Countries must find consensus on clear, equitable and streamlined pandemic travel measures, the heads of two organizations working to improve migration said on Friday during on event on the sidelines of the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) at UN Headquarters in New York.

António Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Andrew Selee, President of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), called for charting a course that balances health security with predictable cross-border movement.

Inaction will not only affect future migration but also equitable pandemic recovery, they warned.

Call for harmonization​

Governments and non-governmental partners attended the side event, which was organized by IOM and MPI, together with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Despite dramatically different contexts for migration and mobility, participants agreed that there is a need to harmonize approaches, as well as build out the digital and physical infrastructure of border management and increase public funding for border crossings.

Mr. Vitorino and Mr. Selee were among participants who voiced support for establishing a Member State-led Group of Friends to discuss cross-border mobility and pandemic preparedness.

Implications for the future​

The move would complement and support the ongoing review of the International Health Regulations (IHR), which govern preparedness and response to health emergencies, as well as negotiations towards a new pandemic treaty.

“Without this common endeavour, there is an increasing risk that future migration will become even more fragmented, accentuating the already evident signs of a two-speed recovery from COVID-19 that leaves less developed countries behind,” said Mr. Vitorino. 

“This, in turn, will stall future economic and social development that could otherwise be accelerated through well-managed migration,” he added.

Lack of common standards​

Mr. Selee noted that while there is an overall trend towards re-opening for travel, the process continues to be highly uneven, unequal, and uncoordinated.

“We lack common standards for requirements like testing, common tools to prove vaccination status across borders, and a common understanding of what works to manage public health risks at the border,” he said.

The side event was held as part of the migration review forum, which concludes in the UN General Assembly on Friday afternoon.

Making migration safer​

The four-day meeting was held to take stock of progress towards implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, adopted by governments in December 2018.

IOM promotes humane and orderly migration and works closely with governments and partners on the issue.

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) seeks to improve immigration and integration policies, including through authoritative research and analysis.