Belgium ratified the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development together with 192 other member states of the United Nations. At its heart, the 2030 Agenda is comprised of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)to be achieved worldwide by, as you may have guessed, the year2030. These goals are related not only to economic progress but also to social and ecological progress.
At first sight, secure migration is not one of the Sustainable Development Goals; however, if we look closely, we notice that migration was not forgotten when drawing up the Agenda. Moreover, the accomplishment of one cannot exist without the realization of the other.
FIGHTING POVERTY THROUGH MIGRATION?
Several factors contribute to migration. One such factor is the level of development of the country of origin. Concurrently, migration itself stimulates development and investments in countries of origin, reduces the inequality gap between countries and it contributes to the development of exit countries, transit countries and countries of arrival. Past experience shows that migration is a powerful instrument to reduce poverty, not only for the migrants themselves, but also for their families and, by extension, their surrounding social network. However, this just does not happen automatically.
MIGRATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: IT IS COMPLICATED
How do we ensure that migration can contribute globally to development and thereby helps to meet the 2030 Agenda?
First and foremost, we need to understand the possible impact of migration on the Development Goals and, conversely, the impact of development on the prospective migration models. This not an intellectual effort in a vacuum. The relation between migration and development will entail implications for political decision-making.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an important step forward in fostering a better understanding of migration. After all, the 2030 Agenda in its entirety is the first one to formally acknowledge the role of migration in international development frameworks. The 2030 Agenda does not only emphasize the importance of migration but it also explicitly establishes migration as a factor that may contribute to development and poverty eradication.
The following SDGs indicate the relationship between migration and sustainable development:
- SDG 8 refers to the contribution of migrant workers to economic growth and decent work;
- SDG 16 insists on the problems of human trafficking (there can be no peaceful societies if no measures are taken to tackle human trafficking);
- SDG 10 requests a reduction of the transaction costs of remittances; and
- SDG 10.7 (a kind of sub-goal, if not the cornerstone of migration in the 2030 Agenda) calls for facilitation of ‘safe, regular and responsible migration’ and the implementation of ‘a properly managed migration policy’.
MIGRATION IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT
What does a properly managed migration policy look like? Does the pursuit of economic development impede a natural phenomenon like migration?
Firstly, economic growth can never be the ultimate goal – we call for integral human development, meaning not thinking purely in terms of economics.
Secondly, social and cultural aspects play a pivotal role. Migration guarantees renewal. Migration brings people and cultures in contact with each other that would otherwise not have made contact. Policy advisers are surely aware of this but nowadays they too often lack the courage to make use of the advantages of this “new” reality and to reduce the associated challenges. We will return to this in the following weeks. What are those advantages? And the disadvantages? The obstacles?
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
One last consideration. How you are participating in development is just as important as your participation in development. There is a risk that we reinforce irrelevant dynamics, such as donor country and recipient country, and home country and host country if we look at migration only in strictly economic terms.
Migration has long ceased to be simply movement between one place and another. And it probably never was. Migration is complex. There are often dozens of other villages/cities/regions/countries/points between village/city/region/country/point A and village/city/region/country/point B.
The 2030 Agenda offers us the opportunity to tell the story of migration with a nuanced approach and to frame and reconcile migration, development, and politics. Only in this way will the Agenda succeed. Migration will be normalized again without romanticizing it.
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