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Cooperating for improved statistics to make migration work for all

The current global migration and refugee situation has put migration issues high on the political agenda of many countries and the international community as a whole. Recognizing the need to act together, United Nations Member States adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016, which includes a commitment to negotiate and adopt a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The Declaration calls for improved data collection as a necessary tool to understand and effectively manage migration phenomena.

Measuring all relevant aspects of migration is not straightforward even for the most developed statistical systems. In most countries, it requires combining data from multiple sources: censuses, surveys and administrative records, which can be challenging both technically and operationally. This demands effective cooperation between statistical offices and the government agencies which collect various administrative data, such as on border crossings, work permits and place of residence. Since it is often easier to capture information on a person’s presence rather than their absence, exchanging data between countries is an important way of getting data on emigration.

Although these challenges are not new, the urgency to deal with them is higher than ever. As important as collaboration between countries themselves on migration data is coordination between the international organizations that support them, to create synergies and avoid the duplication of efforts.

In this spirit, UNECE, which has been working with its member States for improved measurement of migration for more than 30 years, which was among the partners organizing the first International Forum on Migration Statistics, held at OECD Headquarters in Paris from 15 to 16 January. The event brought together over 700 participants from all over the world, including policymakers and representatives from national statistical systems, academia and international organizations. It looked at migration from a multidisciplinary perspective, considering political science, economics, demography, development studies, geospatial science, sociology, statistics and information technology. Discussions emphasised the importance of partnerships on national, regional and global levels as well as the need for effective communication with the increasingly polarized public opinion – too often based on common misconceptions instead of accurate and timely data.

UNECE organized a session “Data integration for measuring migration”, presenting a range of regional work on this topic, in particular “Guidance on data integration for measuring migration” developed by a UNECE task force. The Guidance, based on data integration practices of nearly 50 countries, includes several in-depth case studies, and best practices to serve as guidelines for improving data integration for measuring migration. UNECE also chaired the related session on the future census as a source of data on migrant populations.

The forum took place just a few days after the launch of Secretary General’s report on “Making migration work for all”, which emphasizes that no country can alone solve the issues around migration and its measurement, which is necessary for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report also calls for a paradigm shift in the perception of migration, to look at it not as a problem to be solved but as an engine of economic growth, innovation and sustainable development, which, if supported by the right policies, would bring benefits to sending and receiving countries as well as individuals.

To learn more about UNECE’s work on migration statistics, please visit: https://www.unece.org/stats/migration.html