Press Releases

    POP/942
    31 March 2006

    Background Release

    UN Commission on Population and Development to Meet at Headquarters, 3 - 7 April, with Focus on International Migration, Development

    NEW YORK, 30 March (UN Population Division) -- With the number of international migrants standing at 191 million and their remittances at $226 billion, the Commission on Population and Development is devoting its thirty-ninth session to international migration and development, from 3 to 7 April at United Nations Headquarters (Conference Room 1).

    The session will contribute to the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, to be held at the United Nations on 14 and 15 September 2006.

    This year's session will feature five keynote speakers.  Prof. Rita Süssmuth, President of the OTA University in Berlin and former President of the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag), will speak on "Developing a coherent migration policy: Germany and the European Union" on Tuesday, 4 April at 11 a.m.  She will be followed, at 12 noon, by Ghana's Interior Minister, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, who will address "Emigration from Ghana: A motor or a brake for development?"

    On Wednesday, 5 April at 11 a.m., Margarita Escobar, Vice-Minister of External Relations of El Salvador, will speak on "The contribution of emigrants to national development: The experience of El Salvador".  She will be followed, at 12 noon, by Prof. J. Edward Taylor, of the University of California-Davis, on "What can countries of origin do to reap the development benefits of migration?"

    The last keynote speaker, Patricia A. Sto. Tomas, Secretary of Labour and Employment of the Philippines, will address the Commission on Thursday, 6 April at 11 a.m.

    Peter Sutherland, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Migration, as well as Chairman of British Petroleum (BP) and Goldman Sachs International, will address the Commission on Thursday, 6 April at 10 a.m.

    Other items to be discussed by the Commission include financial resources for implementing the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the work of the United Nations Secretariat in the field of population, and the methods of work of the Commission, including enhancing the effectiveness of its relationship with the Economic and Social Council.

    International Migration and Development

    The number of international migrants in the world reached 191 million in 2005, says the report by the Secretary-General on world population monitoring, focusing on international migration and development (document E/CN.9/2006/3).  Six out of every 10 international migrants live in developed countries, and 7 out of every 100 migrants are refugees.  Nearly half of all migrants are female, while female migrants outnumber male migrants in developed countries.  Three quarters of migrants are concentrated in just 28 countries, and 1 in every 5 lives in the United States.

    The proportion of Governments wishing to reduce international migration declined from 40 per cent to 22 per cent, between 1996 and 2005, says the report.  Since 1990, many receiving countries have been taking measures to facilitate the inflow of the types of migrants they need, especially skilled migrants and temporary low-skilled workers.  Countries of origin have increasingly encouraged the return of their citizens and strengthened ties with their expatriate communities, so as to involve their migrants in fostering development at home.

    The growth rate of international migrants worldwide has been slowing down, increasing by 36 million between 1990 and 2005, down from the 41 million between 1975 and 1990.  This slowdown has resulted mainly from the sharp decline in the growth rate of the number of migrants in developing countries, which dropped from 2.5 per cent annually in 1975-1990, to 0.6 per cent in 1990-2005.  In contrast, the growth rate of migrants in developed countries remained robust, averaging 2.9 per cent annually during both 1975-1990 and 1990-2005.  Developed countries absorbed virtually all the increase in international migrants between 1990 and 2005 -- 33 million out of 36 million.

    International migrants are increasingly concentrated in the developed world -- from 53 per cent in 1990 to 61 per cent in 2005.  Today, 1 in every 3 migrants lives in Europe and about 1 in every 4 lives in Northern America.  Asia still accounts for 28 per cent of migrants but, like Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania, it has seen its share drop.

    In developing countries, the number of migrants has increased by barely 3 million since 1990.  Return flows cancelled out new outflows over the period.  During 1990-2004, 21 million refugees were repatriated, the majority to developing countries.

    Both Latin America and the Caribbean, and the group of least developed countries have seen their numbers of international migrants drop between 1990 and 2005, mostly because of declining numbers of refugees.  In 1990, Central America had 1.2 million refugees, but a successful peace process led to their full repatriation over the decade.  Large numbers of refugees hosted by the least developed countries could return home when long-standing conflicts were resolved, particularly in Africa.

