29 April 2014, Dhaka, Bangladesh - The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) mark a historical chapter in global development processes and engagement. There has been significant progress in achieving some of the Goals by the imminent target date of 2015, and a successive global development agenda for the next 15 years is now being defined by the global community.

In June 2012, at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Member States agreed to start crafting a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that build upon the MDGs and converge with the post-2015 development agenda. A 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) of the UN General Assembly was established in January 2013, and on 18 March 2014, it issued a report with a list of 19 “focus areas” that will form the basis of further deliberation and consideration by Member States through the 69th UN General Assembly in September.

Back in 2000, when 189 states committed to the MDGs and to reducing poverty and multiple deprivations, migration or human mobility was not explicitly mentioned as an “enabler” of development. Today, we can say that there has been a fundamental shift in our understanding from perceiving migration simply as an outcome of development failure, to migration as promoting development and growth. As SRSG for Migration and Development, Mr. Peter Sutherland, has stated: “…migration is the original strategy for people seeking to escape poverty, mitigate risk, and build a better life.”[i]

Migrants who move from countries with a low human development index (HDI) to a higher HDI country experienced, on average, a 15-fold increase in income; a doubling in education enrolment rate; and a 16-fold reduction in child mortality.[ii] We also know that the portion of migrants earnings which constitute remittances ($404 billion in 2013[iii]) have been shown to reduce poverty among families left behind by supplementing household incomes and enabling them to invest in housing, health and education.[iv]

The question becomes whether migration will be explicitly tagged in the post-2015 development agenda.  This issue is at the crux of the Global Expert Meeting on Migration in the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda taking place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 28-29 April 2014, hosted by the Governments of Bangladesh and Switzerland. This Expert Meeting serves to reinforce the role that migration plays in development processes, and promotes the inclusion of migration in the architecture of the post-2015 agenda. It will narrow the focus on areas in which migration is most likely to factor into the new development agenda, namely: health; education; employment and decent work; and means of implementation.

UNITAR has been called upon for its expertise in the area of migration policy and processes to contribute to the Dhaka gathering.UNITAR currently leads the Post-2015 Development Agenda Orientation and Briefing Programme for delegates in New York and Geneva. 

With the current figures and projections on migration and its multiple impacts on the three pillars of sustainable development, the development community is beginning to recognise human mobility as a transformative issue for post-2015: in the Rio+20 Outcome Document “The Future We Want,” migration is noted as a major issue within population dynamics; and the UN Secretary General’s Report to the UN General Assembly on post-2015 in September 2013 characterises migration as one transformative issue for sustainable development. 

During the second UN High-level Dialogue (HLD) on International Migration and Development in October 2013, a political declaration on international migration and development was adopted, and the integration of migration in the post-2015 development agenda was called for. The UN Secretary-General announced his 8 Point Action Agenda for “making migration work” and civil society proposed a 5-year Action Plan that also includes the importance of migration in the Post-2015 Agenda.

The Expert Meeting in Dhaka will draw on these important milestones and thecontributions of all fora and platforms such as the Open-ended Working Group on SDGs, the Informal Working Group on migration and Post-2015, the Global Migration Group (GMG), the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), and regional and national initiatives should be taken into account. Its recommendations will also be discussed at the forthcoming 7th Forum Meeting of the GFMD taking place in Stockholm on 14-16 May 2014.

What would the inclusion of migration in the post-2015 development agenda represent? First off, migration would likely become a more significant and systematic variable in development planning. Second, we might expect additional attention and resources invested in addressing gaps in data, capacities, etc.  And third, fundamentally, migration’s explicit references in the global pro-development agenda would certainly have an impact on perceptions, i.e. the public’s perceptions – of migrants not as people looking for hand-outs but quite the opposite, individuals seeking out opportunities to contribute, and in most cases doing just that.


[i]Peter Sutherland, SRSG, “Migration is Development”, Project Syndicate, 15 March 2013.

[ii]UNDP (2009) Human Development Report, Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development.  As cited in Rosengaerter 2013.

[iv]“Global Partnerships and Challenges: the Role of Migration in the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, Background Paper on Migration and Mobility within the Post-2015 Agenda produced by Sarah Rosengaertner, UNDP, 12 March 2013, p.11.