Partnerships in Action: Enabling the Development Benefits of Migration

Participants in social cohesion initiatives in Peru. Photo: UNDP Peru 2021

Geneva, 6 May 2022 – All the best partnerships are better than the sum of their parts. By working together, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have had a greater impact enhancing the contribution of migration to sustainable development.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, recognizes that migration is a powerful driver of sustainable development, and that when well-managed, migration can be both a development strategy and a development outcome.

Migrants bring significant benefits to their host communities through their skills, strengthening the labour force and providing investment, innovation and cultural diversity. They also play a significant role in improving the lives in their countries of origin through the transfer of remittances and other financial resources, as well as through the values and knowledge diasporas share with their communities of origin. As much as migration has an impact on development, migration is also affected by development. Conflict, climate change, and labour market changes – amongst others – can all impact the drivers and nature of migration and displacement.

Being a complex phenomenon that touches on a multiplicity of social and economic aspects, it cannot be approached in isolation, and no organization can adequately address migration and forced displacement on its own. It requires broad partnerships.

In the shadow of the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on migrants and host communities, IOM and UNDP launched a joint initiative providing start-up funds for locally driven, innovative, resilient and scalable programmes in 2021. Through two rounds of funding, 17 IOM and UNDP country offices received a grant to implement joint actions.

In Kazakhstan, evidence indicates that changing climate conditions have been shaping lives and livelihoods, and that these changes are linked with migration in various ways. More and more often, families encourage a member to migrate to an urban area to seek better income-generating opportunities. Photo: IOM Kazakhstan 2021/Abira Kuandyk

In Costa Rica for instance, IOM and UNDP contributed to social cohesion in La Caprio, an informal settlement on the western limits of San Jose that hosts many Nicaraguan and internal migrants. In this community, IOM and UNDP brought together our partner networks to train women on hairdressing and entrepreneurial skills, to provide basic equipment and to re-establish a training centre. By integrating the migrants into the host community, the programme created better bonds of friendship between the groups.

In northern Mozambique, where about 732,000 people are currently displaced, IOM and UNDP combined their data gathering and managing tools to better understand what were the root causes of the conflict and to monitor the impact of peacebuilding efforts. 

In Indonesia, more than 108,000 migrant workers overseas lost their jobs and returned to their rural areas of origin in the country due to COVID-19, straining villages’ resources and capacities. Photo: IOM Indonesia 2021

A rise in armed conflict in Burkina Faso has led to the displacement of 1.5 million people. COVID-19 has worsened their situation, especially for women and the young people. In Kaya, IOM and UNDP have supported employment opportunities and entrepreneurship initiatives for young women and reinforced the role of local authorities in strengthening resilience and social cohesion between displaced and host communities.

Evidence indicates that changing climate conditions have already impacted livelihoods, which in turn have had an effect on migration patterns. IOM and UNDP leveraged their respective expertise to improve data collection and the capacities of national stakeholders to effectively incorporate migration and climate change into Kazakhstan’s development agenda at national and local levels.

In Burkina Faso, COVID-19 and its economic and social impacts have deteriorated nearly all aspects of life and have worsened the socioeconomic situation of refugees and internally displaced persons, especially women and youth. Photo: IOM Burkina Faso 2021

Through strategic collaboration and operational partnerships between our two organizations, we have enriched our respective technical knowledge and expertise. We had greater coherence in our actions, and further engaged and connected stakeholders across policy sectors; to the benefit of migrants, their families, and communities affected by migration and forced displacement.

We have demonstrated the relevance of the partnership across a broad range of topics, such as inclusive policy planning and implementation, community development, peacebuilding, community stabilization and conflict prevention, COVID-19 recovery, local governance, integration and social cohesion, diaspora engagement, migration and the environment, and employment and livelihoods.

The informal settlement of La Carpio located on the limits of San Jose, Costa Rica, hosts over 30,000 people amongst which many are Costa Rican and Nicaraguan migrants. Challenges of prevailing poverty, high unemployment, widespread violence, as well as the continuous arrival of more residents, have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: IOM Costa Rica 2021.

The results from the seed funding show that IOM and UNDP collaboration can maximize efficiencies in delivering services and support to governments, migrants and their communities, increasing the impact of interventions and accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We look forward to supporting our offices in seed-funding countries and beyond to build on this work and mobilize resources for sustainable and scaled interventions, honouring our joint commitment to the UN Decade of Action. 

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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the leading international intergovernmental organization in the field of migration, committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. With partners in the international community, it assists in meeting the growing operational challenges of migration management, advances understanding of migration issues, encourages social and economic development through migration and upholds the human dignity and well-being of all migrants.

As the UN lead agency on international development, UNDP works in 170 countries and territories to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. UNDP’s mandate is to end poverty, build democratic governance, rule of law, and inclusive institutions. UNDP advocates for change, and connect countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life.


Text by Cécile Riallant, Head, Migration and Sustainable Development Division (IOM) and Luca Renda, Head, Recovery Solutions and Human Mobility Team – Crisis Bureau  (UNDP)

SDG 1 - No Poverty
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals