National policies need to optimize rural migration: UN

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Rome, Oct 15 (IANS/AKI) Governments need to exploit the contribution made to national economies by rural migrants, the UN said on Monday in a new report which argues that policies should not stem or accelerate migration but optimize its potential and limit its costs.

Migration, agriculture and rural development policies should be coherent to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s The State of Food and Agriculture 2018 report argues.

“We cannot ignore the challenges and costs associated with migration,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva notes in his forward to the report. “The objective must be to make migration a choice, not a necessity, and to maximize the positive impacts while minimizing the negative ones.”

While international migration makes the news, migration within a country or region is a much larger phenomenon, with 80 percent of moves involving a rural area, FAO underlined.

The report, which analyses links between rural and international migration, urges efforts in peace- and resilience-building to help communities better withstand crises and not be forced to move, as well as outlining action for different country contexts.

“In many situations it makes sense to facilitate migration and help prospective migrants overcome the constraints they might face, allowing them to take advantage of the opportunities that migration offers,” said Graziano da Silva.

“At the same time, it also means providing attractive alternative opportunities to prospective rural migrants, not least by promoting development in rural areas or in their proximity,” Graziano da Silva added.

More than 1 billion people living in developing countries have moved internally, with 80 percent of moves involving a rural area, the report says.

Rural migration will continue to be an essential element of economic and social development for both destination and origin countries, the report argues.

The report shows that migration between developing countries is slightly greater than movements from developing to developed countries, and in low-income countries, internal migrants are five times more likely to migrate internationally than people who have not moved.

Countries with ‘development momentum’ should focus on promoting employment opportunities in agricultural value chains to provide jobs for rural communities close to where they live, according to the report’s recommendations.

For countries where youth employment is a challenge, it is essential to create decent on- and off-farm employment opportunities in rural areas while also facilitating orderly migration, the report finds.

Other countries at ‘an intermediate level of development’ should prioritise rural-urban connectivity to expand economic opportunities and reduce the numbers of people forced to migrate to survive, the reports says.

Destination countries, including “aspirational destination” countries should address challenges posed by the poor integration of migrants, the report underlines.

For those who leave their local areas, migration can mean higher incomes, access to better social services, and improved livelihoods, education and nutrition, the report points out.

Migrants can also help the economic development back home through remittances, and can contribute to the overall development of these societies through new productive resources, skills and ideas, FAO noted.

“But migration is not an option for the poorest of the poor who cannot afford the financial cost,” FAO stated.

Moreover, migration can be disruptive for families and communities of origin, especially when the young and better educated leave.

Despite international donors and policymakers often investing in economic development in a bid to stem migration, development frequently leads to more, not less, international migration, the report notes.

This is because development in low and lower-middle income countries will help incomes grow, enabling people to cover their migration costs, FAO pointed out.

–IANS/AKI

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