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  • Amy E. Pope is the U.S. Candidate for Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). She currently serves as the Deputy Director General for Management and Reform of the International Organization for Migration. The world is facing an historic and worsening forced displacement crisis.  For the first time in recorded history, more than 100 million people are displaced globally as a result of conflict, climate-related disruptions, and extreme poverty.  Ms. Pope discusses her vision to build a new global consensus that enables IOM Member States to meet the challenges of today and the future while harnessing the opportunities that can come from safe, orderly, and humane migration.


MODERATOR:  Good day and welcome to this New York Foreign Press Center briefing.  My name is Daphne Stavropoulos and I’m today’s moderator.  It’s a pleasure to introduce our briefer today, Amy Pope, who is the U.S. candidate for Director General of the International Organization for Migration.   

The world is facing an historic and worsening forced displacement crisis.  For the first time in recorded history, more than 100 million people are displaced globally as a result of conflict, climate-related disruptions, and extreme poverty.  Ms. Pope will discuss her vision to build a new global consensus that enables IOM member states to meet the challenges of today and the future while harnessing the opportunities that come from safe, orderly, and humane migration.   

This briefing is on the record and is being recorded.  Following Ms. Pope’s opening remarks, there’ll be some time for question and answers, which I will moderate.   

And with that, it’s my pleasure to turn it over to today’s briefer, Ms. Pope.  The floor is yours.  

MS POPE:  Thank you so much, Daphne, and thanks to all of you who are joining in the conversation today.  As Daphne said, we are at this critical moment in time where we’re seeing more people on the move really than ever before in recorded history.  People are being displaced by a range of issues: conflict, income inequality, and of course, increasingly, climate change.   

We’re at a moment where having a strong International Organization for Migration is not only necessary, but it’s critical.  The International Organization for Migration provides life-saving humanitarian support to millions of people around the world, but there’s also an opportunity for the organization to do even more when it comes to connecting the dots and creating the opportunities of human migration.  

Right now we have 175 member states.  We’re operational in 180 countries around the world, with over 400 field offices.  We have strong relationships on the ground providing immediate, responsive support to communities, which creates an opportunity for us to really engage better, ensure that opportunities are taken advantage of, and as much as possible engage in much more strategic and predictive approaches to migration.   

But in order to do that, I believe that IOM needs to get closer to the people that we serve.  And so first and foremost for me is really engaging with people, starting with the migrants themselves.  I believe that migrants can bring important insight and perspective to the work that we do, and it’s critical that they be included in the conversations.  Whether it’s young people, women and girls, people with disabilities, migrants are not all the same, and so ensuring that we are reflecting the diverse perspectives of the people we serve is critical to having the programming that will make a sustainable difference in their lives.   

Secondly, I think it’s absolutely critical that IOM better engage its member states.  We are a member state organization, yet sometimes we are not as close to the members as we need to be.  It’s critical in order for IOM to come up with sustainable solutions to reflect the priorities of our members, that we’re working much more closely – hand in glove – with them to ensure that the work we are doing is making a difference in the lives of people who are impacted by migration.  

Finally, IOM needs to invest in our workforce.  Over 50 percent of our workforce is not reflective of our member states.  Either there are no nationals from that member state in our organization or fewer than five reflected in our international professional team.  I don’t think that’s workable.  If IOM is to come up with really meaningful, reflective solutions to migration, to really serve the communities who are most at risk, it’s important that our membership reflect all of our member states.  Likewise, it’s important that from a management point of view that we’re really engaging in transparent recruiting, promoting, and hiring practices, ensuring that we are really providing transparency to all of our members.   

I’ve spoken to many of our member states while here at the Africa Leaders Summit, and there are three things that I have promised that I will do over the next coming years if I am elected.   

Number one is to start with our member states to make sure that our workforce is reflective of all of our members so that we have not only diversity but gender equity, we have different points of view reflected, we ensure that we are coming to the situation with a very, very comprehensive approach. 

Secondly, there’s so much more that IOM can do when it comes to using our data.  Right now we know that climate change will become one of the greatest displacers of humans into the future.  We can often predict where climate change will have destructive impacts.  For example, we can use our data about communities that are at risk; we can use – we can work with other agencies to better use their data and to create a better understanding of where communities are most likely to be displaced, and then ensure that our programming is connected to those communities and really is engaging in providing either alternative skills, legal pathways for migration, or options for building resilience in place.   

