Globalization and Interdependence: International Migration and Development

Statement by Ambassador H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Second Committee of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Agenda Item 22: Globalization and Interdependence: International Migration and Development

Madame Chair,

My delegation affiliates itself with the statement made by Yemen on behalf of the G77 & China, and appreciates the Report A/65/203 on this Agenda Item by the Secretary-General.

The issue of migration deserves priority, both at national and international development discussions. Sri Lanka places migration high in its national development policy, given that an estimated 1.8 million Sri Lankans currently reside and work abroad. This is equal to 25% of the country’s total employable population and approximately 8% of the entire population. These migrant workers, whether they are highly skilled professionals or semi-skilled workers, make a significant contribution both to their own country as well as to the host countries.

The private remittances of Sri Lankan migrants have significantly augmented our foreign currency reserves and the national income. It is estimated that private remittances this year will amount to approximately US$ 4.0 billion. As the Secretary General’s report noted, remittances have shown lower volatility than other income sources in the midst of the global economic crisis. However, Sri Lanka hopes to look beyond remittances in terms of utilizing migration in its development strategies.

Sri Lanka is on the verge of rapid economic take off following the decisive conclusion of a three decade long conflict with the terrorist LTTE. The Government is making large investments in infrastructure and developing productive assets so that Sri Lanka’s strengths will be optimized in this post-conflict scenario. We have taken many measures on migration management to ensure that migration becomes a key contributor to national development.

Sri Lanka considers that a rights based approach to the management of international migration is critical. Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to ratify the “International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families”, which entered into force in 2003. The Convention has now been ratified by 42 States most of which are labour supplying countries. Sri Lanka considers this Convention to be a  core human rights Convention and calls on all States to become party to this Convention.

We observe that migrants working in the low-skilled segment face more difficulties than other categories of migrant workers, including a lack of access to basic services. There is a paucity of international norms to protect workers in the informal sector, particularly domestic workers. We commend the leadership role played by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the promotion of a rights based approach to the management of labour migration. We note with satisfaction the adoption of a resolution in June this year at the ILO Conference in Geneva calling for the drafting of an international Convention and a Supplementary Recommendation to extend labour standards and social protection to domestic workers.

Madame Chair,
Health is a fundamental human right and one that is critical for human development, and central to the Millennium Development Goals. A new aspect of the on-going debate on migration is the exclusion of many migrants from essential social services in receiving countries, particularly health services. Concern in connection with access to health services for migrants on the part of many receiving states formed the basis of the resolution on the health of migrants, which was endorsed by the Sixty-first World Health Assembly in May 2008, which was chaired by Sri Lanka. Following the adoption of this resolution, Sri Lanka is spearheading a multi-stakeholder and evidence based process towards developing a National Policy on Health and Migration, with assistance from the International Organisation of Migration (IOM). We hope that this model could be emulated by other countries in addressing this important issue.

On the subject of the human face of migration, I would like to highlight the excessive social cost of migration. Migration leads to a large scale  breakdown of families, neglect of children and other negative outcomes. This needs to be addressed with a sense of urgency. Women migration currently stands at 49% as underlined in the Secretary General’s Report. The general image of women migrants being a negative one calls for a gender-based approach to migration management. It is important to quantify women migrants’ contribution to the economies of both sending and receiving countries in order to accord the recognition they deserve.  Sri Lanka will continue to emphasize skilled migration and discourage unskilled female migration. 

Madame Chair,
We adopted a National Labour Migration Policy in 2008 with the major objectives of better governance and regulation of labour migration, providing effective protection and welfare services to migrant workers and families, and mobilizing remittances effectively for development purposes. A multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee monitors the implementation of the National Policy, which will play a critical role in providing technical skills to our migrant workforce. In this context, Sri Lanka will be encouraging more skilled migration in the future.

We have put in place the national mechanism to manage the issues related to migration by establishing the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) through a Parliamentary Act. The mandate of this institution includes assisting and supporting local agencies to negotiate employment agreements with agencies abroad and providing training at countrywide centres to migrant workers. There are legal penalties to control illegal activities and human trafficking.

Madame Chair,
Sri Lanka believes that in the field of migration, regional consultative processes can play a key role. This was the reason for the Sri Lanka to initiate “The Colombo Process” in 2003 with the assistance of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM). The Colombo Process is a Regional Consultative Process (RCP) on the management of overseas employment and contractual labor for countries of origin in Asia.

Sri Lanka is looking forward to participating actively in the fourth Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Mexico from 8 – 11 of next month. The GFMD  has become an important platform for the creation of international partnerships to optimize the benefits of migration towards the development of both sending and receiving states. The GFMD process will make an important contribution to the consideration of the nexus between migration and development at the High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development at the General Assembly in 2013. 

In conclusion, in the context of our debate today focusing on international migration and development from the broader perspective of Globalization and interdependence, it is somewhat ironic that globalization has resulted in the world witnessing a rapidly increasing international integration of markets for consumer goods, technology, and all factors of production other than human resources. In the case of developing countries, this becomes an added structural disadvantage as the movement of people face restrictions.

I would like to reiterate that, both in the context of national and international policy cooperation, a long term approach needs to be taken to migration to optimize its utility as a development tool.

I thank you Madame Chair.

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