Thank you to the President of the General Assembly and others in the secretariat who have organized this important dialogue.
I am very pleased to see many familiar faces here in New York.
I have emphasized in public remarks the importance of focusing on concrete outcomes that can move the migration dialogue forward, rather than on divisive institutional and procedural issues that do nothing to improve the lives of migrants.
Let me briefly mention three areas that I believe can be advanced by this High Level Dialogue: (i) migrants in crisis, (ii) trafficking in persons and (iii) migration and development.
There are an unprecedented number of migrants living and working outside their country of origin, and we have recently seen several situations where, due to conflict or natural disaster, large numbers of migrants have been trapped in crisis situations.
Examples include the unrest in Libya in 2011, the earthquake and tsunami last year in Japan, and Hurricane Sandy in the United States.
To begin the dialogue, I propose to focus on lessons learned from situations like the Libya crisis where migrants, through no fault of their own, were stranded without recourse because of events outside their control.
I applaud the leadership shown by Peter Sutherland, the Secretary General’s Special Representative on Migration and Development, on the issue of migrants in crisis and his excellent leadership on migration overall.
I hope he will continue to help identify the most challenging emerging migration issues and work with states and international organizations to develop innovative solutions.
I have agreed to help lead an initiative with the Philippines and other interested countries – working closely with the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, and civil society groups – to address the situation of migrants in crisis.
The process for this initiative still needs to be engineered, but I envision a State-led process aimed at examining the responsibilities of different actors in these crisis situations, perhaps reporting back on progress during the 2014 and 2015 Global Forums on Migration and Development.
To begin, I ask this High Level Dialogue to endorse the idea of us moving forward informally through such a State-led process.
This will serve as a lasting legacy of this High Level Dialogue.
Turning to trafficking in persons, this is a key priority for the Obama Administration, as it has been for prior US administrations and is for many members of the U.S. Congress.
Acknowledging this importance, the State Department’s Trafficking Office is part of the United States’ delegation here today.
We must affirm our commitment to protect trafficking victims by encouraging increased efforts to identify them among migrant populations and cautioning against conflating them with people who are smuggled or migrate without papers. We should ensure victims are not penalized as criminals.
Assisting victims requires a global approach that puts victims at the center of our response: getting them out of harm’s way, ensuring their abusers are brought to justice, and helping them recover and move forward with their lives.
This forum provides the perfect opportunity to remind Member States that we have an excellent tool for fighting this modern form of human slavery in the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its Protocols.
While 157 states have ratified the Convention, not enough States have implemented it and put it into practice.
This High Level Dialogue will have a lasting legacy if it can serve as a catalyst for States that have not ratified UNTOC and its Protocols to do so and for those States that have ratified UNTOC to fully implement it.
This would make a world of difference to victims and potential victims of trafficking throughout the world.
Third, migration and development are huge topics. We need to begin to narrow our discussions and focus on issues within these topics where there is reliable evidence and a common understanding.
An issue that has broad support now is reducing the overhead cost associated with sending remittances.
Although the G-20’s “five in five” target to reduce remittance costs to five percent in five years was not achieved in the hoped-for timeframe, continuing to work toward a five-percent benchmark could be a useful target for the international community and will free up billions of dollars for those individuals and families that benefit from remittance flows.
I look forward to a successful High Level Dialogue and thank all of you for your commitment to better the lives of migrants and their contributions to development.