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Mary Robinson

Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences 2006

Majestad, Altezas, Excelentísimos Señoras y Señores.

Thank you for these very warm words of welcome. It is profoundly gratifying for me to travel to Asturias, this green land by the sea that reminds me of my own, to be honoured as the first woman recipient of the Premio Principe de Asturias de Ciencias Sociales. I would like to express my deep felt appreciation to the Members of the Jurado for this recognition and affirm my sincere commitment to the values that this award represents.

My own country, Ireland, and Spain have woven together many common links over the years. In my lifetime I have witnessed remarkable changes in both countries. I believe that the prosperity that Ireland and Spain enjoy is directly attributable to our vibrant democracies, our mutual journeys in recent decades in building societies grounded in principles of liberty and tolerance. This is the result of specific struggles that have included finally ensuring the rights of women in my own long-standing Republic. Spain has conducted a remarkable transition to the mature democracy it is today, due in no small part to the wisdom and counsel of the Royal House. We both have and continue to address the on-going challenges of historic conflicts through negotiated peace processes.

These hard-won liberties must be guarded in the face of threats and international uncertainty, not coming to regard the laws that protect them as inconveniences, but as achievements that create a framework to enjoy our common values.

I am also pleased to serve as Vice-President of the Club of Madrid, an organisation of 67 former heads of State and Government dedicated to sharing the experience of democratic leadership that has produced such achievements in our countries. These democratic gains have transformed us from places that send migrants from our shores to ones that attract them and receive them.

This award encourages our work at Realizing Rights towards a more humane globalisation. Nowhere is this more needed than in relation to migration. Migration, after all, is the human face of globalisation.

In Spain you have been confronted with the painful reality of people risking their lives on the open seas to arrive at your shores. This is part of a global phenomenon in which economic forces produce global flows of people in search of improved livelihoods. Economic globalisation moves goods, services and information. It also means that people move, or are moved. The most alarming of these movements is a 21st century version of slavery through human trafficking networks that disproportionately affect women and children.

Despite evidence that migrants contribute positively to our economies and societies, we are often distracted by fears of migrants from diverse cultures.
In fact, migration movements have reached epic proportions:

- There are an estimated 200 million immigrants worldwide which in total would constitute the fifth most populous country in the world;
- Remittance flows in 2005 exceeded US $ 233 billion worldwide, more than the GDP of Ireland;
- Roughly 30 to 40 million unauthorised migrants worldwide,
- There are 7-8 million undocumented migrants here in Europe. often left without legal guarantees and protections that we deem to be fundamental human rights;

The international community has begun to mobilise to respond to these challenges, including a Global Commission on International Migration on which I was proud to serve, and last month's High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development at the United Nations. Spain and Morocco's leadership at the Euro-African Conference on Migration and Development in Rabat in July of this year should lead to more effective cooperation along migratory routes.

But the findings and recommendations - the Action Plans created by these efforts - will require significant resources and commitment by our governments to produce results for the world's migrants.

We cannot fail these people. We encounter the human faces of globalisation in daily contact in our communities and among those who risk their lives to leave their homes in search of greater opportunity. Recognising our common humanity in the faces of migrants can inspire us to reaffirm our common dignity and build diverse, pluralistic and democratic societies at home and ensure equitable development beyond our shores.

In his latest book, my friend Ian Gibson celebrates the life and work of one of Spain's great poets, Antonio Machado, a life that ended shortly after he left his home and traversed the Pyrenees into exile. As we face the challenges of migration, we should remember that we, like those arriving at our shores "ligero de equipaje", are all "children of the sea."

Muchas gracias.

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