"At the forefront of the global migration dialogue thanks to our experience and strong partners"

Migration is explicitly recognised in the 2030 Agenda as a transformational force for attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. However, this is only possible with safe and regular pathways for migration. Switzerland is therefore strongly committed to the formulation of international guidelines in multilateral dialogue. What has Switzerland achieved to date, and what added value does it bring to the international process? Interview with Pietro Mona, Swiss Ambassador for Development, Forced Displacement and Migration.

The picture shows Pietro Mona holding a microphone. As Ambassador for Development, Forced Displacement and Migration, he represents Switzerland's interests in negotiations on the Global Compact for Migration.
Pietro Mona © SDC

What is global migration governance, and how has Switzerland contributed to it? 

Global migration governance seeks to give all states a common framework for closer international cooperation based on shared principles and goals. This is necessary if we are to address the challenge but also better harness the potential of migration for the economic, social and cultural development of both countries of origin and destination. Switzerland has called for such a framework for years and has often taken a leading role. In 2001, for example, Switzerland launched the first multilateral migration process, the Berne Initiative. Subsequently, we were heavily involved in shaping the Global Forum on Migration and Development, until now the only global platform for dialogue and cooperation in migration, and took the chair in 2011. One of the highlights and greatest successes of our multilateral diplomacy was the incorporation of migration as a key topic in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These developments brought about a twofold shift in global thinking: migration was increasingly being discussed in a more positive light, and states began to recognise the benefit of international cooperation. This new approach led to initiatives such as the UN Global Compact for Migration (GCM). Set to be formally adopted in December 2018, the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) will be the first global cooperation framework on migration. Switzerland was also instrumental in this process, not least through its UN ambassador in New York co-facilitating the negotiations.

What are Switzerland's strengths when engaging in the international dialogue?

A number of factors contribute to Switzerland's added value and often prominent role in the international dialogue on migration. 

  • First, there's our continuity: for years Switzerland has advocated stronger global migration governance as a clear and transparent objective. Such continuity makes us a very reliable partner.

  • Second, our experience: our leading role in the international dialogue on migration is founded on Switzerland's tangible experience as well as our partnerships and programmes abroad. Our opinion holds more weight when we can refer to specific cases, such as our experience with an NGO in Sri Lanka, for example.

  • Third, our coordination: our multilateral engagement is always coordinated among the different federal government departments. As the head of delegation in the negotiations on the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), I received input from multiple sources, such as the FDFA's Directorate of International Law, the Border Guard and the Federal Office of Public Health. This strengthened my negotiating position and the force of my arguments.

  • And fourth, another important factor is our partnerships: we constantly seek to secure partnerships with other states but also with non-state actors such as civil society or the private sector. Switzerland also intends to cooperate more with cities of migration, as most migration is towards urban centres. We are thus expanding our network so as to exchange information, coordinate our efforts and reach common goals.

Parliament has decided that Switzerland's engagement in international cooperation should be more closely aligned with the country's migration interests. Is this approach also taken in the international dialogue on migration? 

Absolutely. One of the 23 objectives set out in the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) is devoted to this approach focusing on the impact of international cooperation on irregular and forced migration. The Global Compact for Migration (GCM) proposes a range of measures in relation to sustainable development, the intersection between humanitarian aid and development cooperation, human rights and peace support, as well as in relation to climate change and natural disasters. It therefore concurs with the broader Swiss approach, which we adhere to in response to Parliament's call for closer linkage. 

Still, we have to be realistic. We cannot – from one day to the next – change the structural circumstances and reasons causing people to move away from their homelands. There are other factors at play apart from international cooperation: the responsibility of the countries of origin, the role of the private sector and – especially in conflict situations – the willingness to find political solutions. If all of these factors can be brought together, leading to safer and more orderly migration, the vast potential that migration holds for sustainable development can be harnessed for the benefit of both countries of origin and destination.