Post-2015: can we talk about migration?

Research reports and studies
February 2013
Paula Lucci and Pedro Martins

As the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline of 2015 approaches, discussions about what could replace them are gathering pace. There is no shortage of proposals on how the goals could be improved to reflect development challenges that were not as salient in the early 2000s. For example, there have been suggestions to place a stronger emphasis on growth, employment, equity, political accountability, security, environmental sustainability, and resilience – to name a few (Melamed, 2012).

Migration did not feature in the MDGs. MDG 8 aimed to develop a global partnership on key policy areas, which would be instrumental to achieve Goals 1 to 7. It included issues related to trade, debt relief, aid and knowledge transfer, but migration was not mentioned. Should migration feature in the debates about a future global agreement on development this time round? Despite the obvious political sensitivities, issues that go beyond the traditional development cooperation agenda – such as migration – deserve to be brought to the table.

In this paper, we discuss international migration in the context of the post-2015 debate. Our main objective is to consider if and how international labour migration could be adequately incorporated in a future global development framework. For instance, the role of labour migration as an additional tool to reduce global poverty (and demographic deficits) could be mentioned in a general narrative or statement on the goals, in a strengthened MDG 8, or in national ‘roadmaps’ to achieve the goals.

With only three years remaining, expectations on what could be effectively achieved on this agenda are fairly modest, particularly taking into account the dangers of overloading an already complex process. That said, at this stage it is important to be ambitious, since the political process will eventually narrow down the scope of the issues to be addressed. Ultimately, there is an intrinsic value in having discussions that contribute to raise awareness and improve the quality of the debate on the role of international migration in development.

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