BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has launched its latest Human Development Report, entitled “Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development” about overcoming development barriers in Cambodia.
The official launch was announced by UNDP Cambodia Resident Representative Douglas Brokerick with the participation of about 200 people representing media groups, relevant non government organizations, and related government ministries on December 17 at the Hotel Cambodiana in Phnom Penh.
Douglas Brokerick said that the Human Development Report is a flagship UNDP publication that has framed debates on some of the most pressing challenges our planet faces, examining issues as diverse water, human rights, democracy, climate change, and migration. The first Human Development Report was published in 1990, and next year, UNDP will celebrate 20 years of producing this report.
“These reports have helped advance the notion that development is about expanding the peoples’ choices so they can lead lives they value,” he said during opening remarks delivered at the launch of the Human Development Report.
Brokerick said that the 2009 report looks at migration from the perspectives of migrants themselves—the nurses, farm laborers, factory workers, teachers, and so many others who move around the world, and also from the perspectives of the families they leave behind and the communities in which they live and work.
He added that the overriding message of this report is that migration—both across and within national borders—has the potential to greatly improve the human welfare, if they get it right. But those who move face many challenges that can limit the potential gains migration can bring.
According to Brokerick, the 2009 report argues that government should take necessary steps, such as ensuring migration-friendly policies are in place, to pave the way for safe and legal migration and encourage human development.
The global economic crisis has had a significant impact on migration, with many migration workers losing their jobs and being forces to return to their families or move into other industries. In Cambodia, the economic downturn has severely affected the garment, construction, and tourism industries, where many internal migrants seek employment.
He emphasized that this year’s Human Development report also reported that some countries have witnessed a backlash against migration as a result of the global economic downturn so a very important dimension of this year’s report is that it challenges many of the stereotypes that surround the debate around migration. One of the stereotypes is that movement across national borders dominates the flow of people.
Another key message of this report is that migration or human mobility often stems from inequalities, he said, adding that in Cambodia, many people move to the cities in search of better-paid work, whether it is to Phnom Penh for the garment and construction industries or to Siem Reap province for tourism.
Jo Scheuer, UNDP Cambodia Country Director, said that the global report makes recommendations. It urges governments to: open up existing entry channels so that more workers can migrate lawfully; lower the transaction costs for migrants; find solutions which benefit both destination communities and the migrants they receive; make it easier for people to move within their own countries; mainstream migration into national development strategies; and ensure basic rights of migration.
“As the report states, it will take a concerted effort by all partners, including government, civil society and development partners, to ensure that appropriate policies and supporting services are in place to increase opportunities for safe migration and ensure migrants’ rights are better protected,” he said.
He said that a bold vision is needed to enhance the human development gains from migration – a vision that recognizes the underlying risks and constraints, and sets out reforms that will produce positive results. He added that this latest Human Development Report, “Overcoming Barriers,” presents clear recommendations for striking the balance needed to address theses challenges. ///