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Unlocking the Positive Impact of Migration on Sustainable Development to Recover Better, Faster and Stronger from COVID-19


Unlocking the Positive Impact of Migration on Sustainable Development to Recover Better, Faster and Stronger from COVID-19

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At this year’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) the United Nations Network on Migration calls on all States to harness the contributions of migrants as enablers of sustainable development and enhance cooperation to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration. This involves full respect for human and labour rights and the humane treatment of migrants, regardless of migration status, as outlined in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). This historic compact is grounded in and contributes to achieving all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensuring that we leave no one behind.

Migrants are key actors across all dimensions of sustainable development. Through their work, their remittances and the links they build between countries, they reduce poverty, provide vital services, and support families and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination. COVID-19 has underscored the crucial importance of migrants in keeping our societies running, while underlining the need to build more equal and inclusive societies that will be resilient in the face of future pandemics.

However, COVID-19 and the subsequent measures taken by governments to contain its spread have  significantly disrupted human mobility, whose expected growth slowed by 27 per cent in 2020 (UNDESA). Mobility restrictions have reduced GDP growth and created labour shortages in key sectors.

Furthermore, migrants have too often borne the brunt of the health and socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, exposing them to increased risks of contracting COVID-19, greater difficulties accessing diagnostics, treatments and vaccines, and greater likelihood of discrimination, job loss and lack of access to decent work. Many migrants have been stranded without access to their human rights or forcibly returned to countries of origin without due regard to their rights, safety and dignity. This has harmed migrants and their ability to support their families and communities in countries of origin and destination, and has set back SDGs achievement.

No country will recover from COVID-19, nor achieve the SDGs, without well-governed migratory movements and the effective inclusion and protection of migrants. Resilience in the face of future pandemics requires us to build inclusive societies founded on human and labour rights, as well as gender equality. There are many challenges on the horizon. Xenophobia, discrimination, gender-based violence and exclusion of migrants are increasing human rights protection risks, exacerbating inequalities while threatening social cohesion and preventing societies from mobilizing their full potential for recovery.

The United Nations Network on Migration reminds States of their commitment to reducing inequalities within and among countries (SDG 10). Pursuant to the commitments outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in the GCM, the Network calls on States, in coordination with all relevant stakeholders, to:

  • Facilitate safe, orderly, regular and responsible migration and human mobility (SDG 10.7);
  • Respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all migrants, regardless of migration status and without discrimination;
  • Ensure that migrants, regardless of their nationality and migration status, and in line with universal health coverage principles, have access to health care services and safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, and can seek health care, vaccination services and information in a secure environment without fear or risk of immigration control or deportation (SDG 3.8);
  • Empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of their status (SDG 10.2);
  • Ensure equal opportunity and reducing inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices that negatively affect societies at large (SDG 10.3);
  • Ensure that all migrant workers enjoy decent work as recognized in international labour standards (SDG 8.8);
  • Guarantee that all migrants have access to water and sanitation, food, education and are included in social protection systems that are portable or transferable across borders (SDGs 2.1, 6.1-2, 4.1-5 and 1.3);
  • Empower migrants and diasporas to catalyze their contributions to the development of their countries of origin by creating a regulatory environment that reduces the costs of transferring remittances, allows competitive channels for transferring remittances and increases their productive use (SDG 10.c);
  • Implement firewalls separating immigration enforcement from migrants’ access to their human rights and basic services, including health, education and justice;
  • Ensure access to justice for all and protect migrant workers along global supply chains and throughout recruitment processes;
  • Eliminate all forms of violence, abuse, forced labour and trafficking in migrants, and other types of exploitation, especially of children and women (SDGs 5.2, 8.7, 16.3 and 16.2);
  • Incorporate migration considerations and the human rights of migrants in climate change policy and action as a means of strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards in all countries (SDGs 13.1 and 13.2); and
  • Disaggregate data by all relevant characteristics, including migration status, to enable evidence-based policymaking to include migrants in efforts to achieve sustainable development (SDG 17.18).

No country will be able to achieve the SDGs alone. Overcoming the pandemic and recovering better, faster and stronger will require collaboration and collective action across societies. This collective action must include strengthened migration governance within all policy areas under review at the 2021 HLPF, including poverty alleviation (SDG1), no hunger (SDG 2), good health and well-being (SDG 3), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), climate action (SDG 13), peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16), and partnerships (SDG 17).

The Network calls on States, all relevant stakeholders and UN agencies to work better together, ensuring coherence and alignment of their activities with the GCM to fully leverage the power of migrants and migration to support the realization of the SDGs. Let us also take the opportunity of next year’s International Migration Review Forum to assess progress towards global commitments to promote safe, orderly and regular migration in alignment with the SDGs and international law.

Together, we can create an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, provided migrants are part of the process. There can be no sustainable development without migration and no progress on the achievement of the SDGs without the inclusion of migrants.

The United Nations Network on Migration was established to ensure effective, timely and coordinated system-wide support to Member States in their implementation, follow-up and review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. While the Network’s mandate is focused on migration, States are called to also implement these recommendations to refugees and asylum-seekers and to protect the human rights of everyone equally, regardless of migration status.

For more information please contact:

UN Network on Migration (secretariat)
Florence Kim +41797480395

Helen Rosengren


*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).