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Vienna Migration Conference 2017: 300 high-level participants discuss new approach to partnerships

25 October 2017

ICMPD's Director General Spindelegger speaking at the Vienna Migration Conference 2017.

From 23–24 October, the Vienna Migration Conference took place for the second time. Based on the outcomes of last year’s Vienna Migration Conference, this year the main focus was “partnership” – one of the “three Ps”, partnerships, protection and prosperity, identified last year. The Director General introduced five partnership priorities, which were discussed by three panels.

More than 300 participants joined this year’s Vienna Migration Conference at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, an institution with a long-standing tradition of excellence in education and research. While the main conference took place in a panel format, a number of side meetings and a roundtable for ICMPD’s new Member States Programme, which examined the topic “Complementary Pathways to Protection – An Inventory”, added a complementary dimension.

Opening and Keynote

In his opening remarks, the Director General explained why this year’s conference focused on partnerships and where ICMPD sees new potential for partnerships: “We believe that migration partnerships have to go beyond the margins set by migration policy. Private sector investment and know-how will be crucial factors for making a real difference. They will bring new opportunities for economic cooperation and development.” His opening was followed by a keynote speech delivered by Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank. Hoyer described how the public – together with the private sector and with the support of development banks – can shift current development policy away from grants and subsidies given out in a donor spirit towards guarantees and loans that can be agreed on in a partnership spirit. “Challenges of integration in the labour market in host countries are very real and pressing, as are the personal and societal costs of irregular migration and people smuggling… Through the right kind of support for the regions most affected by forced displacement, we can invest in local communities and people and help create opportunities close to home for those fleeing violence and persecution.”

ICMPD presented a background note that identified five partnership priorities. These partnership priorities were: crisis responsiveness; refugee autonomy, responsibility sharing and pathways to protection; the regional dimensions of migration and displacement; pathways for legal migration; perspectives for the young and educated in countries of origin and more intelligent policies on return. They were thoroughly discussed during all three panels. The high-level opening panel was moderated by the Director General and consisted of the following participants: Minister Sayed Balkhi from the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations (Afghanistan), Minister Abdulrahman Dambazau from the Ministry of Interior (Nigeria), Deputy Minister Milko Berner from the Ministry of Interior (Bulgaria), Torkil Åmland from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security (Norway), Ambassador Cihad Erginay from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Turkey), and Christian Leffler from the European External Action Service.



Intensive Discussions and Exchange of Ideas

On 24 October, Minister Wolfgang Sobotka, the Austrian Minister for the Interior, opened the conference, calling for “…a global system of shared responsibilities”. Following this, the first thematic panel, “Migration Partnerships and Operational Cooperation”, moderated by
Mr Martijn Pluim, ICMPD Director of Migration Dialogues and Cooperation, considered the question of how we can respond better and faster to immediate challenges and crises. The panellists included: Gabriele De Giorgi from the Office of the Prime Minister (Italy), Alas Jama from the Office of the Prime Minister (Somalia), Simon Mordue from the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, European Commission, Magdalena Nestorovska from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (FYROM), Julie Okah-Donli from the  National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), and Raja Kayani from the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development (Pakistan).


Mr Genetzke, ICMPD’s Head of the Brussels Mission, moderated the second thematic panel, entitled “Sustainable Partnerships – Towards Long-Term Cooperation”. The panel elaborated on the question of how long-term partnerships on migration could be improved. Panellists who discussed this topic were Ambassador Teshome Chanaka (Ethiopia), Deputy Director-General Maciej Popowski from European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission, Günter Nooke from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Germany), Abdunnaser Segayer from the National Team for Security and Border Management (Libya), Ambassador Hans Lundborg from the Ministry of Justice (Sweden), and Karl Lorenz from the State Secretariat for Migration (Switzerland).


The master of ceremonies, Lukas Gehrke, Director for Policy, Research and Strategy at ICMPD, acknowledged the political side’s great readiness to discuss with and take advice from experts from international organisations. The conference has, however, confirmed that none of the traditional instruments of migration policy are sufficient to really address and tackle current and emerging migration needs. A common agreement was that drivers needed to be addressed better, if migration is supposed to become a matter of choice and not a necessity.


A Conference that Enabled Multidimensional Perspectives


All in All, many thoughts and ideas were shared in the course of the 1.5 days of intense debate. First conclusions have been made by the Director General, who has summarised some of the findings: “To create perspectives for the young, we need to find ways to multiply limited public resources and to shift away from a donor to a partner perspective…We need tailor-made approaches to achieve specific rather than general solutions. Solutions should not be based on migration matters alone, but include a whole range of other policy areas and economic cooperation. We hope that the Vienna Migration Conference will contribute to this important goal.”


Read the opening speech by Director General Michael Spindelegger on 23 October here.

Read the closing speech by Director General Michael Spindelegger on 24 October here

Download press release here.

Download background paper here

See photos from 23 October here.

See photos from 24 October here