at the SECOND COMMITTEE of the 61st SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Item 55: Globalization and interdependence
(b) International migration and development
Since this is the first time Iceland takes the floor in the Second Committee during the 61st Session of the General Assembly, allow me to congratulate you and the members of the bureau on your election. I wish to express our support and we stand ready to work with you.
I will today limit my comments to only one Item on our agenda, namely Item 55(b) International migration and development.
We thank the Secretary General for his comprehensive report and the emphasis he has placed on this important and highly relevant matter.
The report highlights the fact that a new era of mass international migration has recently begun. Iceland is acutely aware of this. Only ten years ago, my country had a very small number of residents of foreign origin. The island was considered by many to be too far away, and the climate too harsh, for massive inflow of migrants. Today, a higher portion of our labour market is occupied by immigrants than in the other Nordic Countries, of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, and as of today, 7% of the labour force are immigrants of more than 100 nationalities. Our experience has been largely positive and the many people of foreign origin who have come to Iceland have made a valuable contribution to the Icelandic society.
International migration can contribute in a positive manner to sustainable development and economic growth, both in the countries of origin and destination. And migration can also benefit substantially the migrants themselves if appropriately regulated and controlled. But if we are to reduce the negative effects on the migrants themselves we must recognize the need to promote and to protect their human rights.
The gender equality perspectives are highly important in migration because gender inequality can both be the cause and the consequence of international migration. Promotion of gender equality will, therefore, contribute to the reduction of the negative impact of migration.
We have to be aware that globalization at the world's labour markets has both positive and negative side effects, both for women and men. While it gives many employees greater opportunities it also can lead to the loss of formal contracts, social security and protection. However, it is very important that we bear in mind that these effects can act differently on the situation of women and men.
I would like to highlight the fact that the cross-border movements of persons has become the main vehicle for greater participation by women in exports of services in developing countries, which is a positive side of increased international trade in services.
It is worrying, however, that the current trends in women’s employment are heading in the wrong direction, with lower wages and deterioration in the terms and conditions of employment. One of the reasons is that women are more likely to find employment in the informal economy than men.
Another challenge that is closely linked to migration is the rapid growth of human trafficking and smuggling. Attempts have been made to use Iceland as a country of transit on the route over the Atlantic and the Icelandic authorities have taken vigorous steps to combat this activity.
Trafficking in human beings is a global problem and as such needs to be dealt with by the international community as well as at the national level. Iceland has signed the UN convention against transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and has emphasised the role of regional institutions in combating trafficking in human beings and has consequently contributed actively to the anti-trafficking work of the OSCE.
The fight against trafficking in human beings should be a priority for all, as most states are affected either as countries of origin, countries of transit or countries of destination. It remains one of Iceland’s priorities and we have put considerable efforts into raising public awareness on what such trafficking involves.
We welcome the substantive exchange of views at the High-level dialogue on international migration and development, held in September here in New York. The number of speakers testifies to the importance and urgency of the issue. The need for dialogue and cooperation between governments and international organisations on migration and development has become more important than ever.