High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development

Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga. Check against delivery.
New York, 3rd October 2013: Side event "Making the Case for Migration in the Post-2015 Agenda" Statement of Madame Simonetta Sommaruga, Ministre de Justice et Police suisse

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the Government of Bangladesh, for co-hosting this important event on “Making the Case for Migration in the Post-2015 Agenda”.

If you asked the people in Switzerland what they would associate with migration, you would get many different answers: Asylum-seekers, cultural enrichment, integration, the need for migrant workers as well as the fear of losing jobs, and a reference to their favorite Thai restaurant. Very few would mention ‘development’. And yet, if we take a step back, the development implications of migration and of the migrants themselves suddenly becomes more visible. The watch-industry, one of the many sources of pride for Switzerland, was saved by a migrant from Lebanon. Nestlé was the realization of an enterprising immigrant from Germany. But it is particularly the untold stories of the many foreigners that have come to Switzerland in the past decades which best symbolizes the economic contribution of migration for my country. Their integration is important to enable a better interaction with the local society while enhancing the mutual benefit of their presence. Additionally as a country currently facing a rapidly ageing demography the immigration of a younger work force also alleviates the pressure on our social security system. Economically and socially, Switzerland has therefore been benefitting from migration for a long time.

The aspiration however is that migration becomes beneficial for all – not only for developed countries like Switzerland but also for developing societies and migrants alike.

Despite all the positives that migration can bring for development, we cannot deny that migration also has many adverse implications, especially for migrants. From human trafficking and migrant smuggling, to exploitation and violence against migrants, and the psycho-social affects many families left behind have to suffer; from the disruptive impact migration can have on local societies to the fears generated by immigration.

As Minister of Justice and Police in charge of the Swiss Migration Policy I have a responsibility to take seriously the concerns my citizens may have about migration. At the same time, it is also important that the national interests of Switzerland with regard to the contribution of migrants to our society be effectively communicated to its citizens. We have to take into consideration the fact that more than 25% of the work force in Switzerland, today, is comprised of foreign nationals. By highlighting the benefits of migration and addressing the challenges we can also improve the perception of migration and of migrants themselves.


National interests are not only defined by domestic considerations but should also reflect a global perspective on migration and development. Switzerland started funding voluntary return and reintegration programs, as early as 20 years ago and continues to do so. These programs were important for the development of concrete projects in countries of origin. This, in turn, contributed to a broader reflection on how to strengthen the relationship between migration and development which has since guided our work through a whole-of-government approach.

We have a shared responsibility to ensure that our public policies enhance the development impact of migration on migrants and on the societies of their countries of origin and destination. In 2009, a unit dedicated to migration and development cooperation was established in the Swiss administration. Switzerland is therefore in the position to implement recommendations from dialogue processes and substantiate these initiatives with concrete evidence from the field.

With the Nigerian Diaspora living in Switzerland we have launched a project to strengthen the vocational training in selected institutes in Lagos. In Northern Africa we are supporting local governments in acquiring the necessary skills to better use migration for local development. In South Asia we are supporting projects for the protection of migrants, skills development, and reducing the costs as well as dangers related to migration. Such projects will help us all to look at the phenomena of migration more from a global perspective.

As a country that has substantially benefited from migration; as a country that is committed to poverty reduction through its development cooperation; and as a country that has been highly engaged in the international discussions on migration and development, Switzerland has taken the only logical conclusion that is to advocate for inclusion of migration in the Post-2015 Agenda.


Looking forward let me highlight three points:

Firstly, Switzerland will actively advocate for a post-2015 framework that adequately reflects all three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental –. The new framework should be based on human rights and at the same time comply with principles of respect of planetary boundaries, social inclusion and justice, universality, and policy coherence. Switzerland is convinced that poverty eradication and sustainable development must constitute the overall objective of this new framework.

Secondly, against this background, Switzerland will increase its efforts to ensure the integration of the global economic and social gains linked to migration in the future development agenda. In order for the global economic and social gains linked to migration to be fully realized, Switzerland proposes three distinct areas of action:

  1. Ensuring safe and regular migration, notably by protecting the rights of migrants and guaranteeing the access to justice;
  2. Reducing the economic and social costs of migration, for example by limiting the transfer costs of remittances; and
  3. Facilitating migrants’ contribution to development by, for example, engaging the diaspora as agents for development and planning any sectoral policy from a mobility and demography perspective.

Finally, we live in an interconnected world and so we must develop our responses together. A partnership-oriented evolution is needed: Partnerships that are global and regional; partnerships amongst and between governments, international organizations, civil society, social partners, private sector and academia; partnerships that provide technical and financial assistance; partnerships that promote the exchange and awareness building of best practices; and partnerships that seize the opportunities and address the consequences of migration and development in its entirety.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Switzerland is convinced that this is a unique opportunity to strengthen our alliances and forge new ones, so that we can work together to ensure that migration is clearly recognized as a contributor to poverty eradication and sustainable development and anchored in the future post-2015 framework.

Thank you.

Last modification 03.10.2013

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