Migration on the Move

Written by Peter Sutherland, Chairman of the London School of Economics and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration and Development and William Lacy Swing, Director General of The International Organisation for Migration on the Project Syndicate blog.

“In 2000, the United Nations established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to drive progress on important development objectives, such as reducing poverty, promoting gender equality, and curbing disease. But the architects of the MDGs neglected one critical issue: migration. Fortunately, it looks like world leaders will not make the same mistake with the post-2015 development agenda.

The scale of remittances alone should be enough to convince the world that migration deserves a prominent spot in the post-2015 agenda. Last year, migrants from developing countries sent an estimated $414 billion to their families – triple the total of official development assistance. More than a billion people rely on such funds to help pay for education, health care, water, and sanitation. As if that were not enough, remittances have important macroeconomic benefits, enabling countries to pay for essential imports, access private capital markets, and qualify for lower interest rates on sovereign debt.

But many of migration’s benefits are squandered. Financial intermediaries extract 9% of remittances, on average, for an estimated total of $49 billion in migrant earnings last year. Rapacious recruiters, who often keep one-third of a migrant’s pay, skim billions more. Meanwhile, smuggling, trafficking, exploitation, and discrimination take an incalculable human toll.

This is where the post-2015 development agenda comes in. With the right incentives, governments and companies can be encouraged to pursue policies aimed at ensuring that more funds reach poor families, while working to protect migrants’ rights and prevent discrimination.”

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