In search of equality: Migration, forced displacement and the SDGs

Mobility and inequalities

High-level panel - Auditorium
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
16:00 to 17:30

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises that human mobility is intrinsically linked to inequality, the first time this link has been made in the global development framework. The Agenda’s universal commitment to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration, respect for human rights and the humane treatment of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons, is reflected in target 10.7 of the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This target is crucial to achieving all of the SDGs. 

In this session, global leaders will debate the complex relationship between mobility and inequalities. When given the opportunity to thrive, migrants, refugees and IDPs can make a decisive contribution to enable human mobility to be a powerful force to “leave no one behind”. 

Key points

  • Migration can be positive. GDP often rises when migrants are integrated into a country’s economic life.

  • The cost of excluding refugees from the receiving countries’ societies is higher than the cost of including them.

  • One way to tackle the root causes of migration is to create jobs in the migrants’ countries of origin.

  • Another is to create the conditions for increased regular, legal mobility.

  • The vast majority of refugees and displaced people go to developing countries. Financial assistance could help these countries to integrate them.


Safe, orderly and regular migration is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This target is crucial to achieving all of the SDGs. They can be met only if migrants and forcibly displaced populations - especially women and girls - are protected, and their livelihoods secured. The complex relationship between migration and inequality was discussed during this session. It is known that inequality is a driver of displacement. At the same time, mobility can promote development. Yet, in recent years, legal migration pathways have been reduced. We are facing a “triple emergency” around migrants and refugees. The first factor is an increase in the number of people fleeing conflicts and persecution. The second is “toxic politics” in the world’s wealthiest countries, pushing back on the idea that they have responsibilities to address these problems. There is a retreat from multilateral engagement. The third element of the emergency is that the humanitarian sectors are not working effectively enough in this area. None of the sustainable development targets directly addresses the situation of people caught up in a crisis. Properly managed migration is one possible way out of this situation. ‘If it’s managed, it’s manageable,’ said one speaker. But the EU, for example, still does not have an agreed settlement policy, due in part to differences among its Member States on this issue. Improving conditions in migrants’ countries of origin could be one way to ease the pressure – for example, by creating more new jobs there. This could involve more international cooperation on skills training and mutual recognition of skills. More work is needed to promote integration, not only among migrants, refugees and displaced people, but also among people in the receiving countries. Reintegration of returned migrants can also be a tool for the successful development of countries of origin, it was argued. And the relationship between migration and climate change needs to be more closely examined.


“The question to the EU is: How can you invest in African youth so we can keep them on our continent? We need them there.” - Judicaelle Irakoze, Young Leader, Burundi

Organised by


Marta Foresti
Director - Human Mobility Initiative
Overseas Development Institute
Judicaelle Irakoze
Young Leader - Burundi
David Miliband
President and CEO
International Rescue Committe
Antonio Manuel De Carvalho Ferreira Vitorino
Director General
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Stefano Manservisi
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
Kelly Tallmann Clements
Deputy High Commissioner
Saadatou Mallam Barmou
Special Adviser on Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Head of Cabinet of the Office of the Prime Minister
Government of Niger