Third Meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development
2-5 November 2009, Athens, Greece

2009

The Third Meeting of the GFMD was hosted by Greece in Athens on 2-5 November 2009 and was attended by over 530 delegates representing 142 UN member-states and observers and 30 international organizations, as well as the European Commission.

The GFMD Athens 2009 continued to use the structural framework and the operating modalities set up in Brussels in 2007 and to rely on the network of Focal Points, Friends of The Forum (FoF) and the Steering Group (SG) for information exchange and consultation with participating Governments and Observers.

As in Manila, two days were devoted to a meeting of the Civil Society, and two to the Government meeting. The Civil Society Days which took place on 2 to 3 November, 2009 was organized by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, in tandem with the preparations of the Government meeting. The meeting attracted over 300 participants from a wide range of non-state sectors across 100 countries.

The Athens meeting had as its overarching theme “Integrating Migration Policies into Development Strategies for the Benefit of All”. The selection of this theme was based both on the diverse Greek experiences of migration and a growing global awareness of the need to better link migration to development and to make it a force for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

GFMD 2009 Logo The Greek Chair’s proposal to incorporate migration into development planning was based on the belief that migration should be propelled more by choice than by necessity. National and international development efforts should enlarge human development by improving the standards of living and expanding life choices. International migration should not be a survival strategy, but should be based on choice: the choice to migrate. The Greek Chair believed that the freedom to move by choice goes hand in hand with the freedom to stay at home; and that human development expands both the freedom and choice of staying or moving – temporarily, permanently or repeatedly.

The Athens discussion of human development drew on some findings of the UNDP 2009 Human Development Report, among them that such choices and the developmental effects of migration are clearly dependent on the conditions under which people move, the levels of “development on the ground”. These were an important focus for the discussions of migration and human development across all the Roundtables.

During the Athens meeting, some evidence emerged that the GFMD was shaping the international debate on migration and development in important ways. An informal survey taken among participating states indicated that policies and attitudes were beginning to change in many countries. Governments reported new or pending migration policies that give more regard to development aspects; and new approaches, mechanisms and procedures existed to identify, communicate and engage with diasporas.

The Roundtable discussions also revealed that bilateral and regional agreements were emerging, which promote regular migration (circular or permanent), provide for portability of social security benefits, facilitate the transfer of remittances, better protect the rights of regular migrants, combat irregular migration and trafficking etc.

During the Greek Chairmanship, also, some outcomes from earlier GFMD meetings came to fruition, due to the efforts and active support of some governments, international organizations, academic experts and the GFMD Taskforce. These have further reinforced the thematic coherence between annual meetings. They include:

  • Two informal ad hoc working groups set up by governments - on protecting and empowering migrants for development, and on policy coherence, data and research, to ensure follow-up on several recommendations from Brussels and Manila.
  • A meeting in Asia of Heads of Regional Consultative Processes on Migration (RCPs) on how to enhance exchange of good practices among them; and an assessment of the outputs and impacts of RCPs was presented in Athens.
  • A study to assess the feasibility of a market-based approach to lowering the costs of migration for low income labour migrants from Bangladesh, an outcome of the Brussels meeting in 2007.
  • An assessment of how Migrant Information Centres are working to achieve better informed migration.
  • An informal survey of governments on policy and institutional coherence.
  • The successful start-up of a small GFMD Support Unit to backstop the administrative work of the GFMD and its Chair.

The Athens Roundtables also produced a number of new recommendations and possible follow-up actions to better mainstream migration in development planning, for example through more effective data collection tools and methods to achieve coherence between migration and development policies. More research, studies, handbooks, databases and evaluative indicators were suggested to inform policy-makers on root causes of migration, the roles and needs of diaspora, social protection of migrants abroad, the impacts of migrant reintegration on development, gender issues and partnerships to deal with the impacts of the economic crisis on migration and development. Regional and inter-regional cooperation was reinforced, particularly in the context of closer relations with the GFMD. And governments agreed to continue pursuing policy and institutional coherence on migration and development, and research and data to underpin such coherence.