Lowering the costs and amplifying the benefits of migration.

Author:Sutherland, Peter

The evidence is clear: migration contributes more powerfully to development than any other means we know. When states and stakeholders gather in October 2013 at the second High-level Dialogue on Migration and Development, they need to build on this knowledge by committing to concrete actions. If more states work together and make better informed policy choices, they can generate large economic and social gains from migration, while ensuring decent living and working conditions for migrants.

International cooperation on migration has made remarkable progress since the first High-level Dialogue in 2006. Seven years ago, the situation was grim. Distrust among states was commonplace. The notion that migration could be constructively discussed at the United Nations was widely dismissed. However, the creation of the state-led Global Forum on Migration and Development, which was created at the 2006 HLD, has fundamentally changed the calculus of cooperation.

In its first six years, the Global Forum proved to be a safe harbour, a place to discuss the challenges of migration in a collegial and non-binding manner. Old paradigms have crumbled, myths have been shattered and relationships and trust have begun to grow. States and other stakeholders, grounded in facts and practices, are fostering a common understanding of migration and migrants. The Forum's value is now self-evident--approximately 150 countries gather every year to analyze common challenges. Countries that were once silent on migration in international debates are now vigorous participants. Civil society has also become a strong and persuasive interlocutor on policy issues.

Given everything we now know, we must act in a more resolute fashion. Remittances capture migration's impact in a compelling way: migrants sent $401 billion to developing countries alone in 2012, triple the amount of overseas development assistance. These flows are far more reliable than other funding sources. When the global financial crisis hit, foreign direct investment in developing countries plunged 89 per cent, while remittances dipped just 5 per cent; today, they are growing 9 per cent annually. Remittances also go directly to the people who know how to use them best. In Bangladesh, just 13 per cent of households that receive remittances are below the poverty line, compared to 34 per cent of those that do not. However, remittances tell only a small part of the story of how human mobility is shaping our world for the better.

Receiving communities, for instance, rely on migrants to help meet critical needs for labourers. They perform the most fundamental tasks, from building roads and homes to taking care of the very young and the very old. We also know that migrants spark innovation: in the United States, patent issuance rose by 15 per cent with each 1.3 per cent increase in the share of migrant university graduates. In addition, we need to take into account the taxes migrants pay, the investments they make and the trade they stimulate.

Meanwhile, we have learned that migration does not, in net...

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