This week’s UN General Assembly meetings brought renewed attention to the set of global goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015.
The latest draft of the new “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) is a kitchen-sink-like receptacle for the interests of every possible development constituency. There are some obvious and glaring problems with this. To focus on the plus side, though, this enormous brain dump allows space for some intriguing new thinking about what the global community can and should agree upon.
As Michael Clemens has pointed out, migration was absent from the MDGs, but it has a place in the SDGs. In order to “reduce inequality within and among countries” (goal 10), the SDGs propose that we “facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies” and “by 2030, reduce to less than 3% the transaction costs of migrant remittances.”
Whether or not this language makes it into the final version of the goals, it reflects a tacit acknowledgment that for many poor people, migration is the best investment they can make, and that the goal-setting community would do well to help people maximize the return on that.
We sought to illustrate this idea in the above video (the second in our Lego series).
When compared with other options for how to spend scarce savings and resources (on education, housing or health care, for example) migration brings, by far, the highest return on that investment. Rather than asking, "How can we increase the amount of remittances devoted to investment?" as is common in the current research agenda, we may gain more from understanding that remittances themselves are already the return on a very rational investment, and instead ask, "What can we do to increase the return on investment available from migration?"