by Onaje Crawford
On December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth suggesting that August 12th be declared International Youth Day.
Today, The United Nations’ celebrated the 14th Annual International Youth Day by hosting a series of presentations, video exhibitions, and panel discussions on youth migration entitled, “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward”. Jean-Pierre Gonnot, Chief of the Social Integration Branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Division for Social Poilcy and Development, opened the celebration by distributing a statement from the Secretary-General entitled “Message on International Youth Day”. In it, the Secretary-General encouraged, “member States to consider youth migration”, reiterated his commitment to working, “with and for young people”, and encouraged all, “stakeholders to act to promote the rights of all young migrants and maximize the development potential of youth migration.”
Next, Charles Dan, the International Labour Organization’s Special Adviser on Youth and Social Inclusion, gave opening remarks, highlighting the 27 million youths between the ages of 15 and 24, one eighth of the world’s population of migrants, who reside outside of their country of origin. Dan also pointed out that, for this subset of migrants, “the decision to migrate is often related to important life transitions, such as obtaining higher education, starting work, or getting married.” While migration often occurs for these positive reasons, it is also caused by grim realities. Dan quoted the economist John Kenneth Galbraith who “referred to migration as the oldest action against poverty for most of human history.” While, for some, migration is a choice, for others, it is a necessity. Accordingly, Dan suggested that youth migration is a national economic indicator. Forty percent of the world’s unemployed are youth, and many more youth are underemployed and unable to earn a living wage. Both unemployment and underemployment contribute significantly to migration, which calls upon all nations to “focus on three key policy dimensions of youth migration: competencies, care, and communication.” Nations must recognize the competencies, skills, and abilities of migrants and participate in their development. Nations must care about the rights and protection of migrants, ensuring their safe movement and equal treatment. Finally, nations must communicate with each other, with their citizens, and with migrants to ensure their proper inclusion into society, especially the labor market.
After Mr. Dan completed his presentation, a panel on Youth Migration and Development Research and Analysis was moderated by Dr. A,K. Abdul Momen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations. The panelists were:
- Ms. Sabine Henning, United Nationals Department of Economic and Social Affairs
- Mr. Christian Salazar, United Nations Children’s Fund
- Mr. Gianni Rosas, International Labour Organization
These panelists shared that young people between the ages of 15 and 28 are the most likely demographic to migrate and that there are 35 million migrants under 20 years old. Of the 35 million migrants, 22 million are in the global south and the 13 million are in the global north. While sixty percent of migrants are in developing regions, many nations, even those in the global south, serve as nations of migration and nations of destination. For example, migration to North America has decreased and migration to Asia has increased, which seems counter to perception. In addition to sharing useful and surprising details about migration, they were able to give example of successful responses to migration by countries like Nicaragua, that offers migrants a “One Stop Shop” that supports their transition into the country by providing education, job placement, and healthcare. Systems like this express belief in the value of migrants and the contributions they can make in their country of destiny. The panelists agree that nations must educate and give healthcare to all migrants, regardless of nationality, to affirm their humanity and invest in their talent.
Two more panel discussions were held. Mr. Chris Richter from the International Organization for Migration moderated the first, which included 4 young women leaders from different regions of the world who offered personal insight into their experience with migration; the second panel featured Mr. Bruno Moro, Secretariat of the Spain’s Achievement Fund for the Millennium Development Goals, Ms. Myrna Orozco, Board President for the Immigrant Justice Advocacy Movement, and Ms. Laura Garciandia, whose presentation on migrants in Latin America won the International Labour Organization/Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund’s Video Contest on Youth Labour Migration. Both panels offered intimate accounts of the challenges migrants face, highlighted the issue of migration in the United States, and called for the further involvement of youth as central to developing effective and sustainable solutions to the challenges migrants face. Ms. Orozco captured the spirit of the event best when she said, “we must seek to understand and accept migrants with grace.”
The event closed with a call for attendees to continue discussing migration with NGOs and politicians to ensure that the treatment of migrants is improved. Attendees were also encouraged to attend the 2nd High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, which will take place in the United Nations General Assembly on October 3 & 4, 2013. For more information on this event, go to www.unmigration.org.
For more information on United Nations Youth-related events and information, go to the following websites: