25 NOVEMBER 2019
Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the launch of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report titled “Scaling Fences, Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe”, in Abuja, Nigeria, today:
It is my pleasure to join you for the launch of “Scaling Fences”, a new publication from the United Nations Development Programme.
This report gives voice to more than 3,000 irregular migrants — people who left their homes across 39 African nations and travelled to Europe in search of a better life. Prominent among this group were men and women from Nigeria — who, like their peers, embarked on difficult journeys not to seek asylum or because of persecution, but because, as they themselves say, their “ambition had outpaced the opportunities available in their home country”.
Such movements have received enormous attention in the political and media landscapes, yet their own perspectives on why they move and what they experience often go unheard. This new report challenges Governments and policymakers in Africa and Europe to really see and hear a group of people who are more often spoken of than listened to.
“Scaling Fences” complements a report released in 2017 by UNDP’s Africa Bureau called “Journey to Extremism”. That effort focused on the drivers of recruitment and shone a spotlight on a different but equally complex, challenging and challenged population.
The young people surveyed in “Journey to Extremism” were less educated rural dwellers bypassed by economic progress. In contrast, the “Scaling Fences” cohort is urban, better educated and relatively more well off than the general population.
Nigerian youth featured prominently in both reports, forgotten or underserved by development.
Together, these landmark studies are a collective plea to their Governments to raise the level of creativity, ambition and pace of Africa’s economic transformation and sociopolitical development.
“Scaling Fences” is an important contribution to the operationalization of the 2018 Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the first global blueprint to cover all dimensions of international migration.
The Global Compact came into being at a time of considerable tension in the world on issues involving migration. It provides Governments with a framework for strengthening cooperation on the full range of actions needed to ensure that we maximize the benefits and manage the risks associated with migration.
The Compact recognizes that all migrants are entitled to equal protection of their human rights; that migrants are vital and integral members of our societies; and that migration makes an important contribution to sustainable development.
It stresses the need for better data and knowledge of migration and it highlights the importance of creating regular pathways for migration, which can both help countries address labour market needs and dramatically reduce the risks facing migrants on the move.
The research being unveiled today shines a light on each of these issues and has implications for all countries affected by African migration — countries of origin, destination and transit.
The United Nations is committed to the implementation of the Global Compact.
Through our Network on Migration, we are working to ensure effective, timely and coordinated system‑wide support to Member States. What we see through this work, just as we do through this report, is that migration and development are intertwined, and that with the Sustainable Development Goals we have a once‑in‑a‑generation opportunity to catalyse progress.
Not only are the Goals the best chance the world has for achieving peace and tackling the climate crisis, but their implementation will accelerate the ability of Governments, markets and society to create opportunities that keep pace with people’s rising ambitions.
The people featured in this study are not the poorest of the poor. They are the “springboard generation” — beneficiaries of two decades of remarkable development progress in Africa.
Yet these bright, ambitious young people share a perception that opportunities to fulfil their aspirations at home are closed. This perception is held so profoundly that it has driven many to reject their known circumstances in favour of a potentially perilous and irregular journey to an unknown future in Europe.
Earlier this month, I visited the Horn of Africa, a region contending with many of the challenges that we see driving migration and forced displacement on the continent and globally, including climate impacts, insecurity and underdevelopment. Some of these countries host tens of thousands of migrants and refugees. Others are source, transit and destination countries.
I met with young women in Djibouti who had been forced to flee as a result of war, and others who had willingly left their homes in search of a better life but were now too scared to return empty handed. They were without homes and now without support or opportunities for return.
In Ethiopia, I met with women who had been in search of basic opportunities, but ended up trafficked, experiencing horrific violence and in some cases becoming the victims of organ traffickers.
This brings us to a core message of the study — migration is a driver of development but it is also an indicator of incomplete development, and particularly of a development trajectory that is failing young people. It is time for us as a country, and as a global community, to aim higher, so that human development launches today’s and future generations into the fullness of its potential.
Hope is the commodity too many bright, ambitious, young Africans are going to dangerous lengths to pursue. We must support the conditions for that hope to flourish at home. And in parallel, we must ensure that those who choose to leave can do so through pathways that reduce their risk to abuse, violence, exploitation or worse.
The impact we can make starts by listening, and by understanding. “Scaling Fences” aims to help us all to do just that, and I commend it to a wide global audience.
For information media. Not an official record.