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International Organisation for Migration (IOM)

The Millennium Development Goals and Migration

Erica Usher

June 2005

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Executive Summary

At first sight, international migration, despite its growing scope and magnitude, does not feature prominently in the original framework of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The relationship between migration and the MDGs has not been widely explored, although both the migration and development communities are becoming increasingly aware of the link between international migration and development.

Integrating migration into development policy agendas is taking on a new importance in many countries. Several governments of states that are primarily countries of destination for migrants, such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, have started to move in this direction. Similarly, more and more governments of developing countries with substantial emigration flows are establishing policies to strengthen the involvement of their diasporas in national development processes.

There is a noticeable gap in research and analysis on how migration is linked to attaining the Millennium Development Goals. However as the available evidence shows, there is clearly no simple cause and effect relationship between migration and the achievement of the MDGs. Migration may have a direct and positive influence on the achievement of the MDGs, however it can equally constitute a challenge which needs to be addressed in order to move further towards their attainment.

The United Nations “Road map towards the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration” mentions migration only as one of the causes of the worsening global malaria problem, and migrants as “victims of discrimination, racism and intolerance”.

Furthermore, the Road Map states that strategies for moving forward to achieving the MDGs include: “continuing United Nations work to provide technical advice and training and to lead dialogue on specific policies dealing with migration issues and their implications”.

Migration is also only briefly mentioned in some of the Millennium Project Interim Task Force Reports, where it is noted mainly for its potentially negative impact on development. Health-related reports, for instance, stress that the brain drain of health professionals impacts negatively on the health situation of the population as well as on the general development situation in countries of origin. In the report on improving the lives of slum dwellers (Task Force 8), migration is described as a phenomenon that needs to be understood in order to achieve the MDG targets in this regard.

Some of the more recent Task Force reports of the UN Millennium Project do contain references to migration with respect to the specific issue areas they address. Some highlight the relevance of taking into account migration-related questions, such as the report of the Task Force on Trade and Development, which stresses the importance of a multilateral trading system, leading, inter alia, to a further liberalization of services, including the temporary movement of people. Other reports mostly focus on potential challenges migration presents to development efforts, such as the report of the Task Force on Health, which deals extensively with the negative impacts of the emigration of health workers from developing countries and the ensuing human resource shortages. Similarly, some of the country progress reports mention migration, although more along the vein of migratory movements being a concern since many administrative and registration systems are unable to cope with extensive population movements.

The January 2005 final report of the UN Millennium Project, entitled “Investing in Development: A Practical Way to Achieve the MDGs” discusses migration in various contexts. While it points to the challenges arising from the increasing migration from rural to urban areas, as well as from the outflow of professionals, it also mentions remittances as a possible positive effect of migration, and emphasizes the necessity of comprehensive approaches to migration management in the context of poverty reduction.

While migration cuts across all or most MDGs, there are stronger links with some goals than with others. This paper looks briefly at the interlinkages between migration and the MDGs, in particular Goal 1 (Poverty Reduction), Goal 3 (Gender Equality), Goal 6 (Prevention of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Infectious Diseases), Goal 7 (Environmental Sustainability), and Goal 8 (Creation of Global Partnerships for Development).

The interlinkages between migration and the MDGs are complex and can be both positive and negative. Most of the linkages identified in this paper have the potential both to challenge and to support the achievement of the MDGs. These complexities need to be taken into account when formulating strategies for the achievement of the MDGs.

In those areas where migration can be identified as a challenge to achieving the MDGs, the international community needs to develop migration management strategies in order to address the negative effect of migration on attaining the goals.

Simultaneously, governments, development agencies and international organizations should develop strategies to enhance the positive impact of migration on the achievement of the MDGs. Above all, the complex relationship between migration and the MDGs must be explored further. Migration, as is increasingly recognized, cannot be excluded from development agendas but must be incorporated in all development policies and programmes. Although it is difficult to obtain reliable data and statistics on migration, increased and focused research on the topic will be crucial in the process of realizing the MDGs. The thorough assessment, development of comprehensive and coherent strategies and responsible implementation will be able to advance this process.

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