Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of the International Migrants Day
18 December 2019
In 2019, the number of migrants worldwide continued to increase. Over the past 12 months, 272 million people, representing 3.5% of the world's population, have been driven to seek a better future elsewhere. Some are seeking new economic and employment opportunities, while others, such as refugees and asylum seekers, have been overwhelmed by their situation, and are fleeing war, persecution, hunger or disease.
Migration could increase further in the years to come, particularly as a result of climate change, which is expected to cause a rise in the number of natural disasters and make some parts of the world uninhabitable.
It is therefore the responsibility of the international community to take action. The adoption last year of the global compact on refugees and the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was a powerful signal in this regard. Through their determination to tackle migration in a coordinated manner, placing human rights at the heart of their approach, Member States of the United Nations have demonstrated humanism and responsibility, and have sent a message of hope to current and future migrants.
However, much more remains to be done. As in too many parts of the world, migrants and refugees are still victims of prejudice, discrimination and violence, even though they are very often a source of economic strength and innovation.
It is within this context that UNESCO is acting in all areas of its mandate, in particular through education at all levels.
The UNESCO Qualifications Passport for Refugees and Vulnerable Migrants will be a major step forward in this regard, enabling migrants and refugees to have studies that were validated in their country of origin recognized elsewhere. UNESCO is proud to announce that the first 15 UNESCO Passports were issued this month in Zambia, following fruitful collaboration with the Zambia Qualifications Authority. This initiative is now set to be introduced in other countries, particularly in Latin America and the Middle East. For the recipients, these UNESCO Passports are passports to a better life.
In order to promote the inclusion of migrants in societies, UNESCO is also acting through its global citizenship education programme to overcome the racist discourse and hate speech that too often make scapegoats of migrants and refugees. We are also working with media professionals to promote a more positive image of migration.
Community, solidarity, dignity and humanity are, for migrants and refugees, more than abstract notions; they are values that represent the promise of a more desirable future – a future that we have a duty to offer them.