Harnessing migration improves lives in a turbulent world

January 22, 2024
UNDP - Lena Mucha

Miguel is a migrant from Cameroon who has found work in France. "I may not be at home, but I feel at home here. I spend most of my time working because for me, work is a luxury and something I take seriously. I don’t take for granted that I came here and found a way to gain employment and earn a living," he said.

UNDP/Lena Mucha

Geneva — At the 14th Summit of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Geneva 23-25 January, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) called on governments and other stakeholders to maximize the opportunities migration brings and reduce the suffering of those on the move. Creative efforts by policymakers are necessary to reduce the drivers of irregular and forced migration, expand legal pathways, guarantee migrants’ rights and access to services, especially for women, foster integration and social cohesion, and mobilize diasporas. 

Migrants are a powerful force for growth, innovation and social dynamism in their countries of origin and destination alike. Yet, the world is not moving fast enough on harnessing migration’s sustainable development benefits.  

Ongoing shockwaves from the COVID-19 pandemic, severe levels of violent conflict, a cost-of-living crisis, skyrocketing food prices and mounting debt in developing countries are all exerting immense pressure on the most vulnerable and on their governments. Delivering the benefits of migration is one tool to help overcome these multiple crises. 

When safe and legal and with rights guaranteed, migration improves opportunities for decent work, incomes, safety, education and health. Migration also helps countries of origin and destination. A 1 percent increase in migrant population could boost GDP growth in destination countries by 2 percent. Migration also helps countries of origin. The money sent home or the sharing of knowledge lifts millions of people out of poverty. Remittances to low- and middle-income countries reached US$ 669 billion in 2023. Returning migrants can also be an important source of growth for the country of origin through their accumulated knowledge and skills.  

“In the midst of the current geopolitical turmoil and escalating crises, migration can be a lever to promote development, build peace and reduce inequality. When countries welcome migrants, their economies and societies progress. Policy attempts at restricting the movement of people prevent migration from fulfilling its potential,” said Shoko Noda, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Crisis Bureau. 

“Racism, xenophobia and discrimination add to a lack of trust and increased polarization. We need governments meeting at the Global Forum on Migration and Development to set a swift change of course that leverages and normalizes migration for the long term,” she added.  

Improving current approaches to migration is key for countries where UNDP works. More than 1 in 5 international migrants come from fragile and conflict-affected countries. Low- and middle-income countries host over a third of international migrants and almost 90 percent of those forcibly displaced globally.  

Getting migration right is a development priority. With human mobility programmes and partnerships in about 75 countries and territories, UNDP works with governments, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders to expand the development promise of migration and reduce its potential negative impacts, thus meeting the needs of people on the move and their communities. 

For more information, contact: 

Sarah Bel, Geneva: sarah.bel@undp.org 

Aimee Brown, New York: aimee.brown@undp.org  

Patrick Nicholson, London: patrick.nicholson@undp.org