Finally, I believe there is much room for IOM to do – to engage the private sector in our organization.  The private sector benefits from well-managed migration.  There are tremendous opportunities, especially as demographics around the world change.  But in order to make sure that labor migration is not exploitative, to make sure that it is in the best interests of all communities, it’s essential that it be safe, it be orderly, that people are ethically recruited.  And there is a tremendous role from IOM to play there, connecting the dots between the private sector, between communities who are looking for increased opportunities, and for those who are in need of other people to do the job.   

We’re seeing it across the world that there are labor shortages.  The private sector is looking for skilled people, frequently unskilled folks, to do the work.  So there’s a strong, strong reason for the private sector to be engaging in IOM in order to make sure that we can create better opportunities for all people.  So for me, the organization is at this inflection point.  We know that these pressures are coming our way.  We know that there are going to be tremendous opportunities in the future.  I think IOM is best placed to help connect the dots between the communities of interest and to make sure that, as we move into the future, we are best able to serve all people to achieve the opportunities that migration can offer.  With that, I’ll take questions.   

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.  Let’s first go to Dmitry Anopchenko from Inter TV of Ukraine.   

QUESTION:  Hello to you.  Thank you very much for organizing this.  I am sorry.  I’m on my way in driving, but I cannot miss this briefing.  So my question is little differently about Ukraine.  Ma’am, it’s the largest – one of the largest problems for my country during the war – a lot of people – millions of people who went to Europe, who went to different countries looking for to – a place to stay during the war.  What’s your vision of the Ukrainian issue?  What’s your understanding about the help America as a part of the organization and the organization as well may provide to Ukraine and to neighbor countries who go to Ukraine and are refugees?  Thank you.  

MS POPE:  Thank you very much.  IOM is actually one of the agencies that had the largest presence in Ukraine even before the war and has continued to have one of the largest presences of any UN agency in Ukraine.  And it’s because we work so closely with our – with the government itself to provide support to communities who are at risk and who have great need.  

The situation in Ukraine has actually revealed a number of lessons that I think are relevant for migration as a whole, and this starts with the private sector.  In Ukraine, we saw an outpouring of support from the private sector.  Organizations like Airbnb reached out early to say: can we provide housing for people who are being displaced by the war?  Other organizations providing goods and services, communities opening their arms to people who are being displaced – that to me suggests that there is real power when we’re working across communities and coming up with comprehensive solutions to migration crises.  There is an openness within people when they understand, when the stories are personalized, when there is a sense of community support that is really highlighted and drawn upon.   

The other highlight from Ukraine is that you see when people are – really understand the human face of migration, they are often very welcoming of migrants.  I think this is an important lesson for IOM and other international organizations: it’s the importance of telling the human story of migration; it’s important of telling the narratives of the communities who’ve opened their arms to migrants; it’s important in demonstrating how the private sector can bring solutions to the table.  And for me this is something that can be applied much more globally.   

Now, moving forward, the situation in Ukraine is going to require sustained support from many countries and not just those in Europe.  And again, this is a place where I see some really important examples of where other countries have offered pathways for Ukrainians to be resettled during the time of the war.  And that is – the mechanisms that other countries have used to create those pathways have been innovative.  They’ve worked together; they looked for common solutions.  That to me suggests that this is a way forward that we can be using, whether it’s a protracted crisis in Ukraine or situations happening around the world.   

So this is a place where IOM can really add value, whether it’s a crisis that is going on for many years or one that is emerging – ensuring that we’re on the ground, ensuring that we’re engaging at all levels of a community, ensuring that our work is being done hand in hand with the governments that we’re supporting, and ensuring that we’re bringing the private sector to the table to supplement and augment that support. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  So we’ll continue taking questions.  If you have a question, please raise your virtual hand or ask your question in the chat.  We have one question that was submitted in advance, and I wonder if you could talk a little bit about your background and your leadership experience and how it will prepare you for the role of director general. 

MS POPE:  Thank you so much.  I’ve worked on migration issues my entire career.  I started as a civil rights prosecutor here at the U.S. Department of Justice, prosecuting human trafficking cases.  I’ve worked in the U.S. Congress, writing legislation to protect unaccompanied children, victims of trafficking; working on legislation on border management and on a range of issues involving migration.  When I was at the White House working for President Obama and then for President Biden, I worked on issues of refugee resettlement, making sure the refugee resettlement system worked better, more efficiently, using technology to update outdated practices.  I worked on responding to the Ebola crisis and responding to other natural disasters. 

On every single area in which IOM is engaged, I have experience working over the last 20 years of my career.  And in doing so I’ve learned a couple of things.  One is that when it comes to migration, it’s absolutely essential that you have a whole-of-community approach.  There are stakeholders at every level – those who are impacted by the migration, the migrants themselves, the governments at the local level and the governments at the national level.  It’s also critical that you bring those different perspectives to the table so that you really get the buy-in and the support of all who are involved.   

