Examining role of labour migration for sustainable development

Migration has the potential to lift millions out of poverty, provide access to decent work and foster sustainable development. However, migration is not in-itself a solution. It can also have negative impacts ranging from human trafficking and migrant exploitation, to dependence on remittances and brain drain.

The issue of international migration is particularly important for Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs). In 2013, migrants from the LLDCs remitted US$ 30.9 billion to their families and communities of origin. Yet the development benefits of migration do not always reach all members of society. Further, the remittance transaction costs remain high in many LLDCs, particularly in Africa, hindering their potential development impact.

Acknowledging the importance of migration for the LLDCs, UN DESA convened a side event entitled “Achieving the future sustainable development goals: the role of labour migration” on 4 November on the margins of the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) which took place in Vienna on 3-5 November.

Moderated by Thomas Gass, UN DESA’s Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, the event featured presentations by Ambassador Shameem Ahsan, the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, Michelle Leighton, Chief of the Labour Migration Branch of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Clare Menozzi from UN DESA’s Population Division.

The meeting recognized the increasing importance of including migrants, migration and mobility in the post-2015 development agenda. Governments and other stakeholders had identified this as a priority at the 2013 High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development as well as at the seventh meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development held in 2014.

However, while the inclusion of migration in the outcome document of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals was an important signal, greater efforts are required to strengthen the evidence-base on migration and development so that policies can be made in a more informed manner, noted Thomas Gass.

Ambassador Ahsan also observed that reducing the costs of migration, including recruitment fees for migrant workers and the costs of transmitting remittances, as well as integrating migration into national development programmes would contribute to maximizing the positive development impacts of migration.

This would also require moving towards a more holistic approach: one based on fair and effective labour migration policies that protected the rights of migrant workers and their families, and promoted inclusive development. ILO’s fair migration agenda, remarked Michelle Leighton of the ILO, also calls for the creation of decent work opportunities at home so that migration occurred as a choice rather than a necessity.

Photo credit: PowerPoint presentation of Michelle Leighton, ILO/ © AFP/OREN ZIV 2014

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