to meet the needs of its people and did not discriminate against any group or population.

ERNESTO M. PERNIA (Philippines) emphasized the importance of addressing issues that hindered development. With more than 150 million Filipinos, the challenge to strike a balance between population and economic growth was more urgent in his country than ever. As evidenced by its strong involvement in the global compact negotiations, the Philippines continued to build international partnerships so that the rights of all migrants were protected. He urged developed countries to help developing countries improve their ability to address the challenges presented by sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration. He then called for a global consensus to advance the Commission’s work based on common humanity, rather than cultural and national differences.

ANDREI DAPKIUNAS, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said his country pursued policies aimed at stimulating the development of small- and medium sized towns and cities. Efforts were under way to ensure that cities were environmentally safe for all, including for young people, the elderly and those with disabilities. The Government sought to develop agro towns with modernized infrastructure and a high level of public services. In Belarus, 2018 had been declared the Year of the Hometown, with a renewed focused on revitalizing rural areas and mitigating the overpopulation of cities. A sophisticated statistical basis would be essential for Governments to make scientifically sound decisions and reliably measure the effectiveness of State activities.

CUI LI, Vice Minister, National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, associating herself with the Group of 77, said 18 per cent of her country’s population were migrants, with 75 per cent of them relocating to cities and urban areas. China had entered a critical transition in which its population and labour force growth was slowing, while the proportion of older people increased. In recent years, the Government had given its utmost attention to providing migrants with access to health care. She stressed the importance of promoting policy environments that favoured human mobility and making sustainable development gains accessible for all. She advocated for enhanced international dialogue and coordination among all sectors on migration trends, stressing that a fair and open world could not be created without the participation of migrants worldwide.

Interactive Dialogue

GORA MBOUP, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gora Group, said urbanization and migration were two interrelated global trends that strengthened economies, health, education, culture and heritage. Despite those contributions, both faced enormous challenges as a result of the migration crisis. Emphasizing the rapid nature of urbanization, he noted that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, only 2 per cent of the population lived in urban areas. By 2050, 70 per cent of the world’s people would live in cities and towns, increasingly due to conflict and disaster.

Describing features of urbanization specific to the developing world, he drew attention to the proliferation of slums in megacities � those with a population of 10 million or more � across Asia and Africa where people did not enjoy land tenure and feared eviction. In Africa, two thirds of urban dwellers did not have land tenure. Many of them faced the quandary of whether to stay and be evicted or migrate abroad and be deported, he said.

Nevertheless, cities were drivers of sustainable development, including in health, education and many economic aspects, he continued. The more a country was urbanized, the higher its gross domestic product (GDP), with some exceptions. For some African countries, that trend did not always apply. Some areas were urbanized but still had low GDP, due to unplanned urbanization. He went on to note that most migration was regional, notably 60 80 per cent in Africa. In Sydney, London and New York, migrants represented more than one third of the population, whereas in cities such as Brussels and Dubai, migrants accounted for more than half of the population.

If accepted, migrants could contribute to sustainable development, he said, but cultural and social integration was needed. Economic factors were typically at the forefront of such migration, followed by reasons of family, education and conflict. Extolling the significant benefits of migration, he said cities needed migrants because they needed people with skills who could work, pay taxes and expand, invest and save. In some countries, remittances represented nearly one third of GDP, he noted.

Addressing barriers to integration, he said some migrants faced legal and administrative obstacles, a lack of documentation, discrimination and xenophobia. In other cases, migrants disappeared en route. Between January 2014 and June 2017, 14,500 migrants had died or disappeared in the Mediterranean. That fact represented a lack of humanity and human rights, he said, calling for more to be done. Citing a disconnect between national migration policies and urban realities, he called for partnerships to create migrant friendly cities.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers sought advice on how to help their Governments understand the important contributions migrants made and how the process of urbanization could be handled in a collaborative way.

Mr. MBOUP agreed that different channels were needed to highlight the contributions of migrants not only in their country of origin, but also in their host countries. In that vein, he noted that International Organization for Migration (IOM) materials advocated an ecosystem that facilitated engagement at both the individual and organization levels. He stressed that moving people from urban to rural areas was not easy; rural development programmes required time. To encourage greater national collaboration on urbanization, he pointed to Zambia as a model country that had developed an effective national action framework. He also encouraged national policies to address the issue of population ageing.