This is not a situation where you can just sit in Geneva and come up with some great idea and then hope that it’s implemented on the ground and works perfectly.  It doesn’t work that way.  In order to achieve workable, sustainable solutions to the real challenges of migration – in order to really take it into creating opportunities for people – it requires creativity, it requires engagement, it requires sustained accountability from all the stakeholders.  And I think that’s what I bring to the job.  I’ve worked across the range of issues involving migration, some under quite a lot of pressure, some under very difficult circumstances, and time and again I’ve found that having an inclusive approach – having an approach where you’re really getting on the ground, rolling up your sleeves, and putting in the work – is the only way to get the job done. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  The next question was asked in the chat by Mr. Yishau of The Nation in Nigeria.  The question is, “How serious is the migration problem in Nigeria and how active is Nigeria in IOM?” 

MS POPE:  The situation in Nigeria is quite complex.  It involves all areas of IOM’s work.  It is one of our largest missions and it involves responding to the movement of people, the pressures that require people to leave, post-conflict work, disaster response, labor mobility.  On every level – counter-human trafficking – on every level, IOM is engaged.  The IOM works closely with all of our governments, including in Nigeria, and it’s really a place where it’s critical that we have a multi-stakeholder approach, right – it’s critical that the private sector be engaged, but also the civil society, community groups, and the migrants themselves in order to come up with a sustainable solution. 

MODERATOR:  There is another question in the chat from Thiago of Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil.  The question is, “Can you talk a bit more about the end of Title 42 by – the Biden administration’s position on that and how the government will deal with its potential effects?  Thank you.” 

MS POPE:  Well, I don’t have any particular perspective on the end of Title 42.  What we do know is that migration across the Americas is at an all-time high.  It is migration from Central America; it’s migration from Venezuela; it’s migration of communities who had lived in countries in South America for some amount of time and then are on the move again.  We know that people are being displaced by income inequality; they’re being displaced by climate change; they’re being displaced by a range of factors, violence in communities.  And so the numbers of people migrating across the Americas is something that many, many governments have never seen before, have not dealt with before. 

Where IOM adds value is that we can work closely with the governments to ensure that the people who are migrating have support, that the governments and the communities that are hosting them have support.  For example, in Colombia, IOM is working with the government to provide additional medical clinics because of the number of Venezuelan migrants who have come in and – creating pressures on hospitals or on doctors’ offices.  So that’s the kind of place where IOM can add value. 

But the other place is really looking at these alternative channels.  We know that the pressures to migrate are significant.  And so absent alternate paths to migration, people will often take to much more dangerous routes.  IOM can work very close so we can – we are and we can do more to work with our government member states to help create these alternative pathways, to implement them, and to ensure that people have access to the information they need in order to apply for them.  

So as we look at the issue of migration across the Americas, focusing on what’s happening at the U.S. border is only one tiny, tiny piece of the picture.  To come up with a comprehensive approach, we really need to be engaging all of the governments in the region, all of the communities in the region, and really approach it from these multiple different points of view.  

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We have a follow-up question in the chat from Mr. Yishau, who’s asking: “Can you explain what you mean by Nigeria having a complex migration problem?” 

MS POPE:  The situation in Nigeria involves, as I said, every part of IOM’s mandate.  We see conflict in certain communities, where people are forced to flee.  We see situations where people do not have access to jobs.  We see situations where we have persons who have been trafficked.  Or this is – it’s a place where the number of pressures on people are significant.  And IOM can play a role to better engage communities, to better engage civil society, to better engage the migrants themselves so that we come up with more durable solutions.  

It is – this is one of the reasons why, for me, coming to the Africa Leaders Summit was important, because when we look at the range of pressures to migrate across the world, we’re seeing so many of them converge in Africa, especially when we’re seeing the impact of climate change.  So for me, this is bringing a whole-of-stakeholder approach to a variety of real pressures that will become more and more acute as time passes.   

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  As a reminder, all the journalists who are joining us, if you have a question, please raise your virtual hand or type your question in the chat.  

I will go to a question that was pre-submitted, and I wonder, Ms. Pope, if you could talk some about the biggest migration challenges and opportunities globally.  

MS POPE:  I think there are two that I am really focused on.  One, of course, is climate change.  We know that climate is going to displace people, obviously because if there’s drought, they can’t farm.  If they don’t have access to fish if they’re fishermen, if they don’t have access to job opportunities, people will be forced to move as a way to adapt if they have no alternatives.  But climate change also can fuel conflict as people either move into new communities or people have conflict over scarce resources.  

