How does migration fit into the Sustainable Development Goals?

How does migration fit into the Sustainable Development Goals?

Marjanneke Vijge

Migration is a key part of our society. With around 750 million migrants across the globe, migration should be incorporated into sustainable development planning, and in particular in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is a key conclusion of a recently published article in The Lancet Planetary Health, which was the result of a workshop organized by MISTY: Migration, Transformation, Sustainability.

As the SDGs were being negotiated, many European countries were dealing with large influxes of migrants from Syria and other conflict-affected countries. The SDGs reflect the idea that migration is temporary, and that it should be planned in an “orderly, safe [and] regular” manner. Benefits from migration are mainly considered in the form of remittances to the country of origin, but this fails to recognize that migrants are often economically very active, a source of cultural diversity, and thereby significantly contribute to innovation and economic growth. Migration should be addressed as an inherent part of (sustainable) development, including in the country of destination.

Migration and sustainable cities
Take SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities, for example. Many city slums are a result of people migrating to cities in search of new (employment) opportunities. This means that the social integration of these migrants into urban planning is key to creating sustainable cities around the world, and thereby achieving the SDGs.

Migration and climate change
Another example is the intricate links between climate change and migration – there are currently already 25 million migrants due to weather-related disasters. To make societies more resilient and adaptable to such climatic changes in the long run, it is crucial to incorporate migration as an inherent part of managing social transformations.

Several members of the GlobalGoals project are active in MISTY: Migration, Transformation, Sustainability, which is supported by the University of Exeter and studies the relationship between migration and sustainable development.

Further reading
Adger, W.N., Boyd, E., Fábos, A., Fransen, S., Jolivet, D., Neville, G., de Campos, R.S. and Vijge, M.J. (2019). Migration transforms the conditions for the achievement of the Sustainable Development GoalsThe Lancet Planetary Health3(11), 440-442.