Mainstreaming Migration into Development Planning: Assessing the Evidence, Continuing the Dialogue

The International Organization for Migration and the Center for Migration Studies

 conference on

 Mainstreaming Migration into Development Planning

‘Assessing the Evidence, Continuing the Dialogue’

May 7-8, 2012


In recent years, there has been an increased global recognition of the relationship between migration and development. This recognition is just now being translated into programs and policy measures designed to maximize the positive effects of migration for development and minimize potential negative consequences. This joint conference held by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Center for Migration Studies (CMS), in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), explored the benefits and impact of migration on development while highlighting methods for integrating migration into development planning. This discussion helped to bridge the gap between two major UN Conferences: the 2011 May UN General Assembly Informal Thematic Debate on International Migration and Development and the 2013 UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and was of great importance as the international community begins its reflections on the post-2015 development agenda.

The conference was attended by fifty civil society leaders, academics, UN colleagues, and delegates from diplomatic missions. The following summarizes the main conclusions and key ideas for action, which emanated from the six panel discussions, and provides access to .pdf versions of the statements and presentations delivered.

Concept Note and Agenda


Welcoming Remarks – Laura Thompson, Deputy Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Keynote – Donald Kerwin, Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies (CMS)

Panel I. Data, Migration Profiles and How to Evaluate Migration’s Impact on Development  

Moderator, Ellen Percy Kraly, Editor, International Migration Review
Bela Hovy, Chief, Migration Section, Population Division, UN-DESA
Amy Muedin, Programme Specialist, Permanent Observer Office, IOM
Laurent De Boeck, Director, African, Caribbean and Pacific Observatory on Migration
Prosper PD Asima, Head, Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, Ghana Immigration Service

  •  Participants discussed that the types of data and ways in which data is collected and reflected change perceptions about migration and thus migration’s implications on development.
  • In order to render data more useable, there should be processes in place to generate its usability, including more internationally available and evidence based migration impact assessments, which can be achieved through country specific migration profiles.
  • Data is only important only if it can be used to inform policy. Capacity building is needed to ensure researchers are able to adequately interact with policy-makers as well as policy-makers need to be willing to recognize the evidence.
  • Panelists also noted the challenge of developing indicators of successful migration.  Another panelist noted how national development gains will be used to display the impact of migration.

Panel II. First experiences in use of the GMG Handbook on Mainstreaming Migration into Development Planning 

ModeratorShantanu Mukherjee, UNDP and Md. Shahidul Haque, IOM, co-chairs of the GMG working group on mainstreaming migration in development planning
Beata Godenzi, Head of the Global Programme Migration and Development, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
Toni-Shae Freckleton, Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ)
Daria Goncearova, First Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Moldova

  • It was noted that migration over the years has evolved from a consular issue to a geopolitical issue. Panelists recognized the need to look to the future with a particular focus on migration especially in the context of the 2015 development agenda.
  • Panelists noted the successes of using the Global Migration Group (GMG) handbook in creating national strategic development plans that mainstream migration into development planning such as factoring remittances for development.
  • Panelists discussed other issues relevant when factoring migration into development initiatives, including protecting human rights of migrants, mainstreaming remittances, engaging the diaspora, dealing with children and elderly left behind and the issue of return and reintegration.

Panel III. Diaspora Engagement, Economic and Social Remittances 

ModeratorKathleen Newland, Director, Migration Policy Institute
Juan Jose Garcia, Vice Minister for Salvadorans Abroad, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, El Salvador
Barbara Span, Vice President of Global Public Policy, Western Union
Abdirahman Ahmed Mohamed, Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA)
Anjali Banthia, Senior Associate, Women’s World Banking

  • Remittances that migrants send have generally been treated as private transfer funds from country of destination to the country of origin. Yet, to see remittances as simple transfers of money is to ignore the complex social and emotional relationships between senders and receivers.
  • As agents of development for their countries of origin, panelists stressed that migrants must be seen as more than just the financial transmitters of remittances to their families. To enhance the developmental benefits of remittances, migrants and their families need improved financial literacy and access to banking, particularly women. Investment in public-private partnerships and microfinance institutions can help harness the long-term benefits of remittances and maximize remittances on both the sender and the receiver’s end.
  • Diaspora investments should also be measured and included in policy development surrounding migration. Not only do migrants make major economic and livelihood contributions through monetary transfers, they also provide social remittances by contributing skills, knowledge, ideas and innovation.