    The number of refugees under the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) dropped from 15.9 million in 1990, to 9.2 million in 2005.  Together with the 4.3 million refugees under the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the total number of refugees in 2005 was about 13.5 million.

    Between 1990 and 2005, 17 countries accounted for 75 per cent of the increase in migration: the United States gained 15 million migrants, and Germany and Spain gained above 4 million each.  The number of international migrants decreased in 72 countries, and Iran and Pakistan saw the largest reductions, as a result of the repatriation of Afghan refugees.

    Migrants in Europe increased by an estimated 15 million to reach 64 million in 2005.  The increase was higher in Northern America, 17 million, where an estimated 44.5 million migrants lived in 2005.  In Australia and New Zealand, the number of migrants rose by 0.2 million to 4.7 million in 2005.  In Japan, where the number of migrants reached 2 million in 2005, the increase amounted to 1.2 million.

    Developed countries are increasingly allowing the admission of needed workers under temporary employment programmes, including for highly skilled personnel, researchers, intra-company transferees, trainees and seasonal workers.  Today, 30 countries have policies to promote the inflow of highly skilled workers.

    The share of skilled immigrants increased in various countries during 1990-2002 -- by 49 per cent among the immigrants admitted to Canada, by 37 per cent among those admitted to Australia, and by 13 per cent among those admitted to the United States.

    The number of international migrants in developing countries reached 75 million in 2005, accounting for just 1.4 per cent of their total population: 51 million in Asia (excluding Japan), 17 million in Africa, and 7 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    The number of irregular migrants is difficult to estimate, but they were likely around 10.3 million in 2005 in the United States and between 7 and 8 million in Europe, particularly Southern Europe.

    International migration has demographic and social aspects, says the report.  Given the low fertility levels in more developed regions, net migration has become the major driving force behind their population growth, accounting for half of that growth in 1990-1995, two thirds in 1995-2000 and three quarters in 2000-2005.  If current trends continue, between 2010 and 2030, net migration will likely account for virtually all the population growth in the more developed regions.

    The net economic impact of international migration is generally positive for receiving countries.  Although immigration may have a small adverse effect on the wages of non-migrants, or may raise unemployment when wages are rigid, such effects are small at the national level.  Over the medium and long term, migration can generate employment and produce net fiscal gains.

    The impact is also largely positive on countries of origin.  Migration can reduce, albeit slightly, pressures on the labour market, promote the transfer of knowledge and skills through return migration, and improve the plight of the families of migrants through the flow of remittances, which rose to $226 billion in 2004 -- $145 billion of which went to developing countries.

    International migration policies have also changed, with many receiving countries adopting laws that facilitate the inflow of the types of migrants they need, and with stronger measures to prevent and combat clandestine inflows.  These changes reflect a better understanding of the consequences of international migration and a growing recognition of the need to manage migration, instead of restricting it.

    Receiving countries are increasingly adopting policies that focus on the integration of migrants.  In 2005, 75 countries had programmes for integrating non-nationals, up from 52 countries in 1996.

    Monitoring Population Programmes

    There is a growing interest among Governments, civil society, the private sector and others to capitalize on the benefits and minimize the negative consequences of migration, says a report by the Secretary-General on monitoring of population programmes, focusing on international migration and development (document E/CN.9/2006/4).  International migration is increasingly being perceived as a development tool and as an integral part of global development.

    Policies can enhance the positive effects and mitigate the negative impacts, with migration becoming a net contributor to poverty reduction.  Migration can bring together countries of origin and countries of destination, to achieve mutually beneficial solutions.

    Today, migration affects every country -- as point of origin, transit or destination and, often, as all three at once.  Women are no longer passive players accompanying family members, but play an increasing role, accounting for about half of all migrants.  With the decline in fertility in some parts of the world, migration has taken on increased significance, becoming an important component of population growth in many countries.

