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New international day celebrates migrants’ contributions to sustainable development

The UN General Assembly on Tuesday unanimously proclaimed 16 June as the International Day of Family Remittances. The new observance will celebrate the vital contributions of migrants and their families to sustainable development.

In 2017, migrant workers sent an estimated $613 billion to their families back home of which $466 billion went to developing countries. Family remittances are a vital source of income for millions of migrant families across the world. Remittance flows, a source of private capital, are three times greater than official development assistance (ODA).

“The International Day of Family Remittances celebrates the positive contributions of international migrants to sustainable development,” said Bela Hovy, Chief of the Migration Section at UN DESA’s Population Division. “Migration drives economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects cultures. It is time we celebrate its benefits.”

Remittances contribute significantly to reducing poverty, promoting food security and facilitating access to education, health and adequate housing. Often a first step towards financial inclusion, these money transfers allow families to save and invest, boosting income and creating jobs.

“In short, remittances allow families to reach their ‘own’ sustainable development goals,” summed up Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration.

Ms. Arbour oversees the UN support for the negotiations of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which is expected to be adopted by the General Assembly in December 2018. The proposed agreement recognizes the importance of migrants’ contributions to sustainable development and aims to make it faster, cheaper and safer for them to send money back home.

Today, migrants continue to face challenges when transferring money to their families. During the first quarter of 2018, the average global cost of transferring remittances was 7.1 per cent, more than twice the SDG target of 3 per cent.

Lack of access to information about the costs of sending remittances, challenges in accessing formal remittance services, especially in rural areas, and limited competition are some of the  major barriers to reducing the costs of transferring remittances.

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