Migration and the 2030 Agenda

The SDGs’ central reference to migration is made in target 10.7 to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies, which appears under Goal 10 to reduce inequality within and among countries. Other targets that directly reference migration mention trafficking, remittances, international student mobility and more.

Migration is also a cross-cutting issue which is relevant to all 17 of the SDGs and most of the 169 targets in the Agenda. Therefore, it is important to go beyond the specific references to migration and to acknowledge and address the mutually supporting relationships between migration and each of the Goals and targets. 

The need for timely, reliable and comparable data on migration

As was the case for the Millennium Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda includes a voluntary and multilayered follow-up mechanism to review progress on the SDG targets over the next 15 years. As the SDGs are a country-owned process, the responsibility of SDG reporting lies with national governments. National reviews will be the linchpin of the follow-up and review of the implementation of the SDGs, with regional, global and thematic reviews being conducted to complement the process.

To globally monitor SDG progress, the Inter-Agency and Expert Group (IAEG) on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators developed a list of 232 individual global indicators, including several on migration. If global indicators cannot be reported, or as an addition to the process, governments may also develop proxy indicators to monitor targets separately at the local or national level.

A key focus of the SDG process is to promote greater disaggregation in data to better serve certain vulnerable groups and ensure no one is left behind. To this end, target 17.18 calls specifically for data to be disaggregated by migratory status. Doing this is an opportunity to gain better data on different dimensions of migrants’ situations to understand better their living conditions, and to understand how migration impacts on health, income, education and other areas. Greater disaggregation is also necessary in order to integrate migration as a cross-cutting theme across other development sectors.

Meeting follow up and review requirements for the Goals is challenging and can present a significant burden to governments, in particular to national statistical offices. As of late 2017, no data exist for two thirds of the 232 official internationally-set SDG indicators1. Further, the global-level migration indicators are relatively under-developed and currently none of the IAEG-proposed global indicators that relate to migration are Tier 1 (i.e. they do not have established methodologies and ongoing global data collection).

Therefore, there is a need for countries to improve their capacity to generate meaningful reporting on migration in the context of the SDGs. Steps must be taken to improve capacity to generatetimely, reliable, and comparable data on migration to help guide policy makers in devising evidence-based policies and plans of action to tackle migration aspects of the SDGs. A key focus for migration data capacity building is also to increase disaggregation of all data by migration-related variables. Several countries already collect considerable amounts of data on migration, but lack the mechanisms to centralize, disaggregate and cross reference all data collected from various branches of the government. Better data sharing within the government and among countries will also improve policy coherence, which is a key condition to achieving the SDGs.

Overall, there is a need to improve migration data locally, nationally, regionally and internationally for SDG monitoring purposes, and governments need to work towards building their capacity to this end. Improving migration data is a crucial step to improving migration governance, and the SDG implementation process can help kick-start efforts to do this.

Ongoing work to measure migration in the SDGs

IOM and the Population Division of UNDESA have developed a methodology to measure the indicator 10.7.2 “the number of countries having well-managed migration policies”. This indicator is based on an assessment of six policy domains found in the Migration Governance Framework, adopted by the IOM Council in 2015. It is also inspired by the work IOM is conducting in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit on developing Migration Governance Indicators .

Further, the Migration Governance Indicators can also be used for the SDGs. These use 90 qualitative questions to measure performance across six domains, drawn from the Migration Governance Framework. It is a gap analysis tool that is not meant for ranking countries on their migration policies, but rather aims to offer insights on policy levers that countries can action to strengthen their migration governance, as well as identify best practices of future programming. The results of this assessment can also be used by governments to report on their progress in achieving target 10.7 as well as other migration-related targets. 


[1] OECD (2017), Development Co-operation Report 2017: Data for Development, OECD Publishing, Paris.