Introduction of Reports

JORGE BRAVO, Chief, Demographic Analysis Branch, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary General’s report titled Sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration (document E/CN.9/2018/2), which built on the Programme of Action, 2030 Agenda, and the New Urban Agenda, as well as the past reports of the Secretary General to the Commission. Noting that 4.2 billion people, or 55 per cent of the world’s population, lived in cities, he said that proportion was projected to markedly rise as Africa and Asia were expected to urbanize at a particularly fast pace. The main sources of growth were the excess of births over deaths (i.e. natural growth) and rural urban migration, which played a major role in many developing countries. The largest corridor of international migration was South South migration, he said, and women comprised nearly half of international migrants. Overall, net international migration contributed positively to total population growth in developed countries and helped slow population ageing. Highlighting data gaps noted in the report, he outlined steps to improve migration data.

BENOIT KALASA, Director, Technical Division, UNFPA, introduced the Secretary General’s report titled Actions for the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development: monitoring of population programmes, focusing on sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration (document E/CN.9/2018/3). The world’s population was increasingly centred in urban areas, he said, noting that cities were attractive to migrants, particularly young migrants. Migrant workers were more likely to work in informal sectors, making them particularly vulnerable to abuses and exploitation. Job seeking was among the primary reasons for both international migration and movement into urban areas. Investments in human capital development to harness a demographic dividend should be informed by trends in youth mobility. Rural job grown was essential, he stressed, adding that efforts should be made to ensure that new youth programmes capitalized on the clustering of young people in urban areas.

RACHEL SNOW, Chief, Population and Development Branch, UNFPA, introduced the Secretary General’s report titled Flow of financial resources for assisting in the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (document E/CN.9/2018/4). As concerns had been raised regarding the reliability of past estimates of resource flows, the present report contained options for estimating resource flows going forward. The Secretary General had recommended expanding the scope of tracking beyond reproductive health and family planning to include a broader array of investments relevant to the Programme of Action. The second recommendation was to restrict the annual tracking of resource flows to data provided by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and to forego the more methodologically challenging task of tracking flows from other sources. The report also addressed means to strengthen data derived from systems of national accounts.

Statements

TAREK TAWFIK, Deputy Minister for Health for Population Affairs of Egypt, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, outlined several initiatives to address urbanization and promote sustainable cities. He noted that the link between migration and development was vitally important to his country, highlighting the large Egyptian diaspora and the resulting overseas remittance, which were greater than other revenue sources, including tourism and official development assistance. At the same time, Egypt had made substantial efforts to combat irregular migration and cooperate with destination countries. It respected the rights of all migrant workers and had concluded bilateral agreements offering them protection. Looking ahead, Egypt aimed to adopt the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

PATRICIA CHEMOR RUIZ, Secretary General, National Population Council of Mexico, said some cities in Latin America continued to grow very fast, which compounded inequality and social exclusion. Mexico promoted the orderly growth of cities by preventing risks in land regulation. Yet, urbanization presented major challenges as human growth was redirected. While migration was a multidimensional reality that contributed to sustainable development, opportunities must be created for youth to find employment. Mexico was committed to public policies that benefited migrants in the region. Noting that demographic challenges required policies that improved the quality of life, she said Mexico was committed to the Programme of Action and the preparatory process for the Global Compact. It also sought to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement to improve the region’s competitiveness, and to create more and better jobs. Overall, it was committed to sharing best practices and partnering for inclusive population policies based on human rights and catalysing sustainable development.

RENATA SZCZECH, Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Interior and Administration of Poland, said a new vision of sustainable development had been introduced in her country in February 2017, with the adoption of the Strategy for Responsible Development. Sustainable urban development in Poland was being pursued through implementation of the National Urban Policy, which laid out actions to strengthen the capacity of cities and urban areas to create jobs and improve the quality of life. There was a need to respond to the dynamic international migratory situation. Poland acknowledged the potential positive contribution of migrants to sustainable development and inclusive growth, although the unprecedented scale of irregular migration was a concern. As a frontier State, Poland played a key role in stabilizing the migratory situation in Europe and was constantly improving the security of its eastern border.

GIFTY TWUM-AMPOFO, Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the national population was estimated at 29.6 million people, and expected to double by 2040. Urban growth was driven mainly by rural urban migration, with a huge potential for future growth given the country’s high fertility rate due to child marriage, teenage pregnancy and unmet family planning needs. Ghana had shifted from a net receiving country to a country of origin, with many young Ghanaians attempting to make the perilous journey across the Sahara Desert bound for Europe and other destinations. The Government had worked to eliminate the push factors and stem both internal and international migration through policy measures geared at providing a good education and economic opportunities for young people. Data collection and the monitoring of progress would be required for effective planning, policymaking and targeted solutions.

