Migration and the Post-2015 Development Agenda
January 22, 2015
Since September 2010, United Nations (UN) member states, civil society organizations and others have been working to advance the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight targets implemented in 2000 with a fifteen-year deadline – into a sustainable development agenda that extends beyond 2015. The original MDGs did not explicitly link migration and development. However, as outlined by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), most of the goals have important linkages to migration and these linkages have increasingly been mentioned in Task Force reports for the Millennium Development Projects, as well as in specific country progress reports towards the goals. As a result, governments and civil society have been working to incorporate migration more prominently into the post-2015 development framework.
In 2013, the United Nations tasked a 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) with preparing recommended post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for adoption by the United Nations General Assembly. The OWG’s final proposal, adopted on July 19, 2014, outlines 17 proposed SDGs. While migration cuts across several aspects of development, it is specifically mentioned in only four places.
In the introduction to its proposed SDGs, the OWG stresses that sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection should benefit all people, “without distinction of any kind such as…migratory status.” Goal 8 of the proposed SDGs is to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” Migration is also mentioned in sub-part 8.8 of this goal, which calls for the protection of labor rights and the promotion of safe and secure working environments for “all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.” Finally, migration is mentioned under Goal 10, to “reduce inequality within and among countries,” in sub-part 10.7 which calls for the facilitation of “orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies,” as well as in sub-part 10.c which calls for the reduction of transaction costs of migrant remittances to less than three percent and the elimination of remittance corridors with costs higher than five percent.
In response to the OWG’s final proposal, the IOM issued “Migration in the post-2015 process: Analyzing key trends,” which examined the OWG’s treatment of migration in its outcome document. The report also included an analysis of the key trends in the overall discussion of migration leading up to the OWG proposal, including in the thirteen sessions of the OWG and the October 2013 United Nations General Assembly’s High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and its associated side events. The IOM observed that the tone of the various statements made by UN member states on the inclusion of migration in the post-2015 development agenda appeared to be generally positive during debates. However, during the few times that negative statements related to migration were recorded, some member states noted a “perceived lack of clarity on the link between migration and development,” or expressed concerns regarding sovereignty, brain drain and forced migration within a universal development agenda. The IOM concluded that, in the end, member states had difficulty formulating measurable migration-related goals. The IOM also observed that member states did not seek to retain major migration themes, such as forced migration and protracted displacement, in the OWG’s final outcome document.
In an effort to synthesize the full collection of inputs received on developing a post-2015 development agenda, including the OWG’s final proposal, the UN Secretary General submitted a Synthesis Report entitled, “The road to dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet.” The Synthesis Report analyzed the progress made in setting a new development framework. It was also intended to serve as persuasive input for the forthcoming intergovernmental negotiations. The report repeats most of the points made by the OWG with regard to migration. In particular, it reiterates the need for the post-2015 Agenda to ensure “equality, nondiscrimination, equity and inclusion at all levels” and specifically mentions “migrants, refugees and displaced persons” as a category of people in need of special attention. Additionally, it stresses the need for equal participation of migrants in development processes, the need for fair employment practices and the need for reducing the costs of migrant remittances. The report also seconds the OWG Proposal’s goal for better availability of and access to data, including on migratory status, in order to construct better mechanisms to review the implementation of the goals.
Now that both the OWG Proposal and the UN Secretary General’s Synthesis Report are published, the post-2015 development agenda setting process is entering a transition phase in which all stakeholders have the opportunity to review and discuss the relevance of migration before the process moves completely to government negotiations and the adoption of final SDGs in September 2015.
One recent input was a briefing on “Migration and Development: Defining the Role of Migration in the Post-2015 Agenda,” held at UN headquarters in New York and co-hosted by the IOM, the Permanent Mission of Germany, and the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica. The event consisted of two panel discussions.
The first panel, “Migration as a development enabler,” was moderated by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations and convened academics, researchers and practitioners on the need to examine the effects of migration on development in migrant sending and receiving societies. Panelists also highlighted the importance of policy coherence when addressing migration issues, noting a disconnect between academic research and policy creation with regards to migration and immigration policy. CMS has attempted to address this issue through the publication of the Journal on Migration and Human Security (JMHS), a peer-reviewed journal which seeks to bridge the gap between the academic/research community and policymakers and policy influentials on migration-related issues.
The second panel, entitled “Migration across the post-2015 agenda,” featured Ambassador William Lacy Swing, IOM’s Director General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and Ms. Jane Stewart, Special Representative to the UN and Director of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) Office for the United Nations. The panelists discussed the goals outlined by the OWG Proposal and the UN Secretary General’s Synthesis Report and highlighted the importance of migration issues with regards to human rights, labor rights and national security. Ambassador Swing underlined the importance of a human security approach to addressing migration, particularly when balancing national security and human security priorities. For a superb background piece and analysis of the “human security” approach to international migration challenges, please see Francesca Vietti and Todd Scribner’s JMHS article, “Human Insecurity: Understanding International Migration from a Human Security Perspective.”
Briefings and dialogues on the inclusion of migration-related targets are expected to continue throughout 2015. Scheduled UN events in New York include: the Inter-Governmental Negotiations on the Post-2015 Agenda from January 19 to 21, 2015 and the 13th Coordination Meeting on International Migration and Development from February 12 to 13, 2015. UN member states will negotiate and adopt the post-2015 development agenda at the Special Summit on Sustainable Development in New York on September 25-27, 2015.