Human migration and mobility may well be age-old phenomena touching almost every society around the world. However, they have changed over time in important ways. Examining these shifts in scale, direction, demography and frequency can help us understand how migration is evolving, and can inform effective policies, programmes and operational responses on the ground.
The current United Nations global estimate is that there were around 281 million international migrants in the world in 2020, which equates to 3.6 per cent of the global population. This is a small minority of the world’s population, meaning that staying within one’s country of birth remains, overwhelmingly, the norm. The great majority of people do not migrate across borders; much larger numbers migrate within countries, although we have seen this slow over the past two years as COVID-19 related immobility has gripped communities everywhere. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the interconnections between migration and mobility, with COVID-19 travel restrictions resulting in hundreds of millions of people being unable to travel for months on end, and leaving many thousands of migrants stranded and in need of assistance.
Migration is a complex issue. As such, it is one that can be exacerbated by misinformation and politicization to alarming degrees. The central aim of the flagship World Migration Report is to set out in clear and accurate terms the changes occurring in migration and mobility globally so that readers can better situate their own work. As the United Nations migration agency, IOM has an obligation to demystify the complexity and diversity of human mobility. The report also acknowledges IOM’s continuing obligation to uphold fundamental rights and its mission to support those migrants who are most in need. This is particularly relevant in the areas in which IOM works to provide humanitarian assistance to people who have been displaced, including by weather events, conflict and persecution, or to those who have become stranded during crises, such as COVID-19.
Likewise, IOM remains committed to supporting Member States as they draw upon various forms of data, research and analysis during policy formulation and review processes. Indeed, this is reflected in IOM’s Constitution where the need for migration research is highlighted as an integral part of the Organization’s functions. The World Migration Report is a flagship component of this important area of work.
That said, we also know that the key features of migration vary across different locations, and that specific audiences (such as policy officials, practitioners, media, researchers, teachers and students) have varying information and analytical needs when using this report to inform their work. So, in addition to the presentation of key global and regional migration data and trends as well as salient thematic issues, this World Migration Report is supplemented by a range of digital tools ensuring that the report does not remain on the “virtual shelf”.
I am proud to report that the World Migration Report editorial team won recognition in two categories of the International Annual Report Design Awards 2021, in both the online and pdf categories, for the 2020 edition of the report. Spurred on by this success, IOM has expanded the array of report materials for a digital age. The new online interactive platform allows users to explore and interact with key data in a highly visual and engaging way. This is supplemented by the online educators’ toolkit to support teachers around the world as they seek to provide balanced, accurate and interesting learning materials on the fundamentals of migration and migrants for teenagers and young adults.
The rise and rise of disinformation about migration has meant that the World Migration Report has become a key source for fact-checkers around the world, helping to refute false news on migration in a wide variety of places. To assist fact-checkers, we have developed a simple toolkit to help bust key myths on migration. We are also working with partners on the development of a digital policy officials’ toolkit to assist them in utilizing its contents in a wide range of policy-related settings.
We are cognizant that many, including Member States’ officials, need outputs and materials in their own official language(s). Language translation is a meaningful, practical and cost-effective way of supporting development and technical capacity-building for those working in migration around the world. We are pleased that donors agree: the 2020 edition of the World Migration Report was available for the first time in all six United Nations languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish), with key chapters also translated into German, Portuguese, Swahili and Turkish. Our aim, with the support of donors from all sectors, is to increase our linguistic reach even further for this current edition.
Extending the utility and reach of our flagship report is a particularly gratifying aspect of the evolution of the Organization’s role and contribution to migration discourse globally. On this, our 70th anniversary, it is important to reflect upon the ongoing need for IOM’s strong operational capabilities to support humanitarian response and leverage migration programmatic expertise. However, what some readers may not realize is that IOM has been one of the longest standing supporters and producers of migration research and analysis, establishing the first scientific journal on international migration in 1961, and commencing the World Migration Report more than two decades ago.
In this era of heightened interest in and activity towards migration and migrants, we hope this 2022 edition of the World Migration Report and its related tools become key resources for you. We hope they help you to navigate this high-profile and dynamic topic during periods of uncertainty, and that the report prompts reflection during quieter moments. But most importantly, we hope that you learn something new from the report that can inform your own work, be it in studies, research and analysis, policymaking, communication or migration practice.