IOM Institutional Strategy on Migration and Sustainable Development

The IOM Institutional Strategy on Migration and Sustainable Development outlines a whole-of-organization approach to comprehensively integrate migration and development into policymaking and programming within IOM. It recognizes that migration, when well managed, can be both a development strategy and a development outcome. 

The Strategy represents IOM’s direct contribution to the Decade of Action to fast track progress for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. The Strategy brings greater coherence and development impact to IOM’s activities and allows for a joined up approach to the way the Organization designs and delivers its operations, as called for in IOM’s Strategic Vision. It supports IOM’s active engagement in the UN Development System and hinges on building stronger partnerships within the UN system and beyond.

The Strategy is available in English, French and Spanish. For more information about the Strategy or IOM’s work on migration and sustainable development, please contact the Migration and Sustainable Development Unit at

Table of contents: 

I. The Opportunity 
II. The Migration and Sustainable Development Nexus 
III. IOM’S Approach 
IV. How We Will Deliver 
V. Looking Forward 



End poverty in all its forms everywhere


Boosting migration’s poverty-reduction effects. Through knowledge and skills transfer, remittances and more, migration can be a significant poverty-reduction tool for migrants and their families, and can make significant contributions to development efforts in both countries of origin and destination.

Including migrants in social protection coverage and policies. Social protection coverage for migrants tends to be low. There is a need to ensure migrants are both eligible for and effectively participate in social protection mechanisms, and are not discriminated against based on sex, age or migratory status, among other factors.

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture


Improving food security and nutrition for all. Inclusively addressing hunger and malnutrition would help address the lack thereof as a potential determinant of migration for some individuals and their families. Further, it is important to include migrants at all stages of the migration lifecycle in efforts to improve food security and nutrition, as they can be more vulnerable in this context.

Promoting sustainable agriculture. Strengthening climate change and other adaptation strategies for agricultural communities to help boost livelihoods and help prevent forced environmental migration, as this can help promote productivity and strengthen incomes.

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages


Including migrants in health coverage. The SDGs call for universal health coverage; it is important to proactively include migrants under schemes and guarantee continuity of quality services throughout the whole migration cycle.

Including migrants across health targets. Migrants face disproportionate health vulnerabilities in some contexts. For example, migrant women and girls often lack access to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education, and as a result experience negative outcomes. Some migrants may be susceptible to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria and others, due to limited hygiene, nutrition and living conditions, lack of access to health care, and heightened exposure to other risk factors. Others may be more at risk for non-communicable diseases and mental health issues. Therefore, it is important to proactively include migrants in implementation of various health targets.

Improving the distribution of the global health workforce. Migration of health workers has impacts on health systems in different countries, and the SDGs call for improved management of human resource development and deployment in the health sector. Implementing well-designed skill policies, including ethical recruitment codes such as the WHO ethical code of recruitment for medical staff, would help alleviate health worker shortages.

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all


Increasing international student mobility. The SDGs call for expanding the number of cross-border scholarships available. This would help increase the number of education migrants and improve higher education opportunities for many.

Including migrants and migrant children in education targets. Migrants’ access to quality education can be limited. This is especially significant for children, who make up a substantial share of migrants and refugees. Therefore, including migrants, in particular migrant children, in education planning and provision is essential.

Helping address the relationship between labour migration and education. The SDGs call to ensure equal access to technical, vocational and tertiary education and increase the availability of relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills. This would help strengthen links between the supply and demand of skills, ultimately helping govern labour migration better.

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls


Addressing trafficking and exploitation of women and children. This would help address human trafficking in a gender- and age-sensitive way, and allow actors to focus on certain types of trafficking that women, girls and boys may be particularly vulnerable to, such as trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced marriage or trafficking of children for forced begging.

Protecting and empowering migrant domestic workers. This would help end migrant domestic workers’ abuse, exploitation and violence. Most migrant domestic workers are women and adolescent girls. Working in a largely informal and unregulated sector, they are at higher risk of exploitation, labour and human rights violations, and sexual and gender-based violence.

Taking a gender-responsive approach to migration governance. Addressing gender-related targets under the SDGs can help promote safe migration for women by capturing specific needs of migrant women, and encourage migration as a source of women’s empowerment. Further, tackling gender inequality could help reduce gendered potential drivers of migration such as gender-based violence or discriminatory practices such as female genital mutilation, as well as gender-based socio-economic challenges such as discrimination.

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all


Improving the access to clean water and sanitation for all. Water scarcity and related issues may shape factors like jobs, food availability, and living standards, which in turn can act as determinants of migration for some. Further, it is important to ensure efforts to improve clean water and sanitation access inclusively address migrants’ needs, especially as migrants often face specific barriers in accessing, for example, WASH services.

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all


Including migrants in efforts to expand affordable and clean energy access. Migrants can be vulnerable groups when it comes to accessing affordable, reliable and modern energy, especially certain migrant groups such as refugees and IDPs.

