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12th session of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families Geneva 26-30 April 2010

Opening address by
Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye
Director, Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 

Palais Wilson – Ground Floor Conference Room
Monday, 26 April 2010, 10.00 a.m.

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished members of the Committee,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be with you this morning to open your session on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. High Commissioner Pillay, currently engaged in a visit to the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, has asked me to extend to you her best wishes for a successful and productive session.

I would like to start by congratulating several of you upon your re-election for a new mandate with the Committee and by extending a particular welcome to the five new members who were elected in December last year: Mr. Francisco Carrion Mena (Ecuador), who is known to many of you as he previously served on the Committee; Ms. Fatoumata Abdourhaman Dicko (Mali); Mr. Miguel Ángel Ibarra Gonzalez (Guatemala); Andrea Miller-Stennett (Jamaica), and Mr. Ahmadou Tall (Senegal). I am confident that you will all make an important contribution to further enhance and advance the work of the Committee.

This 12th session of the Committee is indeed an important land mark. It is the first time you meet in full size after the membership was expanded to 14 following last year’s entry into force of the Convention for the 41st State party. The expansion of the Committee coincides with another most important landmark as we celebrate this year the 20th anniversary of the Convention’s adoption.

Let me assure you that we will strive, in cooperation with you, to make optimum use of this anniversary year to raise awareness about migrants’ rights and to encourage more States to join to the Convention.

Distinguished experts,

        Allow me to bring to your attention some developments of interest that have taken place since your last session in October last year.

         Firstly, I would like to highlight that the effective protection of human rights in the context of migration is one of the six priority areas of the areas of the Office of the High Commissioner for the biennium 2010-2011. OHCHR will give priority attention to four critical areas related to migration, namely: (1) discrimination, xenophobia, racism and related intolerance against migrants; (2) economic, social and cultural rights of migrants; (3) immigration detention and criminalization of irregular migration; and (4) the impact of the global economic crisis on the human rights of migrants. Moreover, as a common overriding priority, the Office will promote and raise awareness about the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. (You will find a note in your files with more information of the Office’s strategy on migration and copies of the High Commissioner’s Strategic Management Plan 2010-2011 is available with the secretariat.)

High Commissioner Pillay herself misses no opportunity to address human rights concerns affecting migrants and she consistently encourages States to ratify the Convention. Migration-related issues figure prominently in her public statements and in her dialogue with Government authorities. During her ongoing visit to the Gulf region, the High Commissioner specifically highlighted how the situation of migrant domestic workers is an issue of particular concern, while also noting the positive trend in some countries in the region to reconsider the sponsorship system which rigidly binds migrants to their employers.

Ladies and gentlemen,

            This years’ 20th anniversary of the Convention provides an excellent occasion to focus attention on the need to achieve universal acceptance of this core human rights instrument. Throughout the year, the Office of the High Commissioner, including through our regional and country offices, will organize a series of events and activities to promote and raise awareness about the Convention.

            Earlier this month, the Steering Committee for the Campaign for Ratification of the International Convention on the Rights of Migrants launched a global campaign calling on governments to ratify the Convention as a concrete and important step towards ending widespread human rights violations suffered by migrants around the world. As you know, the Steering Committee brings together three United Nations organizations – the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); as well as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and ten civil society organizations. Amongst various activities and events, an on-line petition has been launched on the Steering Committee’s website. Each month signatures will be collected for one or two countries to sign a petition letter encouraging States to ratify the Convention. (You will find more information on this campaign in your files.)

            Allow me also to mention that the Office of the High Commissioner has supported and organized a series of meetings on migration-related issues, including a two-day regional conference in Barmako, Mali, in November last year on the role on national human rights institutions in the protection of migrants’ human rights. Currently, our recently opened regional office on Brussels are planning, jointly with the ILO, a Legal Colloquium on the International Human Rights Framework of Protection for Migrant Domestic Workers, due to be held on 25 and 26 May 2010 in Brussels. The focus of this colloquium is of particular relevance to your current deliberations on a general comment. The Office is also supporting a conference on human rights and migration organized by the Council of Europe and the Government of Portugal in Lisbon on 31 May and 1 June 2010.

