Unprecedented numbers of migrants and refugees are moving across international borders, fleeing conflict, persecution, poverty and other life-threatening situations, or responding to labour and skill shortages to seek better opportunities elsewhere. In 2017, the number of international migrants worldwide – people residing in a country other than their country of birth – was the highest ever recorded, having reached 258 million (up from 232 million in 2013). New studies indicate that the large majority of international migrants – approximately 200 million – are economic migrants. As such, migration is a key contributor to – and consequence of – rural and structural transformation and must be incorporated into the development agendas of developed and developing countries. The current scale of displaced populations has broader implications for the social, economic, and political landscape, requiring a more robust and wide-ranging international response. The 2030 Agenda provides a universal development framework that can help place countries on a development pathway that ensures that migration is a choice and not a necessity.

Global developments and relevance to the IDFR

Since 2015, the international community and the United Nations system have dramatically sharpened their focus on every aspect of the migration phenomenon. This holistic approach – ranging from human rights to security to labour mobility – reflects the United Nations’ recognition of migrants as active agents of change for development and has placed their crucial contribution at the centre of global discussions and processes.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) was adopted at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 13-16 July 2015) and subsequently endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in its Resolution 69/313 of 27 July 2015, providing a foundation for implementing the 2030 Agenda.
The AAAA recognizes the positive contribution of migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development in countries of origin, and transit and destination countries and makes a strong commitment to a series of actions to ensure that adequate and affordable financial services are available to migrants and their families in both home and host countries.

Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

On 25 September 2015, United Nations General Assembly resolution 70/1, containing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity for the next 15 years, entered into effect. The 2030 Agenda includes the 17 SDGs and 169 supporting targets.

SDG 10.c commits, by 2030, to reduce to less than 3 per cent the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5 per cent. Migrant remittances, however, contribute directly and indirectly to several SDGs in addition to 10.c, as outlined in IFAD’s Remittances, investments and the Sustainable Development Goals report.

New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants

On 19 September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 71/1 containing the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and launched a process of intergovernmental negotiations towards the adoption of two Global Compacts in 2018: (i) the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration; and (ii) the Global Compact on Refugees.

The statement of Ms Louise Arbour, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for International Migration at IFAD's Global Forum on Remittances, Investment and Development (GFRID), held at the United Nations headquarters in 2017, highlighted the importance of remittances for the SDGs: “according to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migration, the Global Migration Compact should be guided by the 2030 Agenda. By facilitating financial inclusion, remittances expand opportunities for recipients. In short, I think it’s fair to say that remittances allow families to reach their own SDGs”.

The international community acknowledges the positive contribution of migrants to sustainable and inclusive development, including the remittances they send to their families back home. Through its work on migration, remittances and development in rural areas, the IDFR and the GFRID, IFAD is actively contributing to the intergovernmental negotiations towards the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration, and some of its main objectives, i.e.:

(i)The need to address the drivers of migration, including through strengthened efforts in development, poverty eradication and conflict prevention and resolution;

(ii)The contribution made by migrants to sustainable development and the complex interrelationship between migration and development; and

(iii)Remittances as an important source of private capital and their contribution to development, and the promotion of faster, cheaper and safer transfers of remittances through legal channels in both source and recipient countries, including through a reduction in transaction costs.