Migration and Development

What does migration have to do with sustainable development? Only a few years ago, the debate about the effects of migration on development focused mainly on the difficulties and disadvantages for destination and origin countries alike. There was a particular concern that migration would lead to an outflow of skilled workers and expertise (brain drain). Today, however, the complexities of the situation have been recognised. It is understood that although migration can, in some circumstances, have an adverse effect, it also offers immense potential for sustainable development.

According to the United Nations, 232 million people worldwide – 3.2 per cent of the world’s population – were living outside their country of origin in 2013. Many of these migrants stay in touch with family and friends, support and visit them, or invest in their country of origin. Some go back to live in their country of origin after a time, while others migrate back and forth between the two countries. Migrants have a good knowledge of the cultures of their two worlds and speak both languages, so they can build bridges between their host and home countries. These links offer potential and diverse opportunities for sustainable development.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has therefore commissioned GIZ to develop mechanisms and strategies to unlock the development potential inherent in migration. The Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM), which is jointly run by GIZ and the German Federal Employment Agency, has developed programmes for migrants at all stages of the migration cycle:

  1. For people living outside the country of origin who wish to contribute to its development through community projects
  2. For migrants in Germany who wish to set up a business in the country of origin and maintain the links between the two countries
  3. For skilled returnees who wish to drive development from key positions in the country of origin.

CIM provides advisory services to the German Government’s partner countries on appropriate migration policy measures, such as protection of migrants, incentive and support schemes for those who like to return, and diaspora engagement.


Dr. Joachim Langbein

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