            Finally, I am pleased to inform you that the Office of the High Commissioner will assume the chairmanship of the Global Migration Group during the second half of 2010. The Global Migration Group, of which OHCHR is a founding member, is another key forum for efforts to promote a human rights approach to migration. It brings together 13 United Nations organizations and the International Organization for Migration. Next month, on 27 and 28 May, during the chairmanship of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Migration Group will convene a public symposium in Geneva. The meeting will include a specific focus on how to ground migration policies in human rights and again the participation of a representative of your Committee would be very important. During the second part of the year, one key task for the Office with be to facilitate the Global Migration Group’s joint preparations for, and participation in, the Fourth Global Forum on Migration and Development, due to be held from 8 to 11 November in Mexico.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Turning to relevant developments concerning the work of the Human Rights Council, I would like to observe that even if the Council did not discuss any specific item or resolution focusing on migrants during its 13th session which concluded last month, the issue of migrants’ human rights was consistently raised by delegates and observers throughout the session. The growing attention given to the human rights of migrants is also reflected in the recommendations emanating from the Universal Periodic Review, which held its 7th session from 9 to 19 February 2010. So far, migration issues have been raised in 91 out of 112 countries reviewed. 73 States have received recommendations regarding migration issues, and, out of these 73 States, 56 were encouraged to consider ratifying the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. Out of those 56 States under review, 18 supported, or accepted in principle, this recommendation to consider ratification.

Let me also draw your attention to ongoing work of the Office of the High Commissioner in implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 12/6 to prepare a study on the human rights of children in the context of migration for consideration of the Council at its 15th session in September this year. In preparation for this study, we will convene a one-day open-ended expert consultation meeting in Geneva next month.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to two country visits undertaken by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Mr. Jorge Bustamante: to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in June 2009, and to Senegal, in August 2009. The report of the mission to the United Kingdom has just been issued and highlights a number of key challenges, also identified in other countries, such as the criminalization of irregular migration and the detention of immigrants; the protection of migrant children; and the protection of migrant domestic workers. The report of his mission to Senegal will be issued within the next months and will no doubt be a useful reference for your consideration of Senegal’s initial report later in the year.

Distinguished experts,

In relation to harmonisation of working methods, members of the different treaty bodies met here in Geneva for the tenth Inter-Committee Meeting from 30 November to 2 December last year.  Your Committee was represented by Mr. El Jamri, Mr. Sevim, and Mr. Taghizada. I am sure that they will provide you with further information.

On the broader level of strengthening the treaty body system, the High Commissioner, in her statement at the 12th session of the Human Rights Council, encouraged all relevant stakeholders to initiate a process of reflection on how to streamline and strengthen the treaty body system to achieve better coherence and effectiveness. In this connection, I would like to draw your attention to an informal meeting of a number of former and current treaty body experts which took place in Dublin last November 2009, organized by the University of Nottingham.  The primary objective was to reflect on the future of the treaty bodies and propose a possible framework for strengthening the treaty body system. 

Distinguished Committee members,

Turning to the task at hand, you have indeed a busy week ahead of you. Later today you will start your dialogue with the Government delegation of Algeria concerning its initial report. Later in the week, you will discuss and adopt lists of issues for the three countries which are due to be reviewed at next session later in the year: Albania, Ecuador and Senegal. In addition to these reports pending consideration, I am pleased to inform you since your last session, Mexico has submitted its second periodic report while initial reports have been received from Argentina, Chile and Guatemala.

Within the short time available to you during this one-week session, you will also hold a first reading of a draft general comment on migrant domestic workers. The eventual adoption of this general comment, the Committee’s first, will be another very important land mark. Its focus is most timely as the elaboration of a new ILO Convention on domestic workers will be discussed at the ILO International Labour Conference in June.

Before I conclude, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Ms. Wan-Hea Lee, who has just taken up her appointment as Chief of Section, and Mr. Ulrik Halsteen, who has been appointed to temporarily serve as Secretary of your Committee.

I wish you a very successful and productive session and assure you of the full support of the Office of the High Commissioner and your secretariat to assist you in fulfilling your mandate. 

Thank you