10 February 2014
Your Excellency, Mr. José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, former President of the Government of Spain,
Your Excellency, Ambassador Roman Oyarzin, the Permanent Representative of Spain
Your Excellency Ambassador Halit Cevik, the Permanent Representative of Turkey,
Representatives of the Media and Civil Society,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to welcome President Zapatero, who joins us today in his capacity as a member of the Club of Madrid. As many of you know, President Zapatero is one of the co-founders of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. He knows better than most that, since its creation, that migration has steadfastly remained one of the four pillars that form the base of Alliance activities. At its founding, a High Level Group convened to decide the type of work the Alliance of Civilizations would do. On the issue of migration, they noted that populations would either view “increased diversity as a source of strength or as a threat.”
Migration is undoubtedly one of the major global issues of the 21st century. The United Nations continues to make progress, agreeing on many aspects related to international migration and development and the protection of migrants, while raising international awareness about the importance of this issue.
This past October, a High Level Dialogue was convened here at the UN, putting international migration at center stage.
UN Member States, joined by civil society representatives, called for integrating migration into the post-2015 agenda. I was very pleased to contribute to that dialogue.
In that context, I would like to point out that as the global community debates a post-2015 agenda; the case for including migration is both stronger and more imperative than ever before. A collaborative approach to migration and development is vital, let alone urgent. The reason is clear. Evidence clearly shows, that migration contributes significantly to development in both the countries of origin and destination. Remittances constitute a significant share of GDP and represent the largest source of foreign currency earnings in many countries. Hence, the post-2015 UN Development Agenda could promote better policies in a range of areas that could lead to development gains in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
But we still need to do more to address migration related issues.
At the heart of migration are human beings with human rights. The term “migrant” describes what they do, but not “who they are”.
We have all too frequently seen in recent years, the fear of the “other” has only become more acute. Migrants are often targets of racism, xenophobia and intolerance.
Increased diversity should be viewed as strength, not a problem. To achieve this, social inclusion is key.
For me, personally, and for us, as a UN organization, the issue of migration has always been first and foremost about human rights. Think for a moment about the personal sacrifice made, the drive and willpower needed, when someone decides to leave his or her home country and settle somewhere else. In spite of the challenges migrants face in their transitions, they still enhance their new communities in cultural, economic, and other important ways.
We saw an example of these moments ago in a Plural Plus video, an UNAOC project, featuring the young boy and his father, the musician.
It was quickly apparent how the simple act of playing music together impacted fellow migrants. Equally importantly, the boy’s continued practice of the accordion showed potential for the music to profoundly affect other parts of society in the future.
Since our mission is to facilitate global understanding, we also help journalists to tell the stories of migrants in a constructive manner.
At the moment, UNAOC is also working to create a glossary of media-friendly terms related to migration. Our goal is to help journalists eliminate public misconceptions about migration while advancing better understanding of the issue.
In 2013, we held two seminars for journalists and migration experts, in France and in Switzerland, resulted in recommendations to improve journalists coverage of migration. All these recommendations were shared via a significant social media campaign: “hash-tag covering migration” reaching over 5 million people.
Another project, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, involved the creation of a short film addressing the Italian media’s influence on public debates about migration.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Migration is a driving force for healthy economic development.
With this in mind, UNAOC is working with the CRT Foundation in Italy and the Italian Government to train young businessmen and women looking to launch businesses that add social value in their hometowns.
An inclusive society must encourage all its members to prosper. Subsequently, the global economy will follow suit. This leads directly to peace and stability among nations.
The desire to achieve complete social inclusion for all must become deeply ingrained in our hearts and supported by political decision to have it evidenced in our actions.
The Alliance of Civilizations strongly believes that as long as migration and social inclusion appear prominently on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the right kind of dialogue will follow.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Friends,
Thank you and I now, as you are, eager to hear H.E. President José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.