Migration, refugees and displacement

Migrant workers contribute to development in countries of origin and in destination countries. In Tajikistan, for example, remittance inflows significantly reduce the number of people living below the poverty line. Photo: Mashid Mohadjerin

More and more people are on the move today compared to any other point in human history. In 2013, the United Nations estimated that there were 232 million international migrants globally, nearly half of whom were women.

Conflict and violence have forcibly displaced 60 million people worldwide, over 38 million of whom are internally displaced, and 19 million refugees. This is the highest number of displaced persons the world has seen since World War II. In mid-2015, there were more than four million registered refugees from the conflict in Syria, a crisis that has spread beyond the region and into Europe.

Migration is a long-term issue

Migration and forced displacement are long-term issues that require long-term solutions. In different contexts, UNDP has long worked on migration and displacement issues, forging partnerships between humanitarian and development actors to find durable solutions at the local and national level.

This includes preventing and mitigating conflicts, improving governance and access to justice, fighting poverty, providing jobs and opportunities, and implementing well managed migration policies, all in line with the new Sustainable Development Goals.

Key facts on migration

  • In 2013, there were 232 million international migrants globally; a number projected to exceed 250 million in 2015 (UNDESA).
  • Of the 59.9 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, 38.2 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs), 19.5 million are refugees and 1.8 million are asylum seekers.
  • The average length of displacement is 17 years. Many live in a state of protracted displacement, or “second exile”, caught between the inability to return home and the lack of durable solutions elsewhere.

UNDP also works in partnership with UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations on the refugee issue. While humanitarian actors deal with the response to displacement, for example setting up refugee camps and providing food and other services, UNDP works with the local and national authorities to help them deal with the increased population, support refugees on socioeconomic recovery and development, all closely in partnership with UNHCR.

UNDP is a crucial partner on migration, refugees and displacement

UNDP has been a crucial partner in helping countries recover from crisis, whether natural or man-made, by balancing short-term humanitarian responses with long-term development needs. UNDP’s work in Syria and the neighbouring countries has impacted millions of people, providing temporary jobs to women and young people, increasing access to basic services, and working together with other UN agencies to help those displaced by the ongoing conflict. The Syria Strategic Response Plan and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan represent important steps towards a more effective crisis response and recovery.

In neighbouring countries, UNDP has also helped host communities cope with the influx of refugees, as well as mitigate the effects of environmental degradation, another key driver of migration. These initiatives include women’s cash-for-work projects in Jordan, an olive packaging and storage project in Turkey, installing a water network in Lebanon, social support and legal aid for women and girls in Iraq, and vocational training for youth in host communities in Egypt.

UNDP’s work on fighting poverty, improving governance, and preventing and mitigating conflicts and disasters directly addresses the root causes of both migration and displacement.

Migration as a positive force for development

Besides the millions of refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, there are also people on the move in search of better livelihoods, economic opportunities, jobs, or because of the demand for cheap labour. This economic migration is often misrepresented as a negative burden.

This ignores the fact that with globalisation, migration also poses significant development opportunities in the form of investments and remittances. As outlined in UNDP’s 2009 Human Development Report, migration can be a positive force for human development. Integrating sustainable migration policies into national development plans can reduce inequalities, provide jobs and contribute to economic growth.

UNDP will continue to have a strong voice advancing the development dimensions of migration and displacement in the Solutions Alliance Initiative, the Global Migration Group, the Global Forum for Migration and Development, the Nansen Initiative, and other important fora on migration and development.

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