International Day of Family Remittances: The global pandemic highlights the crucial role of remittances for migrant families
COVID-19 and its impacts have had far-reaching consequences and exacerbated inequalities. For the 800 million people reliant on migrant family members sending money home – money that many can no longer receive – COVID-19 is more than a deadly virus; it constitutes a devastating and immediate blow to their development, imperiling their access to health, education, housing and nutrition.
As we mark the International Day of Family Remittances, the UN Network on Migration calls on public authorities, service providers, the international community and stakeholders to together address the damaging impacts wrought by COVID-19 on remittances. In the policy guidance on the Impact of COVID-19 on Family Remittances, the Network urges States to intensify efforts to implement their commitments to promote a faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and foster the financial inclusion of migrants made in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). It reiterates the need to work across sectors, bringing together actors ranging from government ministries to financial regulators, postal services, remittance service providers, migrant communities, diaspora organizations and local authorities.
In 2019, remittances were valued at an estimated US$554 billion. They are vital to the support of 800 million relatives living in more than 125 countries. With mobility and employment restrictions resulting in a projected 20 percent decline in remittances, many children and families stand to lose a lifeline as a result of COVID-19 and measures put in place to reduce its spread.
The Network’s policy guidance, developed under the leadership of IFAD with support from IOM, OHCHR, UNICEF and UN Women, and the World Bank highlights measures needed for an effective response to reduced remittances flows. It recommends that the provision of remittances is declared an essential service; taxes for remittance senders and recipients are waived; collaboration is promoted between public authorities and diaspora groups; the use of digital channels for sending and receiving remittances is encouraged and capacity for this built; and that migrants and remittance families are included in economic stimulus packages, cash assistance and social protection responses to COVID-19, independent of migration status.
Responding to the call by the UN Secretary-General for global solidarity, on 24 March 2020, a Remittance Community Task Force has been formed with over 35 organizations representing international agencies, inter-governmental bodies, industry and private sector groups, diaspora networks and international experts. Recommendations by the Task Force will provide an annex to the policy brief launched today by the Network. The brief complements the Secretary-General’s recent guidance on COVID-19 and People on the Move, which recognises the heightened vulnerabilities of migrant workers and their families to the immediate and long-term socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis; and urges that their inclusion in COVID-19 responses will be critical to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.
In addition, its recommendations align with the UN Framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19 and the Financing for Development strategy set out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda together with other initiatives such as the call to action Remittances in Crisis: How to Keep them Flowing.
The United Nations Network on Migration was established to ensure effective, timely and coordinated system-wide support to Member States in their implementation, follow up and review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. While the Network’s mandate is limited to migration and provides the context in which this policy brief has been written, the Network calls on States to also implement these recommendations where they apply to refugees and asylum-seekers and to protect the human rights and health of everyone equally, regardless of migration status.