UNDP_LA_Friendship Bridge_Fradelizi
Potential migrants wait to cross the border at the Friendship Bridge connecting Lao PDR and Thailand. About 3.4% of the world's population , or 258 million people, are international migrants. Photo: NSC/UNDP/Stanislas Fradelizi

On the occasion of the International Migrants Day, let us not forget the millions of migrants in different parts of the world, from Lake Chad Basin or the Mediterranean Sea to Europe; the ones toiling and dying in slavery conditions in Libya; the Rohingya in Myanmar, in the dangerous waters of the Andaman Sea and those facing hunger in Bangladesh.

Let's not forget the Migrants and asylum seekers treading bare footed in the northern Triangle in Latin America, many of them unaccompanied minors, set on reaching the United States of America, nor should we forget the over five million Syrians spread across neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt; let alone the ones that crossed to Europe.

But let's also today, on the occasion of International Migrants Day, celebrate the heroes that have provided the needed shelter, land, protection, food, health, education, economic opportunities - jobs and livelihoods to the migrants and refugees; the countries that have allowed them a safer passage within their borders and above all provided them with security and livelihoods.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has summed up migration well: 

"Migration has always been with us. Climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities, and aspirations for a better life, as well as unmet needs in labour markets, mean it is here to stay. The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and that the human rights of all concerned are properly protected"

Host countries, host communities, resettlement countries and countries of free and secure transit are not only sharing the burden but saving lives and people's livelihoods. In most cases, it is developing countries and middle-income countries that have the greatest per capita occupancy by migrants, be they economic migrants, refugees or asylum seekers. They are not idle, but contributing immensely to economies in these countries. Hats off to them.

We are all migrants after all. We left our countries maybe  a few weeks, a few years or long ago. The drivers and root causes of leaving are many as summed up by the UN Secretary-General. This is precisely why as a development agency, UNDP is a key partner of Member States, UN agencies and civil society organizations working towards Safe Migration in a World on the Move.

Aerial view of a crowded boat in the Mediterranean Sea
Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat are pictured moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. One of the consequences of conflicts around the world has been a dramatic growth in the number of refugees seeking safety by undertaking dangerous journeys. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

On the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants by the UN General Assembly on 19 September 2016, UNDP made the following commitments to support Member States achieve safe, orderly and regular migration:

  • Together with partners, integrate migration and displacement into national and local development plans including in the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals, and support the implementation of these plans;
  • Address the drivers of migration and root causes of forced displacement, in particular, in countries of origin;
  • Advocate for and strengthen humanitarian-development linkages in support of migrants, IDPs, refugees and host communities; and
  • Help migrants, IDPs and refugees and their host communities to cope, recover and strengthen their development gains.

In line with these commitments, UNDP is supporting over 30 countries on migration and displacement, supporting member states in one or more areas mentioned above. For example:

  • In Bangladesh, UNDP and IOM have assisted the government to develop the National Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Policy. For the first time, the five-year plan reflects “migration and development” as an issue to be addressed through a multi-sectoral approach, and implementation is in progress at national and local level.

    With UNDP support, the Bangladeshi Government is implementing the Access to Information (a2i) programme for migrants. This initiative is ensuring safe overseas migration by creating a service platform for migrant workers and developing their skills, so that they can earn higher incomes to better support families back home.

  • Within the Regional Refugee Resilience Plan (3RP) in the Arab States, to increase employability of refugees and host community members, in 2017, livelihoods sector partners assisted over 64,000 refugees and host community members through job and language training as well as job referral services. Multi-agency efforts on job training were implemented in Jordan, where demand-driven vocational training was supported by UNDP, WFP, Jordan Hospitality & Tourism Education Company (JHTEC) in partnership with Jordan Education for Employment (JEFE) and the National Micro-Finance Bank, in order to provide skills in the areas of retail sales, food processing and electronics.

These are all migrants striving for a better life, and we are committed to supporting them, their countries of origin, transit and destination. We cannot and must never turn a blind eye to this growing phenomenon, which affects so many people. Safe migration is everyone’s goal, and UNDP is happy to contribute to this important goal, for Safe Migration in a World on the Move.

About the author
Owen Shumba is the team leader of the Livelihoods and Economic Recovery Group for the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support at UNDP. He leads UNDP’s work on migration and displacement. Follow him on Twitter: @OwenShumba 

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