migration development

By: Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for Central America, North America, and the Caribbean


Migration is one of the most important political, economic, and social issues on today´s global agenda. Although it tends to be seen as a problem, the historical truth (and here I recommend reading the World Bank's Moving for Prosperity report) is that migration has been a powerful driver of development.


In 2015, migrants made up 3.4 percent of the global population but contributed $6.7 trillion or 9.4 percent to global GDP - some $3 trillion more than they would have produced in their origin countries. North America captured up to $2.5 trillion of this output, while up to $2.3 trillion went to Western Europe. In 2017, migrants sent over USD 450 billion to developing countries - significantly more than official development aid.


In 2015, United Nations Member States approved the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 associated targets. They present milestone objectives to take our planet towards a more ecologically and socially sustainable future, ensuring that no one is left behind.


The SDGs include targets specifically related to human mobility, such as facilitating an orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration of people through the application of planned and well-managed migration policies, among other actions. In this way, for the first-time countries around the world recognize human mobility as an issue they must act on, but also as a critical factor for sustainable development.


Within the framework of the Agenda 2030, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, works to ensure that all objectives related migration are part of governments’ agendas for the implementation of the SDGs.


Many, if not most, of the 17 objectives of the 2030 Agenda can only be fully achieved if migration is considered. Leaving migrants out of government efforts would jeopardize the progress made in meeting other vital goals. For instance, goal 4 calls to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”  With many migrants being children, their access to schools is critical.


It is encouraging to see how many governments are incorporating migration into local and national development planning. In Central America, countries are now considering specific actions to mainstream migration in the implementation of the SDGs.  IOM´s Migration Governance Index, which measures how well countries´migration policies facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, has been rolled out in over 25 countries worldwide and is now also being implemented in several cities.


The connection between migration and the SDGs goes far beyond the implementation of isolated migration policies and involves the integration of migration into different sectors of governance. Strengthening the coherence between migration and development policies will allow the creation of a virtuous circle that will benefit countries of origin and destination as well as migrants and their families.


By signing of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration on 11 December in Marrakech, the vast majority of the member countries of the United Nations will take a great step forward in making migration work for both countries and migrants alike. However, significant work lies ahead to ensure that migration fully becomes an engine of sustainable development.  The time to begin work is now.