Director of the Human Development Report Office,
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, New York)
“Key findings of the Human Development Report 2013 in the field of migration”
Ü Eurasylum: The Human Development Report 2013, which is entitled “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World”, stresses that areas of global international concern meriting urgent attention today include trade, migration, climate change and development. The Report suggests that each of these areas has been significantly altered by the rise of the South. In the case of migration, it indicates, for example, that nearly half of the remittances sent home to countries in the South now originates from migrant workers in other developing countries. Can you guide us through some of the most noteworthy findings of the Report in the field of migration policy?
Ü Khalid Malik: The 2013 Report documents the changing patterns of migration globally from the traditional North-South axis alone to expanding immigration to developing countries from elsewhere in the South. For example:
1. In 2010, an estimated 3% of the world’s people (215 million) were first-generation immigrants, and close to half lived in developing countries. Almost 80% of South–South migration takes place between bordering countries. Migrant diasporas are a huge source of foreign exchange. In 2005, South–South remittances were estimated at 30%–45% of worldwide remittances from immigrants.
2. Many transnational opportunities in both trade and investment arise through personal connections, often between international migrants and their countries of origin. Diasporas are also a major source of information about market opportunities. For example, US multinational firms with a high proportion of employees from particular countries have been found to have less need to rely on joint-venture partners in those countries where their employees have cultural ties.
3. Development prospects are strongly influenced by demographic trends. Between 1970 and 2010, the dependency ratio (the ratio of children and elderly to the working-age population from ages 15 to 64) declined sharply in most regions — most dramatically in East Asia and the Pacific, where it dropped by 39%, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean and the Arab States, where it fell by 34%. The Report notes, however, that these trends are not deterministic. They can be counterbalanced, at least indirectly, by education policies and sometimes by migration policies.
Ü Eurasylum: The report discusses the fact that, due to the continuing growth in annual international migration – from an estimated 70 million four decades ago to more than 200 million today, originating largely from the South – there is a growing need for rules to protect the rights of migrants and provide agreed international norms for the flow of migrants between source and host countries. According to the Report, ‘such rules would benefit all parties, in both economic and social terms, while the costs of inaction will continue to mount’. Can you outline some of the rules and norms that would be likely to benefit both migrants and host societies and economies?
Ü Khalid Malik: While the governance of migration is not inevitably or exclusively a multilateral issue, international coordination mechanisms could provide a supporting framework for the emerging networks of regional and bilateral agreements. Regional and multilateral efforts could liberalize and simplify channels that allow people to seek work abroad, ensure basic rights for migrants, and reduce transaction costs associated with migration, enabling benefits from internal mobility, thereby improving outcomes for migrants and destination communities alike.
With the continuing growth in annual international migration — from an estimated 70 million four decades ago to more than 200 million today, originating largely from the South — there is a growing need for rules to protect the rights of migrants and provide agreed international norms for the flow of immigrants between source and host countries. Such rules would benefit all parties, in both economic and social terms, while the costs of inaction will continue to mount. The costs of inaction are not solely or even primarily financial: they include the profound human costs of forcibly prolonged family separation, all-too-common mistreatment in the workplace and the unnecessary and indefensible degradation of human dignity when foreign resident workers are not accorded basic legal rights.
Ü Eurasylum: In terms of governance and regional/international cooperation, the Report stresses that, while many regional organizations have added migration to their agendas, regional consultations have remained informal and non-binding. Can you highlight the current state of development of, and any positive outcomes that might have already been generated by international consultations such as the Berne Initiative 2001–2005, the High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development hosted by the UN General Assembly and the Global Forum on Migration and Development?
Ü Khalid Malik: The international processes mentioned, including the Global Forum and the UNGA High Level Dialogue, have not produced any binding commitments to date. Yet, one of the most salient contributions of these processes has been a reframing of migration in positive terms (as an opportunity for human development, as well as a potential asset for countries of origin and destination), and confidence building among governments. Advances have been made in sharing best practices and collaboration on issues of mutual interest, such as in the GFMD Platform for Partnerships (http://www.gfmd.org/en/pfp)
That said, the implementation of outcomes and recommendations coming out of the GFMD remains at the discretion of national governments. The UN is convening its second High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development this year (4-5 October), but countries remain divided on many of the issues to be discussed. One prospect is that the Dialogue could place the topic on the broader post-2015 international development agenda, integrating migration more firmly into the multilateral system.