Migration to play key role in post-2015 agenda-but how?

On Thursday, January 24, the World Youth Alliance was present at a roundtable discussion at United Nations Headquarters on “Migration, sustainable development and the post-2015 development framework.” The event was co-organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh and the Delegation of the European Union.

The post-2015 agenda refers to the plan for global development once the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. At the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012, delegates agreed that a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would be created to replace and continue the work of the existing framework. Although it has been heralded as “open and inclusive,” at this point, the process of developing the post-2015 framework remains ambiguous and no clear priorities have been determined.

The purpose of this roundtable was to discuss the importance of including migration as a priority issue in the post-2015 framework. The representative from Bangladesh, who chaired the session, noted that migrant workers make enormous economic contributions around the world, and that our goal must be to help them maximize their positive contributions and minimize the challenges they face. The consensus at the round table was unanimous – migration must play an important role in the post-2015 agenda; however, no one has answered the question of how this is to be accomplished.

Dr. Dilip Ratha from the World Bank spoke about viewing migration as a “global public good issue”—meaning an issue that transcends national borders. He noted that south to south migration is larger than south to north migration, and that for this reason, a focus on migration within the developing world is of utmost importance. Dr. Ratha explained the importance of remittances, and highlighted the fact that 460 million dollars goes to developing countries annually in remittances alone, which is three times the amount of aid to developing countries. Remittances reduce poverty and tangibly impact development given that they generally go to a large amount of people in small amounts. Since it is normally sent to family members, money from remittances tends to go toward the real needs of people and usually has a positive effect on human capital. For instance, this money frequently is used for schooling, resulting in a better-educated population. He noted that remittances do have corresponding negative consequences (including the problem of dependence), but that for the most part, they represent a very resilient form of funding for development.

The theme for the upcoming Commission on Population and Development (April 2013) is migration. At this time, the UN will once again turn its attention to this controversial issue and negotiate a text outlining “new trends in migration.” The concern whenever the UN takes up the issue of migration or population trends is that the emphasis will be placed on limiting the right of an individual to make his or her own reproductive choices. The right to plan the number and spacing of one’s children is enshrined in international law – and anything touching on population control is in violation of this fundamental right. Advocates for programs that aim to limit the number of children people have argue that we need to have fewer people in order to have more development. A UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs official noted that, although we should avoid the term “population control,” what the UN should try to do is “nudge” individuals to make the appropriate reproductive choices. Whether we use the word “control” or “nudge,” this is merely a matter of semantics. Any attempt to impose reproductive restrictions on people represents a severe form of coercion that must be opposed.

The World Youth Alliance is actively engaged in the post-2015 process and will continue to advocate for a development agenda that respects the intrinsic dignity of the person and values the person as the fundamental driver of development.