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1st Meeting of the Permanent Forum of Arab-African Dialogue on Democracy and Human Rights

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The first meeting of the Permanent Forum of the Arab-African Dialogue on Democracy and Human Rights took place from 7 to 9 December 2009 at the headquarters of the League of Arab States in Cairo (Egypt), with the primary objective of examining the impact of migratory flows in these two regions.

Placed under the high patronage of Suzanne Mubarak, the First Lady of Egypt, the 2009 Permanent Forum of Arab-African Dialogue on Democracy and Human Rights organized by the UNESCO Office in Cairo and the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights focused on migration in the Arab and African regions.

The goal was to provide African and Arab States' governments with information for the formulation of policies more consistent with the reality of migration flows in these two regions. The Honorary President of the Forum is Abdou Diouf, Secretary General of La Francophonie and former President of Senegal. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Chair of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, is the Forum's Vice-President.

On this occasion, African and Arab experts on migration held two workshops: on "national migration policies bringing coherence in immigration and emigration policies while respecting the human rights of migrants", and the other on "inter-regional migration and regional agreements on human movements".

The opening ceremony was attended by the Director-General of UNESCO, the Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences and high-level representatives of international and regional organizations such as the International Organization of La Francophonie, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), the African Union, the African Parliament, the Arab Transitional Parliament, the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, the African Parliamentary Union, the Arab League for Education, Culture and Sciences Organization (ALECSO) and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (ISESCO).

The Forum also gathered representatives of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), Parliaments and NGOs from Africa and the Arab region

Many issues, particularly relevant for African and Arab States, were addressed, such as transit migration, integration and protection of migrants, the international legal and normative framework of the rights of migrants, their political and labour rights, the ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families, permission to reside, to live, to work or to buy property, or the state of regional policies for managing international migration. It also discussed cooperation in the fight against irregular migration, to maximize the opportunities for regular migrants, failed transit migration, return migration, circular migration and remittances.

Other related issues, such as the strategies of implementation of the African Charter Democracy, Elections and Governance, before concluding the first Forum by adopting a declaration and recommendations, were also discussed.

While responding to questions last September from SHSviews, Boutros Boutros-Ghali stressed "the importance of democratizing globalization" and strengthening "South-South solidarity".

So, as all available data point to the fact that migration is not a burden but a benefit: can we build on this benefit and draft better policies? What is the role of non-State actors in the migration process? To what extent should States cooperate in managing migration flows? Should there be an ad hoc institution such as a World Forum to coordinate the efforts of all actors involved?