MAYSOON AL-ZOUBI, Secretary General of the Higher Population Council of Jordan, highlighting that her country was pressing ahead with policies to achieve energy security, said that it was also taking steps to enhance its water resources. International migration and human mobility had taken centre stage in Jordan, as waves of migrants were forced to flee their home countries. Those migrations affected different aspects of life in Jordan and had severely stressed the country’s limited natural and man made resources. The large number of Syrians entering the labour market, particularly in the informal sector, had substantially limited the availability of jobs for Jordanians. Jordan was both an origin and destination country, with 1 million Jordanians living outside the country and nearly 2.9 million non Jordanians living within its borders.

HUSSEIN KALOUT, Special Secretary for Strategic Affairs of Brazil, said migration, much like other aspects of globalization, was a human phenomenon to be managed, rather than a problem to be solved. When discussing migration, the needs of individuals must be placed at the centre through gender and child sensitivity, while also being guided by international human rights law and standards. Migrants and migration could provide significant benefits to origin and destination countries. Brazil had legal frameworks that could be placed among the most modern in the world with regard to migration, extending most civil, social, cultural and economic rights and liberties to migrants. Just as important, those laws stated that no person shall serve prison time for their migratory status.

VICTOR MORARU (Republic of Moldova) said human mobility, and migration in particular, was a key feature of a globalized world. Understanding its trends and potential impact, as well as developing evidence based policies aimed at efficient management of population flows, was critical to achieving sustainable development. To address emigration in his country, the Government was implementing important policies and reforms with a view to securing a sustainable livelihood and future. From that perspective, he highlighted the importance of infrastructure and the modernization of public services, as well as improving the investment climate and combating corruption. In addition, providing quality education tailored to labour market requirements was critical to prevent people from falling into poverty and ensuring they had a future in their home countries, he said.

MARTA�N GARCA�A MORITA�N (Argentina) was hopeful that discussions during the current session could contribute towards negotiations of a global compact on migration. As a recipient of large numbers of migrants, Argentina respected their rights from an understanding that migration enriched its culture and development. It was imperative to uphold human rights with a cross cutting gender perspective, while paying attention to vulnerable persons. Touching on issues of population growth related to the 2030 Agenda, he said reducing maternal mortality and providing access to reproductive rights was a precondition to development for all. More broadly, he reaffirmed the need to promote human rights, especially for vulnerable groups, and empower women, including through access to sexual and reproductive rights. He voiced regret that the Commission’s previous session had been unable to agree on its theme, stressing that Argentina would work constructively to achieve positive results.

NONTAWAT CHANDRTRI (Thailand), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the world faced new challenges and opportunities related to population growth, changing age structures, rapid urbanization and migration. Challenges were compounded by internal and international migration. Offering the perspective of a country that had attracted millions of permanent and temporary migrant workers, he said those workers’ contribution to the Thai economy comprised 6.2 per cent of the national GDP. Responsive policies were needed to address demographic changes and harness the potential of human mobility to promote sustained economic growth and social development. Promoting equitable, affordable access to basic social infrastructure would foster the creation of sustainable cities and bring about positive change in terms of human mobility. All societies must find ways to address demographic changes in a comprehensive, well planned and balanced manner.

YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said urban trends in developing countries required a new vision that emphasized cultural and social development, environmental protection and sustainable economic development accessible to all. In less than 25 years, the urban population of Burkina Faso had almost doubled, requiring the Government to address pressing needs for quality housing, water, sanitation, jobs, education and health care. Seeking to maximize the demographic dividend, Burkina Faso had focused on establishing a social protection mechanism, strengthening the resilience of vulnerable populations, guaranteeing food security, increasing access to both education and sexual and reproductive health services, creating decent jobs and promoting economic growth.

