Poverty, Migration and Human Development: A Global Perspective

18 Oct 2013

Message by UNDP Country Director Toshihiro Tanaka at the Launching of National Financial Freedom Campaign, Assembly Hall, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Manila


Dr. Felipe Medalla, Member of the Monetary Board of the Philippines;
Secretary Imelda Nicolas, Chairperson of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas;
Mr. Patrick Gaston, President of the Western Union Foundation;
Ms. Patricia Riingen, Senior Vice President for East and South East Asia of the Western Union;
Guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen

Good morning to everyone.  Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

On April 12 this year, the United Nations signaled the countdown to the last 1000 days, now only 804 days left, to the timeline of the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs in 2015. With the overarching goal to halve poverty by 2015, the main message was the need to accelerate the pace of those MDGs that are lagging behind and to muster the will and resources towards this end.

There are some good news with the advent of the MDGs. At the global level, poverty and hunger have been reduced significantly. In developing regions,  the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell by more than half, from 47 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent in 2010, with the majority living in rural areas.

However, the progress has been uneven at the country level. Much of this progress has been made primarily in the large and populous countries like China and India. And today, there are still 1.2 billion people in the world who continue to live in extreme poverty.

Likewise, in spite of economic growth in developing economies, the level of inequality has risen within the society and has become the primary concern to be addressed if we are to achieve inclusive growth.

This situation of growing inequality has led UNDP’s 2009 Human Development Report to conclude that the world distribution of opportunities is extremely unequal and that this inequality has become the key driver of human or peoples’ movement.      

Majority of migrants cross borders or go overseas in search of better economic and social opportunities.

Today, we now live in a highly mobile world. More than one in seven of the world’s population is a migrant. Nearly 1 billion people are on the move, most of whom – over 700 million – move within their own country and nearly half of those are women.

Generally speaking, migration provides opportunities which benefit all concerned. Migration typically benefits migrants, their families and both source and destination communities. The poorest have the most to gain from moving, and migrants from poor households generally reap gains in the form of higher incomes and healthier lives for themselves and their families, including those back at home.

Migration brings benefits to families remaining at home and to the wider economy. These include– remittances – that even exceed official aid, improvements in health, schooling and other economic areas, and the fostering of new ideas and innovation. These benefits in fact contribute to the attainment of human development.

Experiences from Africa, Asia and elsewhere shows that when economic and political circumstances improve, people and money tend to flow back, and migrants are often among the first to invest.

It is for this reason that governments could promote the gains by integrating migration into national development and poverty reduction strategies. Remittances are a vast source of capital for developing countries. Owing to the magnitude that it has become, migration is now accepted as a strong element that can contribute to development that can produce a multiplier effect in the economy.

Just imagine.  Global remittances, including high-income countries, are expected to reach $550 billion this year, and to surpass $700 billion by 2016.  Imagine the potential of this amount and what it can do for a developing country if these were tapped for development objectives.

India and China are the top two recipients of overseas remittances, with India receiving US$71 billion and China with US$60 billion in 2012.  The Philippines is the third largest recipient with US$24 billion.

Thus today, as we launch the National Financial Freedom Campaign in the Philippines, let us look at this as a critical and strategic opportunity to link migration to development.  Why is a financial literacy campaign necessary?  For a very good reason.

The profile of Overseas Filipinos and internal migrants ranging from the unskilled to semi-skilled to the skilled,  the National Financial Freedom Campaign is set to transform behavioral patterns on managing finances into one that is productive.

Financial literacy is an essential component of access to inclusive financial services. It can assist in developing inclusive financial markets by empowering the poor to evaluate options and take responsibility for their financial decisions by choosing products and services best suited to their capacities and needs. Growth becomes inclusive when the poor participate in the growth process and share the benefits. With financial literacy, this participation in the growth process can become a reality as the poor develop their capacity to save and invest.

We often hear the argument that the social costs of migration outweigh its benefits.  This need not be the case.

The National Financial Freedom Campaign is timely as it is launched in an environment where the Philippines has committed to pursue inclusive growth and achieve the MDGs by 2015.  This campaign will go a long way in boosting the efforts to reduce poverty and inequality in the country and promote human development.

Let me thank Western Union for this new partnership and their commitment to build a future back home for Overseas Filipinos, and our implementing partner, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, for their untiring advocacy for migration and development.

In closing, let me quote from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his remarks at the recently concluded High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development.

“We need to integrate migration into the development agenda. With discussions under way on the post-2015 development agenda and a new set of goals for sustainable development, the time is ripe to present a compelling case about why migration matters for development. 

Indeed, my report A Life of Dignity for All includes the positive contribution of migrants as one of the transformative actions of the post-2015 development agenda.

One litmus test of the new agenda’s inclusivity will be the degree to which migrants and diasporas are seen as development partners, and not left behind.  It is our collective responsibility to make migration work for the benefit of migrants and countries alike.

We owe this to the millions of migrants who, through their courage, vitality and dreams, help make our societies more prosperous, resilient and diverse.”

Thank you very much.  Salamat po.