Education International
Education International

UN: Need for shared responsibility and policies to address migration issues

published 9 March 2016 updated 10 March 2016

Migration policies, growing xenophobia internationally, indicators on migrants and migration in sustainable development goals’ targets, and a world migration summit were key issues discussed at the United Nations Coordination Meeting on International Migration.

Education International (EI) actively participated in the meeting in New York, USA, at end-February, which focused on migration policies. Concerns were raised that a few countries are taking large numbers of refugees and migrants, whilst many others are introducing tighter border controls. There was broad agreement that countries need to share responsibility.

Geneva Conventions

The United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, stressed the need to raise awareness of the Geneva Convention and respect for humanitarian law. He also highlighted the need for work on the “dynamic nexus” between development and migration. Member states need to embrace existing conventions and treaties as well as the UN Charter, he said.

Role of education in challenging prejudice

There was discussion about the increase in xenophobia, including the role of the media in spreading xenophobic views. Evidence was presented of heightened intolerance of, and growing violence towards, migrants and refugees, particularly in Europe, the United States and the Middle East. Discussions covered the steps that should be taken to challenge xenophobia and racism towards migrants and refugees. There was general recognition of the pivotal role that education can play in challenging prejudice and discrimination, promoting equality, and shaping a positive climate for inclusion.


In terms of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and migration, agreement has not yet been reached as to which indicators impact migrants and refugees. UN Women has identified 22 relevant indicators, while the Global Indicator Framework has identified just six indicators. In contrast, the Global Migration Policy Associates has led an analysis which identifies 47 indicators related to migrants and refugees.

The UN Statistical Commission will finalise the indicators in March. These will then be submitted for approval by the Economic and Social Council and, finally, by the General Assembly in September, 2016. The debate about which SDG indicators will address the situation of migrants and refugees is an ongoing one; time, however, is short. EI will continue to contribute to the debate and encourages member unions to do the same.


The UN is also planning a special World Migration Summit. This will take place on 19 September, 2016, just prior to the UN General Assembly, in New York, USA. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, François Crépeau, urged that the summit not just include diplomats but also people who are migrants and refugees, therefore ensuring that their voices will be heard by global leaders and UN agency officials.

EI: Congress resolutions

In a side meeting with EI and Public Services International’s representatives, Crépeau spoke about the relevance of SDG8 (sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all). He stressed that decent work issues and labour agreements are central to ensuring that migrants and refugees can resettle successfully.

During the roundtable session, Jill Christianson from the National Education Association (USA) highlighted the EI Teacher Migration Portal and the EI World Congress Resolutions addressing migration, refugees and stateless people. She also stressed the role of educators’ in leading efforts to combat xenophobia and racism.

Sonja Hall from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT/UK) also outlined some of the work that the union was undertaking to support refugees and migrants. She  outlined a number of actions that EI and NASUWT would want the UN to take, including engaging unions in strategic decision-making about the implementation of the SDGs, acknowledging the particular contribution that education unions can make, and ensuring that the indicators assessing SDG4, the standalone goal on teachers, are broadened.