For over 20 years, the international community celebrates International Migrants Day on 18 December. The day was selected to mark the anniversary of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1990. It is the day to praise the contributions made by migrants across the globe. Some of them fled conflicts, violence, war and environmental disasters. The majority, however, pursued economic goals given the lack of decent economic opportunities at home.
According to the latest UN estimates, there were around 281 million international migrants in the world in 2020, which equates to 3.6 per cent of the global population. The great majority of people thus do not migrate across borders. After all, migration is an endeavour requiring financial means, connections, knowledge and considerable resilience to withstand arising challenges. Meanwhile, the migration discourse, often fuelled by misinformation and politicization, can overshadow the amount of ‘good’ that migrants bring and their important role as actors of change, socio-economic development and societal prosperity. Migrants provide a source of dynamism globally and are overrepresented in innovation and patents, arts and sciences awards, start-ups and successful companies.
Among various contributions, migrants and diasporas are increasingly seen as key to various peacebuilding efforts in conflict-affected countries. These efforts often include:
- Activism and awareness-raising. There are sound examples when campaigning and lobbying for political involvement of countries of destination and residence helped to speed up peace processes in countries of origin or heritage.
- Building bridges and fostering constructive dialogue. Migrants’ contextual knowledge can support conflict resolution and peace building across borders.
- Restoring and creating key institutions, such as diaspora agencies, which may otherwise not exist or may have been undermined during conflict.
- Fostering policy development and negotiations to improve the political future of a country.
- Returning home to run community and social cohesion programmes or take up key roles in government.
- Financial contributions directed toward post-conflict reconstruction and development. International remittances have been widely shown as fundamental to supporting families and local communities, but also as important economic assets at macro level. Remittances can reduce the risk of conflict and diminish incentives for civil war in times of economic distress by helping to address the welfare needs of citizens.
- “Social remittances” or the ideas, values and practices that migrants bring with them.
Read more about migrants and migration in the recent World Migration Report 2022.