TORE HATTREM (Norway) took note that, 24 years after the adoption of the Cairo action plan, the demand for modern contraceptives had still not been met in 45 countries. Meanwhile, pregnancy and childbirth complications were the leading cause of death among girls and women aged 15 to 19, globally. Overall, the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health care was a major cause of death, disease and disability among displaced women and girls of reproductive age. Poverty has the face of a woman, he said, highlighting the importance of empowering women and girls. While migration could empower both men and women, the risks were often higher for women, young people and children, as they were particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, violence and abuse.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said rapid urbanization was one of the biggest challenges of the twenty first century. As engines of economic growth, cities offered higher incomes and major markets. However, urbanization also went hand in hand with poverty and marginalization. Nowhere was this more apparent than in informal settlements, where more than 880 million people currently lived. As such, action in cities would be key to achieving sustainable development. At the same time, there were 258 million international migrants, with 22.5 million recognized as refugees. To benefit everyone, migration must be well managed and occur in a safe, orderly and regular way. He advocated for a rights based and gender sensitive approach to family planning, and comprehensive education related to sexual orientation and gender diversity. Such an approach would ensure that every person could decide freely whom to marry, the number of children to have and how to prevent sexually transmitted infections. He also stressed the importance of population data in policy planning.

JUAN CARLOS ALFONSO FRAGA (Cuba), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country ranked high on the human development index. It had the lowest child mortality rate in the Caribbean, and low population growth, owing to its low birth rate of less than two children per woman. The mortality rate was also very low, leading to a process of ageing whereby a growing segment of the population was more than 60 years old. Cuban cities were hubs of industry and services. Those with more than 1,000 inhabitants prioritized construction and service provision. The Government was committed to the Cuban people and had made concerted efforts to improve their quality of life.

SHAHZAD NAWAZ CHEEMA (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said migration was an engine of economic growth and sustainable development, which allowed millions of people to seek new opportunities each year. Holistic approaches were needed to address the causes and consequences of migration. It was necessary to integrate migrants into host communities, including through the provision of basic services. Pakistan was committed to addressing demographic challenges and had sought to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including those that addressed migration issues. Urbanization had the potential to drive Pakistan toward greater prosperity, provided that key issues around sustainable urbanization and climate change were efficiently addressed.

FATEMEH ALIPANAH (Iran), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said urbanization had become one of the most transformative trends of the century. While well planned urban areas were known as sources of economic growth and development, they also faced enormous sustainability challenges in terms of infrastructure, health, education, work, food security and basic services. While primary responsibility rested with national Governments, the related challenges and opportunities could be addressed through international cooperation. As host to a large refugee population, Iran was committed to its humanitarian commitments and provided the children of undocumented refugees the opportunity to receive education in Iranian schools. Her country would also host the seventh Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development in October, which would be an opportunity to strengthen South South cooperation.

SANDRA MORENO (Honduras), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said that while dynamic transformations from global migration continued at different speeds, large cities were driving economies of scale and technological innovation. Synergies between migration and development should be promoted, as well as well planned policies. Noting that Latin America and Caribbean was the second most urbanized region on the planet, he said such rapid development would also bring challenges for the provision of basic services for the poor. Honduras had invested in urban planning and orderly urban policies, notably through health, sanitation, and security interventions. At the same time, it had reduced its vulnerability to disasters and made gains in terms of fiscal management.

ANAT FISHER TSIN (Israel) said that since its founding, immigration had been integral to her country’s national identity and to the development of society. Israel had built a reliable implementation process for absorption, centred on increased and improved social services, language training and community building. It prioritized fair access to education for migrants and viewed the empowerment of migrant women as a top priority, providing them with training and thus enabling them to pursue meaningful economic and leadership opportunities. Nearly 40 per cent of Israel’s population was first generation immigrants and another 40 per cent were second generation born in Israel.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YA�NEZ LOZA (Ecuador), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said that while it was imperative to ensure the proper movement of people to growing cities, negative consequences could occur as the result of unbridled growth. Despite reservations towards other initiatives, Ecuador supported a new road map adopted in Quito that contributed to the 2030 Agenda. It had made efforts to include the 2030 Agenda in its planning systems and its new national development plan. Likewise, it had implemented measures that granted equal rights to nationals and foreigners for access to basic services.

Mr. SCHWYN (Switzerland) said the potential for development offered by migration could be optimized only if migration issues were systematically integrated into sectoral policies, and more generally, into regional, national and local development strategies. Switzerland had pursued policies to promote the integration of migrants and refugees into the labour force, increasing the qualifications of both national and foreign workers and integrating refugees and persons admitted on a temporary basis into the workforce. Today, 2.5 million people in Switzerland over 15 years old had a migratory background, representing one third of the population. The integration of those young people, including their equal participation in economic, social and cultural life, was critical.

Source: United Nations