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International Dialogue on Migration
Contributions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

ECOSOC functional commissions and other intergovernmental bodies and forums, are invited to share relevant input and deliberations as to how they address goals and targets from the perspective of “Ensuring that no one is left behind”.


The IOM Council currently consisting 162 Member States, governed by the IOM Constitution has requested the IOM Director General through Council resolution no. 1270 to “continue to engage in the ongoing consultations of the Post-2015 UN development agenda process in order to inform and support Member States upon request in their participation on this matter, in particular with discussions related to migration and development”. Based on this resolution, the IOM Administration is working with its Member States and other stakeholders to support an evidence based approach migration issues in the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development as will be spelt out in the following. Moreover, with the subsequent IOM Council resolution no. 1310, IOM Member States endorsed the first internationally agreed definition of “well-managed migration policies” in the sense of SDG target 10.7. The mentioned resolution requests IOM Administration “to report to the IOM Council on a regular basis on how the Migration Governance Framework is being applied and on any other relevant updates or developments”. Against this backdrop IOM has for 2016 and 2017 decided to devote its International Dialogue on Migration (operating under the IOM Constitution) to methods for and Member States experience of follow-up and review of the migration related SDG targets. The following is an extrapolation from materials collected for the above mentioned draft report to be presented to the IOM Council by the IOM Director General analysing of the concept of “leaving no one behind” in the context of migration in the Sustainable Development Goals.

1. An assessment of the situation regarding the principle of “ensuring that no one is left behind” at the global level:

Since the creation of the MDGs in 2000, the number of international migrants has increased by around one third, today reaching 244 million . Taken together with domestic migrants, at present, one in seven people is in some migratory state and migration is a mega-trend of the twenty-first century, with considerable impact on all three dimensions of sustainable development.

Currently, most migration occurs through safe and regular means. The majority of the world’s international migrants leave from, transit through and move to countries of destination without incident. However, this is not the case for all migrants, many of whom experience significant discrimination, lack of opportunity, and exploitation. While the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the “positive contribution of migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development,” it also recognizes that migrants’ energy and ingenuity is often squandered. The current state of governance and policy development on migration tends to breed vulnerabilities and prevents migrants and states from reaping the full benefits of migration. Migrants and their families often bear exorbitant financial, human, and social costs, which tend to disproportionally affect poorer and lower skilled migrants.

Moreover, the number of forcibly displaced has reached the highest figure since WWII and while data regarding those who have perished or disappeared along increasingly dangerous migratory routes is virtually impossible to assess, known deaths of migrants are in the tens of thousands. Despite the distinct potential of migrants to be “stakeholders of sustainable development,” (c.f. Rio+20 Outcome Document) they are often “left behind” and marginalized in policy, legislation and programming.

In order to tackle the issue of migration for sustainable development, the SDGs clearly urge countries to implement “planned and well-managed migration policies.” We have repeatedly witnessed the failure of one-dimensional border-control policies, or worse, “no policy at all.” IOM Director General has consistently called for countries to adopt a “high-road scenario” for migration governance, one in which facilitating, not restricting, migration is the priority, which sees migration as a process to be managed rather than a problem to be solved, and which strives to expand the possibilities for people to realize their human development aspirations and potential through mobility. Countries will undoubtedly come to their own conclusions on the specifics on national implementation, but what is common for countries is the need to establish meaningful dialogue or more concrete collaboration with neighbouring or regional countries where collective action can and should take place.

2. The identification of gaps, areas requiring urgent attention, risks and challenges:

Although the migration and development nexus has been the subject of much attention recently, it is only with the adoption of the SDGs—that included migration in mainstream development discussions at the global level. The above mentioned Migration Governance Framework represents an international standard on the main migration policy areas that need attention regarding the central SDG target on migration, namely SDG target 10.7. The UN Statistical Commission has recently endorsed an indicator 10.7.2 as part of the Global SDG indicator network. There remains work to do in order to define methodology and reporting channels before new original data will appear in relation to indicator 10.7.2, possibly during the course of 2017.

Significant gaps remain in terms of quantity, accuracy, timeliness, disaggregation, comparability (over time and across countries) and accessibility of migration-related data. Timely and quality disaggregated data on migration are often scarce or incomplete, making it challenging for decision-makers to develop effective and informed migration policies. Data on stocks and flows of migration population seldom provides detail of the development circumstances of migrants and their families, including their access to health, education, social protection or standard of living to ensure that they are not left behind. Moreover, most official data systems also fail to capture the number of migrants who are in an irregular situation, as well as their living and working conditions.

