2nd GFMD 2014-2015 Thematic Meeting on “The Role of Communications"


From left: Ms. Esen Altug, Deputy Director General for Migration, Asylum and Visa, MFA, Turkey; Mr. Stefan Kapferer, Deputy Secretary General of the OECD; Amb. Mehmet Samsar, Director General for Consular Affairs, Turkey (GFMD 2014-2015 Chair); Mrs. Martha Ortiz de Rosas, Ambassador at large for Migration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vice ministry of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Mexico; and Ms. Athanassia Ioannou, Head of Social Integration Unit, Directorate General of Citizenship and Migration Policy, Ministry of Interior, Greece.


" In almost all OECD countires migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in benefits. . . In order to improve the public perception of migration, we need leadership of policy makers in our countries. First of all, leadership to rebuild trust on migration issues; secondly, leadership to adapt the well- defined and flexible migration policy framework; thirdly, leadership to develop effective and pragmatic communication approaches in our countries; and lastly, leadership to tackle the issue of labour market integration of migrants. "

- Mr. Stefan Kapferer
OECD Deputy Secretary General

On 29 April 2015, the Turkish Chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) together with the Governments of Mexico and Greece, co-convened the second GFMD Thematic Meeting on “The role of communications in promoting widespread recognition of the benefits of migration, improving public perceptions of migrants, combating discrimination, and promoting integration” in Geneva.

The thematic meeting gathered around 130 policymakers and officials from UN Member States and representatives of international organizations and the civil society. An elaborate agenda was prepared by the Turkish Chair, in coordination with co-convenors Mexico and Greece.

Amb. Memhmer Samsar, Director General for Consular Affairs of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, opened the meeting on behalf of the Turkish GFMD Chair. He noted that after almost two years since the 2013 High Level Dialogue, there remains no clear framework on what should be the priority areas for work and specific actions to be taken by states and other actors in creating greater public awareness about the contributions migrants make to countries of origin and destination, as well as in combating discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance against migrants and their families. Limited discussion of the issue has taken place within the GFMD framework.

" In order to fight discrimination against migrants and promote their integration, we need to design public policies which are positive; we need to create specific institutions, develop programs and services that focus on the intercultural aspects and human rights of migrants and ensure that their economic, social and cultural contributions are recognized, and that they are provided with equal opportunities. "

- Ambassador Marta Ortiz de Rosas
Ambassador at large for Migration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vice ministry of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Mexico

In his keynote speech, OECD Deputy Secretary General Stefan Kapferer underlined the importance of countering the myths about migrants and migration with hard facts and evidence. A common public perception, he said, is that migration is uncontrolled and costly; but in reality, immigrants help make labour markets more dynamic, and that migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in benefits. People largely overestimate the magnitude of migration and underestimate its positive impact.  Improving public perceptions is a must, he urged, because they shape public policies. Governments need to signal that things are under control and must rebuild public trust in migration policies and institutions.

Improving public perceptions, according to Ambassador Marta Ortiz, representing co-convener Mexico, is a very timely topic particularly in the context of the negotiations on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. She stressed that due to the lack of understanding of the migration phenomenon, migrants are wrongly seen as a burden and resulting in huge costs for destination countries. These perceptions are often used to lead public opinion against migrants’ interests which, in turn, leads to approaching migration from a security point of view instead of focusing on their human rights.

For Greece, represented by Ms. Athanassia Ioannou, in the absence of a sound communication strategy on the role of migration in the overall development of both receiving and source countries, public perceptions are shaped by rumours and myths about migrants and migration. Failing to address the gap between misperceptions/misconceptions and the reality can generate high risks for both receiving and source countries and migrants themselves.

Throughout the day, three successive sessions were held on the following topics:

Session I: Promoting evidence-based communication about the benefits of migration
Session II: Improving public perceptions of migrants and migration through effective communication channels, tools and messages
Session III: Communicating effectively about migrants and migration

" The rise of xenophobia and racism as well as persisting discrimination against migrants can endanger democracy, the rule of law, the respect of human rights and can have a negative impact on social cohesion. . . It might be useful for countries of origin and destination to create platforms of dialogue and consulting committees (comprising of members from the academia, journalists and specialists in communication) to the governments for the promotion of positive public perception of migrants and for their recognition as enablers of development. "

- Ms. Athanassia Ioannou
Head of Social Integration Unit, Directorate General of Citizenship and Migration Policy, Ministry of Interior, Greece

These sessions featured speakers from governments (Costa Rica, Mauritius, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland), civil society (Koç University, PICUM), think tanks (German Marshall Fund, Panos Europe) and international organizations (ILO, IOM, UNAOC), who shared varied  perspectives on the issues. Evidences gathered from surveys, field work and policy-making were presented. Mr. Gregory Maniatis, Special Adviser of the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for International Migration and Development, also shared the initial results of a confidential project on “Global opinion on migration” involving 229 surveys that span 173 countries and territories.

Speakers underlined the urgency of addressing public misperceptions/misconceptions about migrants and migration, while promoting the positive and evidence-based contributions of migrants to host and home countries. The need for leadership by governments in promoting cultural diversity and better integration of migrants was highlighted; at the same time, other stakeholders – notably the media, civil society, international organizations and the migrants themselves – also play an important role in addressing the issue. Sharing of good public policies and effective communication projects/programs, as well as promoting regular interaction and dialogue between migrants and their host societies were encouraged. These initiatives included a Media-friendly glossary, Youth Ambassadors for migrants, youth video festivals, among others.

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