Panel IV. Getting the Fundamentals Right for Adaptive National Migration Governance 

Moderator: Ann Pawliczko, Adviser, Emerging Population Issue, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Mafruha Sultana, Joint Secretary, Additional Director General, Bureau of Manpower Employment & Training, Government of Bangladesh
Dr. Howard Duncan, Executive Head, Metropolis Project, Carleton University
Sonia Plaza, World Bank, Senior Economist, Migration and Remittances Team, Development Prospects Group
M. Shahidul Haque, Director of International Cooperation and Partnerships, IOM

  • Panelists highlighted that bilateral or multilateral cooperation between sending and receiving countries is important to manage migration and necessary to realize the benefits of migration as well as to avoid challenges such as brain drain.
  • It was suggested that enhancing the capacity of migrants to create wealth (such as via transnational businesses) rather just the retransfer of wealth (remittances) may facilitate economic progress in both the host and country of origin.
  • A panelist gave a detailed account on Bangladesh’s experience managing the unexpected return of 36,594 Bangladeshi labour migrants during the Libyan crisis. The challenges in the reintegration process highlighted the gaps in protection of migrant returnees, the lack of logistic ability, the restricted access to nationals within the hosting country and the need for a labour market given the high unemployment rate in Bangladesh.  All revealed the importance of effective reintegration programmes.
  • Participants also reiterated the importance of having an integrated, balanced and pragmatic approach to migration management as well as effective public information that would remove misinformation.

Panel V. Integration of Migrants for Development 

Moderator: Natasha Iskander, New York University
Fatima Shama, New York City Commissioner for Immigrant Affairs
Dr. Federico Villegas Beltran, Director of Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Argentina
Marc Scheuer, Director, United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
Syed Saiful Haque, Chairman, Welfare Association for the Rights of Bangladeshi Emigrants (WARBE) Development Foundation, Bangladesh

  • Effective integration policies, particularly at the local level, are crucial to promoting migrants as active agents of development in their communities of origin and destination.
  • Panelists stressed that integration policies must include the human perspective of migration at the center of all development policies as well as the policies must respect and promote the human rights of migrants.
  • The social dimension of integration must be emphasized. Migration policies must include culture, social inclusion, domestic and foreign policies and must have a gender-based perspective to ensure a migration experience that is safe, orderly and dignified.
  • Providing locally based services that ensure immigrant communities know their rights and responsibilities allows migrant communities to build trust for the receiving government, which is essential in countries of destination where the national migration discourse is highly politicized.
  • Greater advocacy for improved access to information as well as improved re-integration laws can address many integration challenges migrants face once they move, and once they decide to return to their country of origin.

Panel VI. Integrating Migration into Initiatives for Development: The Way Forward 

ModeratorMichele Klein Solomon, Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration to the United Nations
Salomon Samen, representing Ali MansoorChair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, Government of Mauritius
Ambassador Luis Alfonso De Alba, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations
Michael Clemens, Center for Global Development
Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary General, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)

  • Panelists reiterated the importance of mainstreaming migration into development in a broader context, such as Rio+20. The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) was highlighted as one of the many ways that will help mainstream migration into development through continuing the dialogue, consolidating the mainstreaming culture and opening platforms for state partnership.
  • Panelists stressed the need to transfer discussions on migration and integration from the GFMD and other relevant forums to the UN.
  • A detailed account was provided on how giving the opportunity to Haitians to work as low skilled migrant laborers in the United States could facilitate development faster in economic terms instead of receiving traditional humanitarian assistance.
  • The importance of identifying the non-contentious issues where we can make progress, including identifying areas where policies and programs have been successful in maximizing development potential for migration and reducing negative effects was also highlighted.  

Mainstreaming migration into development planning can be a beneficial policy plan and operational tool only if governments create the necessary policies and programs designed to maximize the positive benefits of migration, such as remittances, while minimize negative consequences, such as brain drain. Creating adaptive national migration policies that account for possible challenges, using reliable data to measure development gains, harnessing the ‘social contributions’ of migrants such as knowledge sharing and diaspora investments and ensuring the integration of migrants into the host society are all instrumental for tapping into the development gains of migrants for developing countries. Moreover, the relationship of migration and development-related objectives requires dedicated international attention, especially within the UN, particularly as the international community begins its reflections on what will eventually constitute the post-2015 development agenda.