Published on People Move

Strengthening the migration-development nexus in times of COVID-19: why policy coherence matters

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In observance of the International Migrants Day, Dec 18

The health and socio-economic crises induced by the COVID-19 pandemic have particularly hit hard migrants and their communities. The pandemic has also highlighted the crucial role that migrants play in ensuring the provision of essential services in many economies. While migrants, especially the many working in the informal economy, have often been the first ones to lose their jobs, they are not always entitled to benefit from the social safety nets and other recovery measures in place. This increased vulnerability that migrants, especially women, face is often the result of a lack of coherence across policy areas and between different levels of governance. 

As migrants’ countries of origin, transit and destination are struggling on how to respond to the crisis, a new report on Measuring Policy Coherence for Migration and Development provides guidance on designing policy interventions to build forward better. Based on a comparative analysis of 15 countries, the report introduces a user-friendly tool to measure the extent to which public policies and institutional arrangements are coherent with international norms and good practices to minimize the risks and maximize the development gains of migration.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed that “No-one is safe until everyone is safe.” The new tool’s dashboard of indicators on Policy Coherence for Migration and Development (PCMD) is therefore critical in addressing several of the current challenges facing public policy on migration during the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  • Mobility restrictions have increased the risk for migrants of being stranded in transit countries, or becoming victims of smuggling or human trafficking.
  • The inability of governments to provide minimum services for migrants, due to the insufficient integration of migration into development strategies and sectoral strategies (e.g., health, education, housing), including development assistance strategies.
  • The lack of social protection, funds to pay for care and fear of being detected as undocumented has prevented many of them from accessing health services.
  • The direct impact of lockdown measures on remittance service providers and the ability of migrants to send money home.
  • Data gaps that have prevented real-time monitoring of policy areas such as return migrants, which have limited the policy response on resettlement, access to jobs and business creation.

In this context, policy Coherence for Migration and Development (PCMD) matters for four main reasons:

  1. Policy coherence increases the likelihood of reaching development commitments while it minimizes situations in which certain policy objectives become unattainable;
  2. Policies working at cross-purposes can result in greater financial costs and wasted resources;
  3. Incoherence can lead to negative spillover effects and the loss of credibility;
  4. A coherent approach can help balance policy trade-offs and foster collaboration and trust among stakeholders, and thus harness synergies.

The OECD Development Centre, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the KNOMAD/World Bank, jointly with a team of researchers from the United Nations University, Maastricht University and Columbia University, developed two PCMD dashboards to help policymakers identify critical policy areas and institutional mechanisms for fostering PCMD. These tools are useful for better integrating migration into countries’ strategies for realizing the SDGs and implementing the commitments of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, as well as the Global Compact on Refugees. They also have the potential to galvanize global efforts into action, such as the Call to Action to Keep Remittances Flowing, by Switzerland, United Kingdom, and its international organization partners such as the UNCDF and the World Bank, which proposes, among others, to declare remittance services as essential.

Built on international norms, political commitments, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and good practices, a series of indicators in two distinct dashboards — respectively from the perspective of countries of origin and destination — are categorized according to five policy dimensions, namely (i) promoting institutional coherence; (ii) reducing the financial costs of migration; (iii) protecting the rights of migrants and their families; (iv) promoting the (re)integration of migrants; and (v) enhancing the development impact of diaspora engagement (figure 1).

Applying the PCMD indicators in 15 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, the report shows how the dashboards are useful tools for measuring well-managed migration policies and governance, monitoring core commitments of the Global Compact for Migration and fostering a whole-of-government approach to migration and development.

Learn more about these tools and the key lessons they offer in building stronger and more inclusive policies on immigration, emigration, transit and refugee issues, by reading Measuring Policy Coherence for Migration and Development: A new set of tested tools.

Figure 1: Dimensions of Policy Coherence for Migration and Development 

Dimensions of Policy Coherence for Migration and Development

Source: KNOMAD, OECD and UNDP. 2020.“Measuring Policy Coherence for Migration and Development: A new set of tested tools.” Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD).


Federico Bonaglia

Deputy Director of the OECD Development Centre (DEV)

Jason Gagnon

Development Economist, Development Centre, OECD

David Khoudour

Regional Migration Advisor, UNDP Latin America and the Caribbean

Riad Meddeb

Director, Energy Hub, UNDP

Daniel Naujoks

Interim Director of International Organization and UN Studies Specialization, Lecturer of International and Public Affairs

Sonia Plaza

Senior Economist, Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice, World Bank

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