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NGOs would have preferred ‘meaningful engagement’ at Informal Interactive Hearings

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As part of the preparatory activities leading to the High Level Dialogues, the General Assembly held Informal Interactive Hearings with representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organizations and the private sector on 12 July 2006 at United Nations headquarters in New York. FORUM-ASIA's Pia Oberoi, who attended the event, reports on the outcome of the Hearings.

A High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (HLD) will take place on 14 and 15 September 2006 in New York at UN Headquarters. In its resolution 58/208 of 23 December 2003, the General Assembly decided to devote a high-level dialogue to international migration and development during its sixty-first session in 2006. The purpose of the HLD is to discuss the multidimensional aspects of international migration and development in order to identify appropriate ways and means to maximize its development benefits and minimize its negative impacts. Additionally, the HLD should have a strong focus on policy issues, including the challenge of achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

As part of the preparatory activities leading to the HLD, the General Assembly held Informal Interactive Hearings with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations and the private sector on 12 July 2006 at United Nations headquarters in New York. The objective of the Informal Interactive Hearings was to provide an opportunity for NGOs, civil society and the private sector to interact with Member States and offer input for the HLD. In addition, 12 representatives from the groups represented at the Hearings (4 each from NGOs, civil society and the private sector) would at the end of the Hearings be chosen to represent their constituencies at the HLD in September.

The Hearings itself suffered somewhat from lack of sufficient time, which meant that once speakers and spokespersons had completed their brief interventions there was very little time left for an interactive dialogue to develop between civil society and member states. While the contributions of the 15 or so states that intervened in the debate was appreciated, NGOs and civil society would have preferred if these states, and also those few UN agencies that intervened, had foregone prepared statements in exchange for a meaningful engagement with the ideas, opinions, suggestions and questions posed by civil society and NGO speakers.

In terms of next steps, the President of the General Assembly will put together a report from these Informal Hearings which will be submitted as input to the HLD in September. While most NGOs will not have a chance to see the draft report before it is finalized, it is hoped that the Task Force (created to assist the President of the General Assembly, and including representatives from Asia such as Migrant Forum in Asia) will ensure that issues of particular importance to Asian migrants are reflected in the report. In addition, NGOs and civil society in Asia have discussed the possibility of meeting together in advance of the HLD to develop advocacy and campaigning strategies to promote inter alia the mainstreaming of human rights issues in the HLD discussion on international migration and development. Finally, there are also tentative plans to organize a parallel civil society meeting at the time of the HLD to demonstrate that migration issues could not and should not be debated in the effective absence of vital and primary stakeholders, including migrants themselves as well as migrant and human rights NGOs.

It was obvious from the Hearings in New York that the HLD, and related discussions leading up to it, should be the beginning of a long road towards more coherent and effective policy-making on the issue of migration and development. NGOs and civil society in Asia and around the world will need to ensure that the visibility given to migration is not allowed to fade away once the HLD is over on 15 September, and continue to insist that human rights is the only appropriate framework within which this discussion should be held.