10 December 2009

Gambia: VP Launches 2009 UNDP HDR On Migration

The vice president and minister of WomenÂ's Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, yesterday launched the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2009 Flagship Report - Human Development Report (HDR) on migration, entitled Â"Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and developmentÂ", at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.

The report, which investigates migration in the context of demographic changes and trends in both growth and inequality also presents more detailed and nuanced individual, family and village experiences and explores less visible movements typically pursued by disadvantaged groups such as short term and seasonal migration.

The report indicates that national and local policies play a critical role in enabling better human development outcomes for both those who choose to move in order to improve their circumstances and those forced to relocate due to conflict, environmental degradation or other reasons. Also, host country restrictions can raise both the costs and risks of migration. Similarly, negative outcomes can arise at the country levels where basic civic rights, like voting, schooling and health care are denied to those who have moved across provincial lines to work and live.

The HDR 2009 shows how a human development approach can be a means to redress some of the underlying issues that erode the potential benefits of mobility and/or forced migration. It added that there is a range of evidence about the positive impacts of migration on human development, through such avenues as increased household incomes and improved access to education and health services; that there is evidence that migration can empower traditionally disadvantaged groups, particularly the women. At the same time, risks to human development are also present where migration is a reaction to threats and denial of choice, and where regular opportunities for movement are constrained.

In her launching statement, Vice President Njie-Saidy posited that human development is about putting people at the centre of development. She added that it is also about people realising their potentials, increasing their choices and enjoying the freedom to lead lives they value. According to her, human development is today a very important and acceptable tool for development.

She told the officials of the UNDP Gambia office that as partners and stakeholders, the government of The Gambia has recognised the vital role that they are playing in the country. Migration, both within and beyond borders, has become an increasingly prominent theme in domestic and international debates, as well as the topic for discussion in the 2009 Human Development Report.

VP Njie-Saidy reminded the gathering that the report contains strong messages about the world which if adequately utilised can bring about rapid growth and development. She expounded that the report also features challenges that the world faces and urges governments to open up common fronts for the enhancement of development. Â"The report therefore calls for deeper and strong collaboration between stakeholders,Â" she said.

Bringing the report closer to home, VP Njie-Saidy, told the gathering that the government of The Gambia, in fulfilling its responsibilities, is on the move by creating the best enabling environment for its young population, thereby leading to the reduction in youth migration.

Vice President Njie-Saidy then commended the UNDP-Gambia office and reiterated her governmentÂ's commitment to collaborate with them. Chinwe Dike, UN resident coordinator and resident representative of the UNDP in The Gambia, said the report in general touches on migration. The report, she added argues that migration is as ancient as history and is responsible for making countries what they are.

Dike told the gathering that since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty, globalisation, water scarcity and climate change. She told the gathering that the report breaks new ground in applying a human development approach to the study of migration and it discusses who migrants are, where they come from and where they go to, and why they move. Â"It looks at the multiple impacts of migration for all those affected by itÂ-not just those who move, but also those who stay.

In so doing, the reportÂ's findings cast new light on some common misconceptions,Â" Dike said. He added that migration involves difficulties and heavy cost and that most migrants are usually faced with problems as they come to face the authorities, and some are treated badly. According to her, 37% of global migrations are from the developed countries. However, she observed that migration in general is predominant in Africa. By 2015, she went on, it is estimated that the proportion of migration will increase. She noted that migration is a matter of pure choice, saying Â"people move to look for better lifeÂ".

In conclusion, Dike told the gathering that governments at all levels and civil societies have a big challenge and call on them to close ranks in the interest of development. The minister of Interior Ousman Sonko, said the value of migration is more than just improving oneÂ's condition of life, stating that the ability to decide on where to and where not to live is a key element of human freedom.

According to him, there is an emerging consensus that migration and development reinforce each other and in general, migrants contribute to the socio-economic development of both the countries of origin and destination and add value to the cultural and demographic patterns of both categories of countries. Minister Sonko then used the ocassion to commend the UNDP and reiterate The Gambia governmentÂ's stance in the development of the country.

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