Migration, Post-2015 Development Goals, And the KNOMAD


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Even as the US media is in a frenzy about comprehensive immigration reforms - long overdue, but in terms of detail, still more forest than trees - there is another sense of urgency about how might migration feature in the post-2015 development goals (see my earlier blog). One reason for the urgency is the upcoming High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development at the UN in early October 2013: this meeting could successfully advocate the crucial role played by migration in impacting global development, and it could even suggest one or two goals or metrics for the post-2015 development goals.

Last week I attended a series of meetings on this topic at the UN (for example, the second roundtable organized by the IOM, UN DESA and UNFPA). In my powerpoint presentation, I made the following points:

1. South-South migration is larger than South-North migration, implying that even developing countries (the so-called South) have large immigrant stocks and their economy and society are impacted significantly by both emigration and immigration. Thus migration is a serious force for development globally.

2. Migration significantly impacts development. Through remittances, skill transfers, and investments. Migration can often result in instant poverty reduction for the migrants and their households (see papers by Clemens and Pritchett, my paper with Sanket and Elina). Remittances not only augment incomes and help meet basic consumption needs, but also they provide significant funding for housing and business investments, education and health in recipient households. Diasporas can promote trade and foreign investments, and facilitate skill and technology transfers. Diasporas also have substantial savings abroad that could be tapped, via diaspora bonds, for development financing back home. (I also mentioned a couple of new ideas in my presentation: financing medical training via diaspora bonds, and raising funds to combat malaria via remittance channels. Indeed diaspora resources could be the only pool waiting to be tapped for development financing.)

3. Development also impacts migration. The developmental gap between regions/countries is the most important driver of internal and international migration. If development goals are pursued without due considerations for migration, it is likely to result in unexpected (unwanted?) migration and thereby potentially distort development outcomes. Migration must, therefore, feature in the post-2015 development agenda.

4. Currently the MDGs are country-specific and ignore migrants who have left the country (and often internal migrants who joined the informal sector). For countries where a half or a quarter or a tenth of the workforce has migrated out, development goals and indicators should account for this "missing" population.

5. What kind of migration indicators/goals might feature in the post-2015 agenda? Remember that these targets should be set for 15 or 20 years in the future. Reducing remittance costs could be a goal, but perhaps this is more a 5-year goal than a 15- or 20-year goal. Reducing migration cost can be a useful long-term goal, and perhaps some analytic work ought to be initiated to develop a clear, simple and quantifiable indicator of migration costs. Some general principles -- such as “Treat your immigrant the way you want your migrants to be treated every where,” or, “Every one should have basic human rights, at home and abroad” -- could possibly be included as long-term development goals.

6. The KNOMAD (Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development) is shaping up nicely. Any thoughts on how the KNOMAD might contribute to the post-2015 agenda?


Dilip Ratha

Manager, Migration and Remittances Unit and Head, KNOMAD, Global Indicators Group, World Bank

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Johan Westenburg
January 30, 2013

"Tajikistan has the world’s highest proportion of remittances to GDP. In 2007 remittances comprised 36% of its GDP, or $1.8 billion, while Kyrgyzstan ranked fourth in the world, with 27% of GDP or $322 million. Some reports estimate that Tajikistan’s remittances make up as much as 46% of its GDP." Erica Marat noted this in her excellent article, “Labor Migration in Central Asia: Implications of the Global Economic Crisis;” a Silk Road Paper published by the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and the Silk Road Studies Program.