UNDP Around the world

Helen Clark: Speech at the Launch of McKinsey Global Institute’s Report "People on the Move: Global Migration’s Impact and Opportunity"

Jan 17, 2017

Migration today is both a top humanitarian and development priority. Credit: UNDP

It is my pleasure to join today’s discussion on the impacts and opportunities of global migration.  
 
Around the world, more people than ever before are on the move. Many are seeking safer places to live, to find work, and to enjoy their fundamental freedoms. Yet, global migration is not a short-term crisis. Human mobility is an age old phenomenon which accelerates with modern modes of transportation and greater knowledge about opportunities beyond one’s homeland. I am a New Zealander – my forebears travelled 12,000 miles by boat in the 19th and early 20th centuries looking for a better life.  
 
Without doubt, planned and orderly migration benefits both origin and destination countries. Remittances matter a great deal to low income countries. On the other side of the equation, there are many labour market sectors in advanced economies with a heavy reliance on migrant labour. 
 
But the converse is also true: unplanned and disorderly migration can be disastrous for migrants – witness the tragedies in the Mediterranean, and the sea crossing between Turkey and Greece and the land crossings thereafter. Host communities also come under stress. Flourishing criminal networks exploit vulnerable people and undermine local laws and regulations. 
 
All this means that migration today is both a top humanitarian and development priority. Ad hoc and short-term solutions to cope with refugees and migrants will not address the issues effectively. Comprehensive approaches which harness the potential of migration to support development, fill workforce gaps, and tackle trafficking are needed. Peace is needed in societies torn apart by conflict. Inclusive growth and development is needed in low income countries. 
 
I suggest four points to frame today's discussion.  
 
1. The root causes of forced migration and displacement must be addressed – conflict, including not only war, but also high levels of violent crime and of violent extremism. Extreme poverty also in effect forces outward migration.  
 
2. The international response to the current crises must support refugees and migrants to access economic opportunities and have their labour rights and human rights protected. There are particular issues for those forcibly displaced. On average, refugees and internally displaced persons spend more than seventeen years in displacement. Meeting their needs requires humanitarian relief agencies to be much better supported, and for there to be longer term strategies engaging governments, local communities, the private sector, NGOs, and civil society. It is good to see that this new MGI report advocates integrated approaches to managing the economic, social and civic dimensions of migration flows. 
 
3. The positive contributions of migration to source and destination countries must be harnessed.  
 
On average, migrant workers earn wages which are twenty to thirty per cent lower than those of comparable locally born workers. Wage gaps may persist even within similar education levels or occupations. This persistent inequality perpetuates the barriers faced by migrant communities. The McKinsey report suggests that narrowing the wage gap could add $1 trillion to global output annually – clear strategies involving social partners will be needed to realise that.  
 
4. Comprehensive migration management is needed in countries of origin, transit, and destination. Issues to be addressed include the drivers of migration, the manner of travel and entry, settlement and return, and integration and reintegration. 

Together with IOM, UNDP is supporting governments in eight countries (Bangladesh, Ecuador, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Morocco, Serbia and Tunisia) to integrate migration into local and national development strategies and plans, including sectoral plans. 
Another example, in Zambia, UNDP has been working with a range of stakeholders on settlement of refugees through infrastructure development, livelihoods creation, and service provision.
 
In conclusion, there is widespread and growing recognition that migration and displacement are not merely short term issues, but that their costs, benefits, and dynamics are part of longer term global trends. 
 
I look forward to today's discussion about ways in which we can step up our combined efforts to maximize the impacts and opportunities of migration.