Working towards sustainable energy consumption for migrants and native populations alike. Many cities and communities face increasing demand for goods and services as a result of migration, and there can be high pressure on already scarce resources and a rise in energy consumption. Achieving sustainable energy consumption patterns would help address these issues.

Including migrants and migrant organisations in energy management. Migrant groups can be directly involved in energy management, and remittances, investment and knowledge transfers can also help enhance access to energy services and support renewable energy technologies.

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all


Protecting migrant labour rights and promoting decent work. This would help migrant workers by addressing common challenges including those relating to working conditions, wages, social protection, occupational safety, access to health care, and migration status. By strengthening ethical recruitment practices and helping eliminate recruitment fees, this would also address human trafficking, debt bondage and forced labour.

Combatting forced labour, trafficking for forced labour, child labour, and all other types of labour exploitation. This can help work towards strengthening protection of exploited and trafficked individuals, prevention of trafficking and exploitation, prosecution and redress related to these crimes, promoting dialogue and cooperation on counter-trafficking, boosting human trafficking data collection and analysis, and more.

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation


Supporting decent work through infrastructure development. This can help address unemployment as a potential determinant of migration.

Ensuring infrastructure is affordable and equitable to all migrants. Migrants can sometimes be disadvantaged in accessing transport, energy and other types of infrastructure, and should be proactively included in efforts to improve infrastructure access. This also includes access to financial services for migrants and migrant enterprises.

Reduce inequality within and among countries


Facilitating orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility, and encouraging the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies. This would help govern migration for the benefit of all. Target 10.7 acknowledges that effective migration governance is key for safer, more orderly and more regular migration. This includes promoting regular migration that respects the rights of all migrants, and leveraging the positive development impact of migration for migrants themselves as well as for all communities and countries.

Lowering remittance transaction costs. This would help strengthen the positive impacts of remittances, benefiting migrants, and their families and communities. Transfer costs can be high, burdening migrants, discouraging using formal channels for remittances, and hampering the development potential of remittances. Addressing this often involves increasing competition and transparency in the transfer market, helping migrants make informed decisions. 

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable


Working towards making cities inclusive for migrants. Migrants are often especially vulnerable within cities. They may have low knowledge of local contexts, and/or multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, reducing their ability to access resources and opportunities such as housing, employment and basic services. Proactively including migrants across city-related targets, such as in affordable housing, would benefit migrants. Further, the SDGs promote a participatory and inclusive approach to city planning and management, and this should include migrant participation.

Including migrants in urban disaster risk reduction (DRR) and disaster risk management (DRM). Migrants are often more vulnerable to disasters in urban areas. For example, as informal settlements in peri-urban areas of less developed countries are often hazard-prone, migrants may be among the first and worst affected by hazards and consequently disasters, as well as less able to cope when these occur. The SDGs call to reduce deaths and mitigate negative impacts of disasters, and migrants should be proactively included in mechanisms around this.

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns


Improving sustainable production and consumption patterns for all. Unsustainable practices can have negative impacts on the environment and can be one of several migration determinants for individuals.

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts


Including migrants in disaster risk reduction and management (DRR and DRM) across settings. Migrants often face heightened risks in disasters; for example they are often especially exposed to natural hazards, such as landslides and floods. Therefore, migrant-specific needs and vulnerabilities need to be considered in disaster prevention, preparedness and resilience programming, including in emergency response and early warning systems.

Integrating migration as an integral component across climate change policy and practice. Migration, environmental degradation and climate change are deeply intertwined. There are many interactions between these areas, and integrating migration considerations into climate change action under the SDGs can help minimize forced migration due to environmental and climate change through local adaption where possible, facilitate safe migration as a potential climate change adaptation (CCA) strategy where necessary, and more.

Including migration and migrants in education and awareness-raising on climate change. This will strengthen public awareness of mobility dimensions of climate change. As they are often at higher risk of climate hazards, including migrants in campaigns would also help inform them of climate change risks they face and how to reduce their vulnerability to these.

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development


Combatting marine and coastal ecosystem degradation can help address forced displacement and migration. Specifically, improving and diversifying livelihoods of communities that are dependent on marine resources can help address related issues as a potential driver of migration.

Leveraging migrants towards addressing marine and coastal ecosystem sustainability. Migrants have high potential to contribute to this, through diaspora investment and by introducing knowledge, skills and technology to communities.

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss


Addressing displacement or migration due to desertification and land degradation (DLD). Combatting unsustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, desertification, land degradation and biodiversity loss can help manage the negative consequences of climate change, which in turn can help address potential determinants of migration. DLD issues can be, for example, linked to a loss of livelihoods, and migration can be an adaptation strategy to cope with these and other adverse effects of climate change.

Increasing migrant and diaspora investment into initiatives addressing DLD. Migrants can help improve DLD issues through investment, knowledge and skills transfer, and more.