Media Center

Press Release

The OAS Examined Migration as a Positive Factor for the Development of the Region

  September 30, 2013

The Organization of American States (OAS) today hosted the 52nd Lecture of the Americas on "Making Migration a Positive Factor for Development in the Americas," that served to analyze the trends, challenges and the future of international migration, including the recommendations and perceptions on a topic that is considered of growing importance in the region.

The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, inaugurated the event, highlighting that the title of the gathering "reflects the current position of the OAS on migration” and recalled the long history of migration that characterizes the Hemisphere. "This is an issue on the rise in our region, and perhaps the most significant figure is that while Latin America and the Caribbean represent only 8 percent of the world population, migrants from this region are 16 % of the total migrants in the world," he said.

Despite this revealing trend, the leader of the hemispheric Organization warned that the issue of migrants has not received even attention in the various countries nor are there clear policies within the region, and that give rise to “the importance of discussing this issue today." The role of the phenomenon is especially significant for the economy, he noted, because "migrants are still a substantial support for millions of households in the region." In 2012, he recalled, remittance flows reached $61.3 billion which shows that this is "a permanent phenomenon, as remittances did not decrease during the crisis, as happened with other sectors."

The Secretary General emphasized the attention this issue has gotten attention in recent years at the OAS, which in 2009 created a commission in charge of migration issues and a program dedicated specifically to this area. "Being this is a hemispheric issue par excellence, it should be treated with the attention it deserves, especially at a time when the United States discusses the possibility of implementing new immigration policies, a crucial debate for the entire region."

The Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), William Lacy Swing, keynote speaker of the event, presented the global trends of migration, some specific aspects of migration in the Americas and the IOM recommendations for the Second High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development to be held this week as part of the United Nations General Assembly.

In his address, the IOM Director stated that "we are living in a world on the move, this is an era of unprecedented human mobility, in which one in seven people is a migrant, this is the 21st century’s megatrend.” According to the IOM , there are currently 232 million migrants in the world and it is expected that by the year 2040 there will be 400 million international migrants.

He also explained that this phenomenon is mainly due to factors such as the digital revolution, the growing disparities between north and south economically and socially, climate change, the growing complexity of the multiple disasters, both natural and manmade, and the need to respond to the growing labor market. This, he added, "indicates that migration is a trend that will continue throughout the century."

With specific reference to the Americas, the senior IOM representative said that the Hemisphere remains extremely important for international migration, and noted noting the growing trend of the "south - south" migration. He agreed with the Secretary General Insulza at the growing impact of remittances, which by 2015 is projected to be several times larger than all total foreign assistance. "Many countries in the Americas depend heavily on remittances, however, government policies have not caught up with this trend of human mobility of our time, and it is necessary to identify how countries can benefit from this reality," he said.

The IOM Director presented the recommendations that his organization has contributed to the high-level dialogue at the United Nations, seeking to identify priority areas for action, including: the need to improve public perception of immigrants, highlighting the important role they play, trying to integrate migration into development planning; make greater efforts to protect the human rights of all migrants, irrespective of their legal status; providing assistance for migrants in crisis situations, including natural disasters; and enhancing evidence building and knowledge-based policy making, investing in more research and data collection.

"Large scale migration is inevitable given what we know about demographic differences; it is also necessary if jobs are to be filled, skills are to be found and economies are to flourish, and it is highly desirable if we have the right policies keeping in mind that migration historically has been overwhelmingly positive,“ concluded Ambassador Swing.

The Director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration of Georgetown University, Susan F. Martin, presented her comments on the challenges and opportunities for the countries of origin and destination of migrants, with emphasis on the need to work for a economic and social development that provides stability so that citizens are not in the need to migrate.

Martin said that issues such as the reduction of violence, abuse, exploitation and xenophobia in the countries of destination are important issues on which is needed to put great emphasis and ensure respect for the rights of migrants, including their right to have a dignify life. "We must strengthen the commitment of the countries of the region to the protection of refugees and to extend such protection to others who face life threatening situations in their lives," she said.

The university scholar advocated for promoting the integration of migrants in their destination countries, "means ensuring that they have the tools needed to be able to move up in the economic ladder to fully integrate into their new homes." She also emphasized the need to "have processes of reintegration of migrants returning to their countries of origin."

The Georgetown University official coincided with the idea of building capacity at all levels of government to manage migration issues and to ensure that public policy and decision making are based on actual data.

Finally, the OAS Executive Secretary for Integral Development, Sherry Tross, who moderated the question and answer session, closed the debate by recalling that the issue of migration "is not only visible, but also important for our Hemisphere." Executive Secretary Tross highlighted the shift in perception that has taken place on the issue, "which changed from being in the field of national security to the recognition that migrants are important actors in development, and as such it is necessary to give it the necessary attention to this issue through greater collaboration and cooperation of all stakeholders."

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-358/13