Managing migration: the Swiss government is striving to prompt the international community to join hands with respect to a pact on migration, sponsoring the so-called Bern Initiative. Swiss News takes a closer look.(Politics)
Since 1975, nearly 200 million people have set sail for foreign shores, choosing to reside in a different country from the one of their birth. But not all those global wanderers chose their own path: roughly a third have been refugees. And in a country where foreigners represent 20 per cent of the population, Switzerland has seen asylum applications jump by around 27 per cent last year.
The Bern Initiative
With these statistics in mind, the Swiss Federal Office lot Refugees launched the Berne Initiative–a broad-based consultative process–in 2001.
The aim was to enable governments to manage international migration more effectively. According to Kerstin Bartsch of the International Organization for Migration in the Migration Policy and Research Program (MPRP), the initiative is geared toward all countries of destination, origin and transit that are dealing with the worldwide migration issue. It is also an evolving process, with the goal of obtaining better management of migration at the regional and global level through cooperation among participating states.
Under the auspices of the Swiss government, the budding initiative will allow governments from all world regions to share their different policy priorities and identify their longer-term interests in migration, while providing the opportunity of developing a common orientation to migration management. This will be based on the spirit of cooperation, as well as on the need for security and a comprehensive, balanced solution.
The most significant outcome of the Bern Initiative process would be a far-reaching policy framework aimed at facilitating coordination among nations in planning and managing the movement of people in a humane and orderly way. This inter-governmental framework will initially map out a set of uniform understandings based on interests and concerns common to governments facing all migratory circumstances. In addition, it will also take into account existing elements of international law. Moreover, it will offer a set of effective policies and practices for a planned and coherent approach to migration management.
The starting point for the Bern Initiative is the prevailing recognition that international migration is an established feature of contemporary social, political and economic life. It is, by definition, a transnational phenomenon that today presents major policy and management challenges for governments, international organizations and other concerned players.
No Harmonised Management
While there are numerous bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements dealing with migration-related issues–particularly in the realm of human rights and, most recently, in the protocols to the 2000 UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, regarding smuggling and trafficking of people–the only global treaty actually dealing with the migration of people is the 1951 US Convention on the status of refugees. No comprehensive, harmonised system exists for states to manage migration through enhanced international cooperation. The general tendency among governments has been to develop ad-hoc strategies to suit their particular needs and to protect their own interests. Consequently, they often work at cross purposes.
The authority, to determine who may enter and remain in its territory is an important aspect of a state’s responsibility to protect its own population. In exercising this sovereign responsibility, most states have pursued a unilateral approach to migration, seeking to manage it in the interest of their population, while striving to maintain friendly relations with other states As a result, varying, or even contradictory, national migration policies and practices have been developed and implemented.
The Berne Initiative offers an alternative by identifying effective cooperative modes of action leading to the development of a comprehensive framework on international migration management. Such a framework will reaffirm the positive contributions that migrants can make to societies.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Swiss News
For full article, click here