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PSI General Secretary’s speech on the eve of the Intergovernmental Conference on the Global Compact for Migration in Marrakesh

11 December 2018

“Building walls, building fences, is not a solution […] the issue is how we can receive these people with fairness, with justice, with equity,” says PSI General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli in her opening speech on the eve of the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakesh.

“Building walls, building fences, is not a solution,” says PSI General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli.

“People have always moved around the world, that they will continue to do. The issue is how we can receive these people with fairness, with justice, with equity and this is why our approach to the Global Skills Partnerships (GSP) is about building bridges and breaking walls,” she added.

This concluded Rosa Pavanelli’s opening speech on 9 December at the side-event in Marrakesh to promote a Stakeholders' Dialogue on Health Worker Migration and the Global Skills Partnerships. The side-event was organised by PSI, with the support of EPSU, WHO, FES and the German Federal Government, on the eve of the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Side event: Health Worker Migration & Global Skills Partnerships: A Stakeholder’s Dialogue

Organisers: Public Services International, European Federation of Public Service Unions, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, German Federal Government, and the World Health Organization

Date & Time: 9th December 2018, 8.00-10.00, Salle Diamant, Palmeraie Golf Palace, Marrakesh


The side event commenced with a Duet from the young violinists of Violonissimo. Followed by a speech given by PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli.

[Rosa Pavanelli comes to the podium, thanks Danielle and Gabrielle Yu from Violonissimo, the school for young violinists based in Geneva. Highlight how music, arts and culture can be a unifying force, brings energy and elevate conversations. Describe how Violonissimo is founded by Ms. Hong-Anh Shapiro, a violinist and known for her unique pedagogy of teaching violin music for children as young as 3 and ½ years old. Hong-Anh is a former refugee, and like many refugees and migrants bring enormous social, economic, cultural contributions to our societies.]

Listen to the full voice recording of Rosa Pavanelli’s opening speech:

Main points from Rosa Pavanelli's opening speech:

  • PSI represents workers involved in the delivery of public services that are vital in fighting inequality, in promoting social justice and in supporting inclusive and resilient communities.

  • By ensuring access to quality public services, we are working to address the drivers and structural factors that force people to migrate, whether economic, social, environmental, climate- or conflict induced migration. 
  • PSI represents 7 million workers in the medical, social and health and services sectors, which is touched by the phenomenon of migration, the topic of our conversation today
  • GSP to be contextualised. A rights-based normative framework, grounded on international human rights norms and labour standards, must take primacy in migration governance. Global health inequity should not be reinforced. Health and social workers retention in the Global South is of utmost essence, even as we stand for fair and ethical recruitment, which GSPs could strengthen;
  • This is because the bulk of an 18 million shortfall of health and social workers by 2030 will be in low- and middle-income countries, many of which suffer from poor health outcomes already (see WHO Global Strategy for HRH);
  • A 2-tiered global health system where the rich countries have adequate health workforce (augmented with migration) whilst the poorer countries training track is second rate would undermine international health security. Experiences from the 2014 Ebola (and Zika) outbreaks which were felt in North America and Europe might be just a tip of the iceberg if this is not duly taken into account;
  • The UN High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth underscored the need for governments to invest in the health workforce. GSPs should not be considered as alternatives to public investments in the health and social workforce, by governments in both the Global North and the Global South.
  • Rosa Pavanelli then introduces Ögmundur Jonasson*
* Ögmundur Jónasson (Biography):  Ögmundur Jónasson, born in Iceland 1948, is a historian from the University of Edinburgh, was editor of foreign news at Icelandic State TV until he became chairman of the Federation of State and Municipal Employees in Iceland 1988 - 2009. In this period, he sat on the Executive board of Nordic, European and international trade union organizations, including PSI. He was a Member of the Icelandic Parliament 1995-2016 and was Minister of Health and Minister of Interior in the Icelandic government in the period 2009-2013. At present he is a member of the European Commission against Race and Intolerance and Honorary Associate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Most of his working life he has been part-time lecturer in history at the University of Iceland and a writer and commentator.       



This discussion paper "Global Skills Partnership & Health workforce mobility: Pursuing a race to the bottom?" was commissioned by PSI for the "Stakeholder's Dialogue on International Health Worker Migration and the Global Skills Partnerships". A side-event of the "Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration". This paper is still in draft format, a final version will be published by PSI in January 2019.

Click here for a .pdf version of the study.




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