Migration drives progress on sustainable development

Migrants contribute their knowledge, networks and skills to build stronger, more resilient communities in both their home nations and host countries. Photo: UNDP Indonesia

Migrants are often perceived as a problem that needs to be solved. But the evidence shows the opposite. Representing 3.6 percent of the global population, they contribute their knowledge, networks and skills to build stronger, more resilient communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the essential role that migrants play in so many countries. Yet, discrimination, xenophobia, and the stigmatization of migrants remains virulent. Thousands of migrants are subject to great suffering and disappear or die during their journeys.

In 2018, Member States set out an international plan to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities faced by migrants, and deliver the full development potential of migration in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Four years on, the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) in New York, 17–18 May, serves as platform to share progress on the implementation of the Compact, with best practices shared by the Migration Network Hub.

Innovation in Asia Pacific

“We didn’t ask about race or religion. We didn’t ask about documents. We just played games. But I wondered why my friends could not go to school,” said Mukmin Nantang, the founder of Borneo Komrad, an initiative that provides education to stateless children in Sabah, Malaysia.

Mukmin Nantang and the Boreno Komrad team run schools for stateless children in Malaysia. Photo: Borneo Komrad

There are hundreds of thousands of undocumented people in the Malaysian state, many living in extreme poverty and denied access to schools, healthcare and jobs. Many of the children end up trying to make some money in places such as the fish market in the capital, Kota Kinabalu.

Borneo Komrad runs three schools and campaigns for greater awareness on the stateless issue. As understanding spreads, attitudes are changing. “The Minister for Education wanted to open schools for stateless children. It’s a big step,” said Mukmin Nantang.

Borneo Komrad was the winning pitch in the Human Mobility Innovation Challenge — an online hackathon for young people in Asia and the Pacific organized by UNDP and Citi Foundation in 2021 involving talks, workshops and mentoring, and start-up funding.

The challenge brought together 100 innovators and 39 social enterprises working for migrants in the region. Other human mobility projects receiving backing at the hackathon included an enterprise improving the socio-economic conditions of waste handlers in Bangladesh, new mobile housing in the Philippines for the urban poor so they can be nearer to services and jobs, and a sustainable fashion enterprise in Indonesia for refugees.

Harnessing the contribution of migrants

Hundreds of thousands of Moldovans live abroad. Most of them are young people who keep close ties with their communities of origin, where their families have remained. UNDP applied its “Five Pillar” approach that connected the Moldovan diaspora to local development initiatives they could support with money, skills and experience. Infrastructure such as sidewalks, playgrounds, community centres, and public lighting haves been improved in almost 100 localities, to the benefit of over 300,000 people.

Cioresti is one of 32 towns working closely with UNDP to leverage migration for local development. “We established a Hometown Association and reached out online to emigrants,” said Valeriu Gutu, Mayor of Cioresti. In three months, the Hometown Association supported the development of a new waste management service in the town. “We built a bridge between the population abroad and the local community,” said the Mayor.

In Mexico, the online platform “Estrategia Integrate” connects migrants with local authorities and businesses in the towns of Puebla and Mexicali. The local government can develop targeted help to meet the specific needs of the most vulnerable, improve socio-economic integration and promote social cohesion. The platform also allows migrants to find job opportunities advertised by local businesses. “An inclusive society and an equitable society has more possibilities to be a sustainable one,” said Marina del Pilar Avila Olmeda, former Municipal President of Mexicali.

In Jordan, the Heart of Amman is an initiative to revitalize the cultural heart of the city and provide equal employment opportunities to young people, women, migrants, and Syrians and Iraqis fleeing the conflict in their home countries. “Together in one community we can heal, learn, and overcome obstacles. It was an opportunity to empower myself, be more resilient and recover”, said Fares, an Iraqi who has benefited from the scheme.

UNDP pledge on migration

As part of the United Nations Network on Migration, UNDP is pledging at the IMRF to scale up its work with migrants and their communities and support Member States to implement the Global Compact. UNDP will advocate for regular migration routes as the best way to prevent migrant deaths and enhance migrants’ contribution to sustainable development.

Climate change is a defining challenge of our times. Catastrophic storms, flooding, wildfires and droughts foretell an unsettling future. UNDP will strengthen mechanisms to address the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on migration, and invest in nature-based solutions to increasingly make migrants and communities the agents of mitigation and adaptation.

UNDP also will increase support to governments in fostering socio-economic integration and returnees’ sustainable reintegration, with programmes designed to increase access to education and skills development, decent work, and social protection. For instance, UNDP developed a regional strategy on the integration of Venezuelan refugees that is now being implemented in Colombia.

The private sector is a crucial partner for enhancing the contribution of migrants. Examples of UNDP support include promoting financial inclusion in Ecuador to working jointly with businesses and diasporas in Serbia.

And finally, UNDP will be supporting social cohesion initiatives to reduce xenophobia, racism and discrimination. Our societies face a real problem, which is not migration. The contribution that international migrants make to societies is no longer in question. The problem is the lack of empathy for those who come from abroad.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store