Joint statement by ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on the occasion of International Migrants Day

Statement | 18 December 2014
There are more international migrants today than at any other time in human history. As the Secretary General’s synthesis report on the post-2015 development agenda puts it, ‘we are a mobile world’ (The Road to Dignity by 2030, para. 30).

But the sad reality is that many migrants continue to face exploitation, discrimination and violence throughout the migration process. From abusive recruitment practices as they seek to go abroad in search of decent work, violence and detention at borders, exploitation, unequal treatment in the workplace, xenophobic violence to denial of access to essential services in countries of destination.

One of the reasons this continues, is that labour laws are often not applied in many sectors which typically employ migrant workers, such as agriculture, construction, or domestic work. Refusing to give migrants and their families access to education, health-care and adequate housing is both morally indefensible and practically short-sighted. Equality and non-discrimination are important drivers of sustainable development. Persistent and structural discrimination generates sharp inequalities which threaten the social fabric. No society can develop its true potential when legal, social or political barriers prevent entire segments of the population, such as migrants, from contributing.

The post-2015 UN development agenda will be a pivotal opportunity to deliver more equitable and sustainable development. To be truly sustainable, development must be people-centred and inclusive. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said unequivocally that the post-2015 agenda must leave ‘no one behind’ and ‘must not exclude migrants’. It must address inequalities in all areas and must apply to all social and economic groups. A powerful means to reduce inequality, particularly affecting migrants, is through the protection of human rights and labour rights, which form the cornerstone of fairer migration policies.

Next year will see the anniversary of two key instruments that are central to the global struggle towards equal treatment. The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) will turn 25, and ILO’s Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention No. 143 will turn 40. These provide the means and the guidance to transform rights into effective tools to promote broader economic prosperity. Today, on International Migrants’ Day, ILO and OHCHR call on States to make use of these instruments, and all other core international human rights and international labour rights standards, to realize sustainable development and ensure dignity for all, including for migrants.