Refugees cross the Macedonian-Serbian border, January 2016. ©Sumaya Agha for Mercy Corps


The High-level Political Forum (HLPF) which was recently held in New York City had the theme ‘Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality’ and it reviewed several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in depth, particularly those related to migration.

The fact that 2030 Agenda and SDGs integrate migration both as targets and indicators is one of the best ways to address the challenges that migrants face in both their home countries and the countries they move to.

Forced displacement has reached unprecedented numbers. Worldwide there are now 70.8 million people living away from their homes, which includes 41.3 internally displaced, 25.9 million refugees, and about 3.5 million asylum seekers.

However, SDG targets and indicators do not sufficiently address displacement.

It is evident that lack of quality education, economic opportunities, inequality, climate change and governance combine to form the root causes of forced displacement.

The Voluntary National Review Reports that were presented at the HLPF showed the progress countries are making on this agenda. They gave us a rough baseline to achieve safe, orderly and regular migration. Clearly, what we heard was not enough. We need concrete steps to address the plight of these groups, and to harness their positive contributions.

We should learn from countries that are already integrating displacement in their national SDGs and local and national development plans. This should become the norm rather than the exception.

Together with our partners in the UN community, UNDP stands ready to support member states in addressing migration and displacement using the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs as frameworks with focus on:


  • Compiling Voluntary National Reviews that address the challenges, lessons and concrete strategies on migration and displacement;
  • Building the capacity of migrants, refugees and displaced people to cope, recovery and sustain their development gains in the medium and long term;
  • Creating an enabling environment for sustainable re-integration;
  • Integrating migration into development plans, national SDGs and harness the positive contributions of migrants;
  • Addressing the root causes of forced displacement, be they poverty and inequality, climate change, governance or violent conflict;

We cannot achieve the SDG targets by 2030 without investing in support to vulnerable populations such as refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants, and of course other groups such as women and people with disabilities. We need to ensure that they have a share in production, as well as any skills to counteract the impact the industrial revolution and surge in artificial intelligence bring with them, which may even deepen inequality.

Climate change is exacerbating migration and displacement. UNDP will continue to support countries bringing about real and positive change towards resilient, zero carbon development, and climate change adaptation. We are supporting countries to eliminate barriers to this ambitious transition, by formulating a systemic, integrated approach through governance and policy frameworks, inclusive leadership, transparency systems, combining climate finance and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) objectives. We are now supporting countries to address the root causes of displacement and migration.

UNDP is supporting peace, justice and strong institutions to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and violence (SDG 16). Our UN Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT) programme develops countries’ capacities and co-operation in response to human trafficking in the Greater Mekong. Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – are implementing the COMMIT Process  to counter human trafficking.

The HLPFs are important for the international community to renew the commitments to address both migration and displacement, using the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals as key frameworks. This should continue, but a way to strengthen the outcome must be charted soon.





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