So it’s critical that when we think about what IOM can and should be doing moving into the future that we really identify the areas that are most vulnerable to climate change and that we proactively engage in providing solutions, even before the people are displaced.  So one example is the work that IOM has done in the Philippines, where the number of storms coming through has grown in terms of scale and significance.  Rather than just rebuilding every time that a storm comes through, we’ve been working with communities to create more durable shelters so that they can withstand the typhoons that come through.  

Now, this is just one tiny example of how we can work with communities to become more resilient.  That kind of much more forward-looking thinking and strategic approach needs to be what we’re doing around the world, so that, ultimately, we’re enabling people to make choices about migrating rather than being forced to migrate.  So that’s number one, being more predictive, using our data more effectively, engaging with the governments that – who are member states more strategically, so that we’re all well-prepared and can better respond to what we’re being forced to adapt to as a result of climate change.  

But the other places really, when we look at shifting demographics and the opportunities that creates, we know across the worlds that there are aging populations, where right now there are not enough people in the workforce to meet the jobs that are needed now, much less the jobs of the future.  We also know in parts of the world we have growing youth populations and more and more people who are looking for opportunities.   

I think IOM can play a connecting role between governments, between communities, with the private sector, to better match the communities who are – who need migration to survive, to thrive, and those communities that have young people who are looking for opportunities, ultimately, to work.  And I think that, in and of itself, creates development within communities.  It creates the exchange of skills and ideas.  And it enables the growth of populations in positive ways, not just for the communities that host the migrants but the communities that send migrants.  And ultimately, that for me, when I think about the future of IOM, is really one of the most exciting and promising places where we can be working more effectively.  

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  We have a hand raised by Francisco.  Francisco, feel free to enable both your audio and your video so we can see you, and introduce yourself with your full name and your outlet, please.  

QUESTION:  My name is Francisco Javier Otazu from the Spanish news wire EFE.  My question is, again, about the southern border of the U.S. and the different responses that the crisis is provoking.  We have the Republican governors and Democratic governors who are blaming each other of this crisis.  How – what can the IOM do in this kind of situations where there’s a political rift?  

MS POPE:  Well, first of all, needless to say, blame doesn’t help anyone, right.  So when we look at a situation like what’s happening at the U.S. southern border, it’s recognizing that the displacement factors happen well before any migrant reaches the U.S. border.  And it’s really using our data and our relationships on the ground to understand what is driving people in the first place, and then tailoring our engagement, our response, our programming to those drivers of migration.   

But it’s ultimately also bringing the different governments to the table, whether it’s by exchanging information about how they manage their own borders, whether it’s about identifying opportunities for alternate paths to migrate, whether it’s by – as I spoke about earlier – creating pathways for labor mobility, or exchanging information about the exploitation or trafficking of people.  Ultimately, migration is multifaceted, and it involves sending countries, countries of transit, as well as the destination countries.  And unless those countries are all working together on a common approach with the different tools that they have, then I don’t think that we can be successful. 

Ultimately, we understand that people will migrate when they have no other choice.  And so where I think IOM can be most effective is working with government actors, working with civil society, working with the private sector, and working with the migrants themselves to create options for people so that people in the best-case scenario are choosing whether to migrant rather than migrating out of desperation. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you again.  Again, we have time for a few more questions if any journalists who are joining us want to raise their virtual hands or type a question in the chat.  Well, I think your briefing was so fulsome and thorough that there are no other questions at this time.  I want to thank you for your time and give you the opportunity to make any last closing remarks if you wish.  

MS POPE:  Thank you so much and thanks to all of you.  As I started with, I think we’re at this pivotal moment in time, and we know that there are going to be a multitude of factors that are displacing communities around the world.  I also believe that we’re at a point where it’s critical that UN organizations are providing real-world, impactful solutions to communities on the ground.  And I think that it’s important that we are responsive to our member states and to the people that they serve. 

So when I look at the future of IOM, and I look at what I believe is the leadership that is needed for IOM, I believe that it’s one that is inclusive, that is strongly and effectively engaging our member states, and is ensuring that we’re coming up with real-world solutions.  I think that’s what I bring to the organization.   

So thank you all for listening, and I very much appreciated your questions.  

MODERATOR:  Thank you again for sharing your time today.  Today’s briefing was on the record.  We appreciate you joining us.  The transcript will be posted on our website at later this evening.  And we ask that if you publish a story from today’s briefing that you kindly share it with us.  And with that, I appreciate everyone joining us and good day.  

U.S. Department of State

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