    Migration flows can be managed in a more orderly way, one that maximizes the benefits and minimizes the costs to both origin and destination countries, as well as to the migrants themselves.  This requires building country capacity and adequate migration data for policy development.  It requires a high degree of coordination and cooperation among countries.  It also requires an understanding of the social and economic implications of migration, the political will to manage migration flows and to address their consequences, institutional capacity, trained staff and adequate resources.  The migration experience must be safe, orderly, humane and productive for all individuals and societies.

    Financial Flows

    The annual report of the Secretary-General on the flow of financial resources for assisting in the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (document E/CN.9/2006/5) examines levels of donor and domestic expenditures for population activities in developing countries for 2004, and provides estimates for population expenditures in 2005 and projections for 2006.

    Slow, but steady, progress, thanks in large part to the increase in funding for HIV/AIDS, has ensured the attainment of the Conference's 2005 targets for both international donor assistance and domestic expenditures for population activities.  Donor assistance for population activities was estimated at almost $5.3 billion in 2004, up from $4.7 billion in 2003.  Domestic expenditures, which had been estimated at almost $11 billion in 2003, are estimated to have increased to $14.5 billion in 2004.  Together, donor assistance and domestic expenditures yielded a global estimate of $19.8 billion in 2004.  But, even though the targets will be met, they will not come close to addressing current needs, because the targets were fixed over 10 years ago, with cost estimates and estimated needs based on experiences as of 1993.

    Donor assistance is estimated to have further increased to $6.1 billion in 2005 and is projected to increase to almost $6.4 billion in 2006.  A rough estimate of resources mobilized by all developing countries yielded a figure of almost $14.9 billion for 2005.  This number is projected to increase to $15.9 billion in 2006.

    The challenge before the international community is to continue to mobilize the required resources to implement the Conference agenda within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals.  Although estimates show that the targets agreed to in Cairo have been slightly surpassed, these targets are out of date and may not be sufficient to meet evolving current needs.  For example, no one had foreseen the escalation of the AIDS pandemic.  In 1994, 14 million people had been said to be living with HIV/AIDS; this number increased by 186 per cent, to almost 40 million in 2004.  The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that global resource requirements amount to $15 billion in 2006, of which $8.4 billion is required for prevention and $3 billion for treatment and care.  The financial targets of the Conference of $1.4 billion in 2005 and $1.5 billion in 2010, for prevention activities only, are far below these estimated requirements, and should be revised to address current needs and costs.

    Without a firm commitment to population, reproductive health and gender issues, as well as adequate allocation of financial resources in all areas, it is unlikely that the goals and targets of the International Conference and the Millennium Summit will be met.

    Other Documents

    A Secretary-General's report on the programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2005:  Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (document E/CN.9/2006/6) covers the activities of the Population Division.  The Commission will review the Division's work in the areas of analysis of fertility, mortality and international migration; world population estimates and projections; population policies, population and development interrelationship; and monitoring, coordination and dissemination of population information.

    A report of the Bureau of the Commission on Population and Development on its intersessional meeting (document E/CN.9/2006/2) focuses on that meeting, held in Banjul from 19 to 20 December 2005, during which Bureau members made recommendations on the Commission's organization of work and working methods, work programme for future sessions, work programme of the Bureau and work programme of the Population Division.

    A note by the Secretariat (document E/CN.9/2006/L.2) contains the provisional agenda for the fortieth session of the Commission.

    Background of Commission

    The Population Commission was established by the Economic and Social Council in 1946 and renamed Commission on Population and Development by the General Assembly in 1994.  The Commission, as a functional commission assisting the Council, is to monitor, review and assess the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994, at the national, regional and international levels, and advise the Council thereon.

    The Commission is composed of 47 members, who are elected on the basis of equitable geographic distribution and serve a term of four years.  The members for 2006 are:  Armenia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Botswana, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, China, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, France, Gambia, Germany, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United States and Zambia.

    For information, please visit www.unpopulation.org  or contact the office of Ms. Hania Zlotnik, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, tel.:  (212) 963-3179, fax: (212) 963-2147.

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