New York, UNGA, 19 settembre 2017
(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)
Mr. Giampaolo Silvestri, Mr. Giampaolo Pioli,
Mr. Lorenzo Vidino,
Ms. Elena Riva,
Ladies and gentlemen,
thank you all for joining us today!
I was born and raised in Sicily by the Mediterranean Sea, facing the coast of Africa. The Island of Lampedusa – one of the symbols of the refugee and migration crisis – is located in my electoral district.
Over the past three years, six hundred thousand (600,000) people have reached the Italian coast from North Africa. That’s about the population of Washington D.C. And Italy has been bearing the brunt of this huge political, humanitarian, and social tragedy.
In a world where there is no “zero risk”, we have combined security and solidarity. We have shown that it’s possible to save lives; welcome desperate people escaping persecution and wars; while also being rigorous against those who despise our values and our freedoms.
We have saved the honor of Europe and put our country on the right side of history, but we do not want applause. Instead, we ask for more cooperation, more solidarity and more shared responsibility.
Italy’s approach can be summed-up with “three Ps”:
-Partnerships: among countries of origin, transit and destination, to ensure a safe, orderly and legal migration. This is primarily the job of Governments.
-Protection: of the most vulnerable refugees and migrants. A task we must accomplish with the help of the UN and NGOs.
-Prosperity: by recognizing that Europe and Africa are on a common path to growth and development. By investing without fear in Africa, because there are great returns for both continents. Smart businesses already know this.
Next year, the UN will finalize its work on the Global Compacts for Refugees and Migrants. Everyone must play their part to make the Compacts a success: governments, civil society, and the private sector as well. All the organizations represented here today.
The challenge is huge: some have estimated that by 2020 there could be a migration wave to Europe as high as 60 million people, which is the entire population of Italy. Africa’s massive demographic growth will account for half of the world’s total growth by 2050.
Italy has seen both sides of this story. In the present, as a country of immigration. In the past, as a country of migration. After the war, in times of despair, Prime Minister De Gasperi told Italians to “take to the streets of the world”. Many Italians took part in assisted migration programs, on the basis of international agreements.
Back then, our leaders built a legal framework for migration with countries in Europe, the US, Australia, and Canada. There was a feeling of “solidarity”. There was an emphasis on “security”. But it was also a question of “legality”. These issues are still relevant today.
First of all, in Europe, we must seriously re-examine our asylum and immigration policies. In particular, we have to face the fact that the Dublin Regulation does not reflect the world we live in. And following the latest decisions of the EU Court of Justice on “relocations” – from Italy to other EU countries – everyone must fulfill their obligations.
Since the problem is structural, there is no “magic wand”, but a Strategy that combines many actions, from solidarity to security. And it all begins with a stronger political dialogue between Europe and Africa.
In the short and medium term, our work must be directed towards Countries of Transit. It’s vital to disrupt the “business model” of human traffickers, the most reckless “travel agents of death”: helping Transit Countries control their borders; ensure basic humanitarian protection of refugees and migrants; and increase investments in their economies.
After the First Rome Conference on Transit Countries, in July, the Paris Summit, in August, confirmed the validity of this approach. Italy’s migration agreements and increased cooperation with Libya, Niger, Tunisia, Chad, and Sudan – backed by our Africa Fund of 200 million euros – have already had tangible effects. It’s now time to mainstream this model.
I’m really grateful for the level of cooperation achieved with all the Countries present here today. And we can continue to do more together!
In May of 2016, there were seventy thousand (70,000) migrants from Niger to Libya. In July of 2017, that number dropped to four thousand. That same month, flows from Libya fell over fifty percent. Overall, in the period January-August, there has been more than a thirteen percent decline in arrivals relative to last year.
I also want to stress our utmost attention to the protection and assistance of refugees and migrants. Organizations like the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are helping us immensely. Today, thanks to the cooperation in place, there’s more space for them to work on the ground, also in Libya, to alleviate the suffering of innocent people. Because there cannot be any compromise on human rights.
In Libya alone, we have already allocated around 30 million euros to UNHCR and IOM. And for the most vulnerable groups, we have committed another 9 million euros in our humanitarian budget. And in Niger, on top of 50 million euros of budget support, we have contributed another 15 million euros for IOM activities.
But with every step we take in partnership with Transit Countries, we must take at least two steps with Countries of Origin. This means tackling – in the long-term – the “root causes” of large movements of people. And that’s why Italy was among the founders of the EU Trust Fund for Africa. Today, we are also its first donor with a contribution topping 90 million euros.
Many politicians do not see the benefits of this effort, because it goes beyond their short electoral cycle. But I’m proud that my Government believes in human rights and long-term development. It’s in this spirit that we doubled Italy’s share of Official Development Assistance: from 0.14% of Gross National Product in 2012 (2.1 billion euros) to 0.27% in 2016 (4.5 billion euros). We realize that the road to 0.7% is still long, but we are determined to stay firmly on this course.
I don’t see this as charity, but as a strategic investment. A kind of “vertical investment”:
…just as the US and Canadian economies have spurred the growth and development of Central and South America…
…just as China and Japan have spurred the growth and development of South East Asia
…it’s Europe’s opportunity to help spur the growth and development of Africa.
For this reason, Italy has backed such initiatives as the EU External Investment Plan, aimed at supporting public and private investment in Africa, which should make it possible to mobilize up to forty four billion euros in new projects. We expect its swift implementation at the EU-Africa Summit at the end of November.
A closer cooperation between Europe and Africa must produce: more partnerships to legally manage migration; more protection to defend the rights of the most vulnerable people; and more prosperity, because an investment in Africa funds prosperity for all of us.