While the risks they are exposed to significantly increase because of the irregular settings, victims and survivors of human rights violations both in the destination and on the move tend not to report violence, abuse, and exploitation they face due to the fear of deportation, slowing down of their journey and social stigmas which make them even harder to be identified for adequate protection measures to be provided. Furthermore, a critical lack of data collection on the rights of migrants and disaggregation by migration status often conceals exclusion and inequalities, and makes it difficult to measure progress and dismantle patterns of discrimination, leading to further inequalities and increased vulnerability. At the same time, accurate data collection on migrant’s enjoyment of their rights and their contribution to development can also enhance a more accurate understanding of migration and the situation of migrants.

The lack of reliable information on human trafficking is another example of the methodological challenges posed by complex, dynamic and clandestine activities that are by definition difficult to measure. These issue need to be urgently addressed in the context implementation of SDG target 17.18 on increasing capacity on data disaggregation, inter alia in relation to migratory status.

3. Valuable lessons learned on ensuring that no one is left behind:

A key lesson learned is that the origins and causes of migration are so complex that one-dimensional migration policies, such as those focusing on security aspects without substantive collaboration are likely to be ineffective. Consideration of a broad range of policy portfolios is imperative (including, but not limited to, development, environment, foreign affairs, culture, transport, economy, etc.). Moreover, the first results stemming from a collaboration between IOM and the Economist Intelligence Unit on assessing migration policies found that countries more often have “well-managed migration policies” when they have a body in their government dealing directly with migration. It is also true that this body of government needs to ensure that migration is mainstreamed across different ministries, ensuring that migrants are not left behind, and reiterating that with policies protecting their basic human rights, migrants can be agents of development.

Second, migration issues cannot be addressed solely in quantitative terms, thus it is extremely important to take into consideration the qualitative context in which the migrant finds herself in. For instance, it is important to reduce remittance costs, but it is also important to increase financial literacy, channel remittances into development, and ensure that remittances do not increase inequalities in a given region. It is also crucial to put individual migrants and their families at the core of the monitoring process and to remain attentive to the conditions under which remittances are earned, sent and used. With regards to how remittances are earned for example, implementation of and adherence to fair recruitment practices and decent work conditions, in accordance with international standards, and promoting the full participation of migrants and their families in their home and host societies, are critical metrics. We must ensure an understanding of the context and consider the agency of migrants when moving towards sustainable development.

4. Emerging issues likely to affect the realization of this principle:

2016 has been marked by unprecedented human mobility due to conflicts or natural disasters. While the international community has taken a number of actions to address the various humanitarian crises that cause large-scale displacement, one must not forget the development aspects that need to be taken into consideration to address the drivers and their consequences. The SDGs address a number of issues including disaster risk reduction planning and good governance. Additionally, target 10.7 regarding well-managed migration policies looks at integration measures as well as the economic and social inclusion of migrants. These issues will be the key to the successful resettlement of forced-migrants and refugees and the discussion of these issues will increasingly inform the development aspects of forced migration.

A second trend in the field of migration is the importance of building harmonious societies. Migration is not likely to ebb in coming years, meaning that our societies will become increasingly diverse. Questions of balancing good integration measures alongside the maintenance of the religious and cultural freedoms of migrants will be vital for the function of societies moving forward.

5. Areas where political guidance by the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is required:

States could agree to review their migration policies and strategies on regular intervals based on emerging and existing methodologies in order to achieve well-managed migration policies that ensure that no migrant is left behind. Furthermore, that UN-Statistical commission should work on improving the state of migration data.

6. Policy recommendations on ways to accelerate progress for those at risk of being left behind: There is a clear need to further build countries’ capacity in collecting, processing, analysing and disseminating migration data from traditional sources; on the other hand, countries should look into the vast and underexplored potential of innovative sources of data. Both aspects will be relevant in strengthening the migration evidence base and therefore contributing to a better understanding of the impact of mobility on development. In addition, data collection on migrants and mobile populations, who are particularly vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation, should be collected carefully and serve as a basis for the protection of their human rights to facilitate their access to basic services. Otherwise those collected data can be misused to deny their human rights or expose vulnerable people to further risks. IOM also urge Member States to implement Migration Governance Framework (MiGOF) which covers all aspects of migration and bridges the historical divide between development and humanitarian aspects of human mobility.

IOM’s view is that a migration system promotes migration and human mobility that is humane and orderly and benefits migrants and society

  • when it:
    • Adheres to international standards and fulfils migrants’ rights;
    • Formulates policy using evidence and a “whole-of government” approach;
    • Engages with partners to address migration and related issues;

  • As it seeks to:
    • Advance the socioeconomic well-being of migrants and society;
    • Effectively address the mobility dimensions of crises;
    • Ensure that migration takes place in a safe, orderly and dignified manner
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