Displacement and human mobility were in the spotlight this week as the UN gathered for the first ever ‘Summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.’ The signing ceremony on Monday September 19th at the start of the Summit saw IOM Director General William Lacy Swing and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon formalizing IOM’s entry into the UN system. 

This week the International Organization for Migration (IOM) officially became a related organization of the UN, finally giving it for the first time an explicit migration mandate.

Across the world, one person in every 113 is now an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee. If they formed a country, it would be the 21st largest. At the end of 2015 there were 65.3 million forcibly displaced people.

Migration and human mobility are now characteristic of our age, with one in seven people worldwide living or working somewhere other than their place of birth. Astonishing figures like these were the focus of the major UN summit in New York. The aim was to forge a consensus on managing our nomadic world, particularly those driven from their homelands by conflict or natural forces.

Central to the discussion is the IOM which was born in 1951 out of the chaos and displacement of Western Europe following WW2. IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration, and does so by advising governments and providing assistance to migrants all over the world. IOM has frequently partnered disaster relief charity ShelterBox, after the Haiti and Nepal earthquakes, in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, helping Burundian refugees in Tanzania last year, and with partnership working in the Syrian region.

ShelterBox’s Operations Co-ordinator Phil Duloy was among those to congratulate IOM colleagues on their new status in the United Nations.

This is of great credit to IOM, who for over 65 years have cared for those who find themselves fleeing disaster or conflict.

‘This new role at the heart of the UN is absolutely timely, as displacement and migration are the greatest forces currently at work on our planet. We have worked with IOM all over the world in many disaster zones, and they have always brought immense knowledge and experience to those partnerships.’

‘ShelterBox sends it congratulations to IOM on a worthwhile and well-deserved honour.’

Ambassador Swing emphasized that the process reflected a growing recognition of the importance of migration, and the need to better link human mobility with related policy agendas, including humanitarian, development, human rights, climate change, and peace and security.


ShelterBox Response Team member, Martin Strutton, helping families fleeing violence from Burundi to Tanzania – a joint ShelterBox-IOM deployment in 2015