Istanbul, 15th October, 2015 (WAM) – The world’s ability to respond to migration and refugee movement is “being tested as never before,” the United Nations deputy chief today said speaking at the Global Forum on Migration and Development taking place in Istanbul, Turkey, while recalling some key principles underscored by the UN to address this global challenge.

“We are all familiar with the scale of our challenge around 240 million international migrants and more than 60 million refugees and forcibly displaced persons,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told representatives of governments, academia, civil society and other groups attending the three-day Forum.

“This challenge is not only a crisis of numbers. It is a crisis of solidarity. It is a crisis that requires mobilization of political will but also viable and forward-looking solutions,” he continued.

Mr. Eliasson said it is fitting that the annual event be organized in Istanbul this year as Turkey has been at the heart of the refugee crisis in the region, as have Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, “paying a high price for the horrific war in Syria which must come to an end.”

“Tackling the root causes of forced or involuntary migration is a key element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – goal number 10,” the UN deputy chief noted, referring to the new agreement that was adopted in September by all UN Member States to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.

“By improving conditions for a life of dignity, by reducing inequalities, and by promoting peaceful societies, we can make crossing international borders a matter of informed choice, not desperate necessity,” he added.

Mr. Eliasson also recalled that on the margins of the UN General Assembly’s annual debate in New York two weeks ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a high-level meeting on migration and refugee movements.

“Saving lives must be our first priority,” he insisted. “Despite additional search and rescue efforts, we continue to witness people in great numbers dying while seeking to cross borders.”

Seven other key principles he listed included creating a stronger focus on refugee protection, ensuring non-discrimination, increasing preparedness, and sharing responsibilities among nations.

“The Global Forum has successfully built networks and cooperation among the key actors,” he stated. “The Forum and its Member States can now take action to facilitate mobility, reduce migration costs and ensure fair access to benefits.”

He added that the Forum should work closely with the UN System, in particular the Global Migration Group (GMG), which he said can help integrate migration into national development plans and provide technical assistance to develop migration-related indicators.

In closing, the Deputy Secretary-General said that for many years, governments have worked to establish clear rules for cross-border trade, finance and services – yet the cross-border movement of human beings remains insufficiently regulated and managed.

“By working together in a cooperative, innovative and constructive way, we can leave behind us the many tragedies we see unfold around the world,” Mr. Eliasson concluded. “By this we can help build a life of opportunity and dignity for all.”

WAM/tfaham