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Speech by Vice Foreign Minister Qiao Zonghuai Of the People's Republic of China at the High-Level Plenary Of the International Dialogue on Migration (Geneva, 28 November 2007)

2007-11-29 00:00

Mr. Chairman,

Fellow Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to attend the High-level Plenary of the International Dialogue on Migration. I wish the meeting a complete success.

Mr. Chairman,

The development history of mankind over the past thousands of years is a history of migration. As an old Chinese saying goes, "Why is the water so clear in the dyke, for the fresh water comes from the springhead." Migrants have kept instilling fresh vitality to human civilization, thus making tremendous contributions to the cultural exchanges, economic development and social progress of all countries. As globalization gathers momentum, there are more frequent visits between their peoples and a noticeable increase in the number of migrants worldwide. However, such problems as illegal migration, transnational organized crime, violation of migrants' lawful rights and brain drain of developing countries have added new challenges to the migration issue. We should seek the benefits of migration while mitigating its negative impacts so as to maximize the positive role of migration in promoting development.

Given the rising international attention to environmental issues, we also need to take a closer look at the relationship between migration and the environment. China believes that environmental and migration issues are closely intertwined and interact with each other admist globalization. On the one hand, migration problems are often triggered by the outbreak of natural disasters like flood, earthquake and tsunami as well as environmental changes caused by industrialization such as desertification, greenhouse effect and rising sea level. On the other hand, massive migration activities also have certain environmental impact on the local communities. However, we must recognize that migration is by no means the main cause for environmental degradation. Likewise, the environment is not the fundamental reason behind migration. Migration and the environment are not mutually exclusive. Deeply embedded in China's ancient culture are the reverence for nature and the philosophy and wisdom of seeking harmony and integration between man and nature. We believe in coordinated development of man and the environment. In essence, migration and the environment are both development issues. Only within the framework of sustainable development will we be able to properly handle the relationship between migration and the environment and work together to build a prosperous and harmonious world.

Mr. Chairman,

To manage the interrelationship between migration and the environment in a globalized world requires first and foremost a proper perspective and approach in addressing the global migration issue. On this, the Chinese side holds the following observations:

First, the contribution of migration to development should be recognized. We call upon all governments, their migration agencies in particular, to look on migration with a more open, friendly, fair and positive perspective and not to willfully exaggerate its downsides, still less to treat certain migrant groups with bias.

Second, policies that encourage normal and orderly migration should be adopted. Countries should correctly handle the relationship between a small number of illegal migrants and those legal migrants and improve their migration policies accordingly. Countries should follow the principle of "widening the regular channels and blocking the illegal ones", make efforts to facilitate normal and orderly migration while countering illegal migration to the extent possible, and encourage legal migrants to make contribution to economic development of countries of destination and origin so as to achieve a win-win situation.

Third, the legitimate rights of migrants should be protected. Countries of destination, therefore, should take into account those practical needs and strengthen coordination with countries of origin to adopt effective measures to protect the rights of the migrants. This will not only help them integrate into local community better and faster, but also mobilize the migrants to contribute more to economic development of their host countries.

Fourth, international cooperation and dialogue should be strengthened. Developed countries and related international and regional organizations should, therefore, provide financial and technical assistance necessary to help developing countries with capacity-building. Meanwhile, countries of destination and origin should intensify cooperation to address brain drain, a potential by-product of migration.

Last but not least, as we give full play to the positive role of migration in promoting development, every effort should be made to protect the environment so that sound interactions between migration and the environment result in common and sustained progress in both fields. China believes that the international community should further strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation in environmental protection and coordinate global and regional efforts in environmental management. With regard to environmental issues, countries have "common but differentiated responsibilities" and developed countries should take up their responsibilities more conscientiously by offering greater environmental assistance to developing countries. Efforts should be made to advance economic, technological and management cooperation in all aspects, help developing countries raise development levels and prevent pollution from spreading to developing countries. Countries should engage in concrete cooperation for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and enhance exchanges and cooperation in poverty reduction, education, public health and other areas. In addition, the international community should step up research on relations between the environment and migration and relevant data collection, which could be taken as a priority agenda item for international and regional consultation mechanisms on migration, so as to provide theoretical and factual support to scientific policy making on migration management.

Mr. Chairman,

We are very serious about the migration issue and the opportunities and challenges it brings, and view the relationship between migration and the environment with a scientific and forward-looking perspective. Now, I would like to brief you about the measures the Chinese Government has taken to address challenges in migration and the environment.

On migration, we welcome all foreigners to come to China for legal activities compatible with their identities. In recent years, the Chinese Government has kept pace with new development, worked hard to adjust its border management policies and raised efficiency to facilitate regular population flow. We firmly oppose and resolutely combat illegal migration. We have formulated and improved relevant laws and regulations, improved review, approval and check procedures on travel documents. At the same time, we have promoted public education in places with potential illegal migration problems in order to reduce illegal migrants at source. To address the issue of brain drain, we have, in conjunction with domestic development plans, adopted such measures as setting up award funds, offering tax exemption and reduction, and formulating preferential policies for start-ups in order to encourage Chinese students overseas to come back to work. We highly value and actively participate in international cooperation on migration. We have conducted cooperation with more than 40 countries on combating illegal border entry and exit. We have also taken an active part in such regional consultation mechanisms as the Asia-Pacific International Consultations on Refugees, Displaced Persons and Migrants (APC), Bali Process, Colombo Process, and the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT). It is worth noting that China contributed its share to migration dialogue and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region when it was APC chair and coordinator in both 2005 and 2006.

We are equally serious about environmental protection. The Chinese Government is committed to the basic state policies of resources conservation and environmental protection, which we believe is vital to the survival and development of the Chinese nation. The development of resources-conserving and environment-friendly society figures prominently in our industrialization and modernization strategies. Priority has been given to the prevention and control of water, air and soil pollution in order to improve the environment in both urban and rural areas in a comprehensive way. At the same time, we are working hard to promote the industry of environment conservation, and develop and disseminate economical, alternative and recycling technologies which are advanced and applicable. We spare no effort to develop clean and renewable energy, improve energy mix, and enhance overall energy and resources efficiency. We keep improving our capacity to address climate change. China has signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, set up the National Leading Group to Address Climate Change, and formulated the National Climate Change Program and the Comprehensive Action Plan on Energy Conservation and Emission Reduction. China has made clear in its 11th Five-year Plan for National Economic and Social Development that by 2010, energy intensity should be cut by 20% from the level at the end of 2005, and discharge of major pollutants by 10% while forest cover should be increased to 20% from 18.2%.

Mr. Chairman,

China highly values the active role of IOM in coordinating the efforts of various countries to address migration issues. IOM's liaison office was set up in China last December and Capacity Building for Migration in China, a cooperation project, will be officially launched this year, which will mark the beginning of a new stage of mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that China will continue to strengthen cooperation with other countries, IOM and other relevant international organizations to promote normal migration and make new contribution to prosperity and stability in the world.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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