Migration and UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030

Migration is affecting those people who move but also the societies they leave, arrive and transit. Also, it affects both population and planetary health and should be taken into account while planning, implementing, and evaluating actions for sustainable development.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is a major and relatively new framework with 17 wider goals which are measured by 169 targets and indicators. Since it has a broad political acceptance in different countries of the world it can be used as a framework for policy-making for sustainable development.

Since SDG are broad topics there is not an unanimous consensus on which of those 17 SDGs are specifically related to migration. Here are some SDGs to be considered: Decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), Reduced inequalities (SDG 10), Sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), Climate action (SDG 13), Peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16), Partnerships for the goals (SDG 17). Under these SDGs are the targets and indicators related to migration. Some of the targets are directly and explicitly linked to migration. Some others may be linked, but the relationship may be implicit.

When it comes to reducing poverty, migration has had a major effect on both the migrants, but also their families, and their wider communities. It can be considered that some areas are of the world are overpopulated which may cause environmental problems related to pollution, clean water, and so on. While some people are emigrating from overpopulated areas to less populated this alleviates the environmental strain on the country of origin.

While considering migration as a phenomenon and its effect on people and countries then these SDGs could be focused further to alleviate potential sustainability and other problems caused by migration. Migration affects both countries of origin and new host countries of migrants. It overlaps with different policy-making areas within societies including labor, education, infrastructure, health care.

However, migration is not necessarily the root cause but an outcome, and therefore the additional focus should be put on those identified root causes and action is taken to alleviate them. One approach is to identify relevant indicators for each migration-related SDG and then determine what measures should be taken to affect those particular indicators.

Historically migration has taken place for hundreds of years. There is no reason why it would end. However, climate change and other environmental causes may increase migration. This will affect both individuals but also societies. Migration does not only relate to moving between countries but also within countries. Leaders of those societies should take action to take into account the sustainability aspects of migration. In this UN’s SDGs provide a good basis to take into account various aspects of migration and its consequences.

On political discussion, migration-related rhetorics have often a negative tone. However, it could be also considered that on a global level migration contributes to positive sustainable development and economic growth. It has its micro and macro-level challenges, but SDGs and related indicators are a viable approach to manage this complex and multi-faceted phenomenon while taking into account sustainability aspects.


Adger, W. N., Boyd, E., Fábos, A., Fransen, S., Jolivet, D., Neville, G., … & Vijge, M. J. (2019). Migration transforms the conditions for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Lancet Planetary Health, 3(11), e440-e442.

Foresti, M. & Hagen-Zanker, J. (2017). Migration and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Executive summary. Overseas Development Institute.

United Nations. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


United Nations. Their own goals – migration driving sustainable development.


Posted on behalf of the author, who is a student at the University of Helsinki