CAIRO: There is a link between migration and development, according to the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Dialogue on international migration.
Held Sept 14-15, the meeting discussed the upsides and downsides of international immigration.
With the participation of 120 countries, the first-of-its-kind dialogue reversed a previous trend in which immigration was too sensitive to be discussed. Now we ve passed this stage, says Maher Nasser director of the UN information center in Cairo.
The accumulation of reports on the issue, he continues, put the link between migration and development under the spotlight, leading to the discussion of the topic among UN member states.
According to UN spokespeople, the organization believes that it is both possible and advisable to create a framework within which migration can be used to contribute to economic development efforts. The UN calls migration “a key component of the globalization process and “a positive force for development, both in countries of origin and countries of destination.
According to Nasser, those benefits are largely due to remittances, or money sent home by migrants working abroad. “The total number of remittances sent home is a staggering $167 billion, he says.
The economic effects of those remittances may be even greater, because the investment and consumption that they spur provides a boost to local enterprise and industry, the total value of which has been estimated at $500 billion. The original number is usually multiplied by two or 2.5.
“That dwarfs the figures of total foreign aid. $15 billion of that, roughly 10 percent of all remittances, is received in the Middle East region.
Nasser explains that the meeting lays the groundwork for future talks and conventions regarding the issue of migration. The participants agreed to organize an international forum on the issue. Belgium would host the forum in 2007, but no fixed date has been announced yet. The meeting would see the member states discussing their experiences, so ultimately solutions would be reached to common problems pertaining to international immigration.
At the moment, the first step was to provide the information. The studies provided in such a phase have changed some pre-assumptions about the issue, Nasser adds.
Contradicting previous beliefs, whereby the direction of migration was thought to move mainly from the south to the north (from developing to developed countries), the studies showed that only third of international migration moves in this direction. One third of international migration is from the south to the south and the other third is from developed countries to other developed states or to developing countries. Over 3 percent of the world’s total population now lives in a country other than the one in which they were born, placing 191 million people in some state of migration.
In developed countries, immigration is believed to have a positive effect, in spite of the ongoing clash of cultures between the locals and the newcomers. Nasser notes the effect on boosting the economy, especially in countries witnessing a decreasing population, in which the young are in less numbers than the older and retired generation.
According to UN studies, Germany would have about half of its current population by the year 2050 without immigrants, reaching 36 million people. But with migration, the expected decrease of population would be limited, standing at about 48 million in 2050.
There are also several downsides to the process including illegal human trafficking, the illegal use of immigrants, namely the illegitimate ones, and brain drain.
Some, such as Amr El-Abd, chairman of the Alexandria-based Entrepreneurs Business Forum, worry that brain drain ultimately harms the country by drawing many of its most ambitious and creative people to better opportunities abroad.
“Here in Egypt, there is a problem with brain drain. he says. “All the talent is moving to where there is a better standard of living, and towards more financial and intellectual growth, places like Dubai and America.
There is also relatively little information available about the effects of south-south migration, a trend which strongly impacts Egypt. The country is known as a prime example of such migration, illustrated by the abundant anecdotal evidence of Egyptians traveling to the Gulf for work, or by the millions of Sudanese who have moved north due to economic and political pressures.
It is hoped that the high-level dialogues will cast light on this emerging trend, encourage its further study and provide an opportunity for new and creative proposals on the future of migration.
“Migration is so massive right now that it cannot be ignored, says Nassar. “There is a possible win in it for everybody.