By Grace Baey
"We have come here for change… to humanise our societies." This call to action from George Joseph, co-Chair of the 2012 Civil Society Days of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), marked the guiding principle of this year's theme on "Operationalising Protection and Human Development in International Migration".
Hosted for the first time in Africa, over 140 representatives from civil society organisations around the world gathered together on the beautiful island of Mauritius to put their hands to the plough, focused on translating recommendations made from prior GFMD meetings into practical benchmarks and strategies to be taken up at the 2013 UN High Level Dialogue (HLD) on International Migration and Development, as well as the post-2015 development agenda.
The opening address, delivered by Ali Mansoor, Financial Secretary of the Government of Mauritius and Chair-in-Office for the 2012 GFMD, emphasised what eventually became the dominant premise of our conversations: "Be pragmatic, and strive for workable solutions, not mere ideals."
Amidst the cautionary undertone of his speech, he stressed the need to "tread carefully the issue of communications on [matters pertaining to] migration—where emotions hit the core of reason." "Good intentions are not enough," he said. "You need to come out of the dry rock of principle so that we can build a bridge of communication between civil society and governments."
It was interesting to note the mirror through which both parties viewed themselves: On the one hand, civil society delegates were gathered precisely with the intention of taking issues concerning the everyday realities and struggles of migrants up to the high-level table of intergovernmental discourse. On the other, the persistent appeal on stage amongst state actors was for civil society to ground their high-minded ideals with pragmatic and implementable strategies through which to address real issues concerning migration. Thus the petition from both ends was: Come down!
Wherein lies the common ground?
The organising committee offered one clue card: Benchmarks.
To achieve this, the bulk of the two-day agenda was focused on three working sessions surrounding the themes of "Labour", "Development" and "Protection":
- Operationalising a Rights-based Approach to Labour Mobility, Markets, and Matching;
- Operationalising Human Development in International Migration; and
- Operationalising the Protection of Migrants and their Families.
Thomas Stelzer, UN Assistant Secretary General for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), noted in his plenary speech that these working session themes paralleled those envisioned for the 2013 HLD, and so the outcomes of our deliberations would channel seamlessly into these dialogues.
"Think strategically," he urged. "After 6 years of talk, its time to come to action."
Grace Baey is the Communications Officer for the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, one of the core partners within the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium. Grace was attending the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society Days 2012 supported by the Migrating out of Poverty RPC.