Migration for Sustainable Development

Click on a development sector or a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and scroll down to explore its migration linkages, relevant Global Compact for Migration (GCM) Objectives, data and measuring tools, case studies and resources. 

Human mobility affects and is affected by all development areas: for example, healthy and educated migrants and displaced persons can more easily participate in and contribute to society and migrants with regular status have improved access to decent and safe work. Migration is a global phenomenon affecting all countries and its effective governance needs global partnerships.

To create the future we want and need, we must empower migrants to fulfil their development potential, which can, in turn, have positive ripple effects for communities locally, regionally and globally. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent our global effort to progress towards prosperous and healthy societies. Migrants have a critical role to help fulfil the promises of these Goals; indeed, SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) calls for the promotion of safe, orderly and regular migration. The Global Compact for Migration (GCM) sets out a roadmap to help us do exactly this. Read more about M4D and our approach.


SDG 11 calls to "Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable" but as of 2023, only about 10% of the targets we have set for ourselves in this Goal are on track. Over half of the world’s population lives in cities, and almost all population growth in the foreseeable future is expected to occur in urban areas. A large portion of this urban growth is expected to occur through migration, mainly through regional or internal migration. Displacement is also increasingly urban as most displaced persons and internally displaced persons (IDPs) now reside in urban settings rather than camps. The movement of people from rural to urban areas, between urban settlements of different sizes, and from one country to another, will continue to affect urban settlement patterns, as well as the distribution of people within urban areas.

Cities are often at the frontline of integrating migrants and facilitating their social and economic inclusion, responsible for developing and implementing urban programmes and the management of service delivery systems. Efforts to integrate migration into urban development are in line with the New Urban Agenda, the global framework for sustainable management of cities, which commits to combatting discrimination against all migrants and recognizes their significant cultural, social and economic contributions to urban areas. The important role of cities and other local authorities is also central within the SDGs and the GCM.

But the links between SDG 11 and migration don’t stop there. They are context-specific but often cross-cutting with other sectoral areas such as:

  • Education:  Failure to plan for growing urban populations can put pressure on urban services, and a lack of available accurate and disaggregated demographic data means migrant and displaced learners (especially girls, women and irregular migrants) can be excluded from educational and TVET systems. Integrating migrants and displaced learners in education systems fosters their social inclusion and capacity to contribute to schools and broader urban communities. (In line with SDG 4 and 5)
  • Employment: Strong urban planning and service delivery can ensure that migrants are aware of their rights and can access justice and complaint mechanisms. Migrants displaced people can therefore play an important role in urban economies by paying taxes and spending disposable income, while also starting businesses, sending remittances and creating and filling green jobs. (In line with SDG 5 and 8)
  • Environment and climate change: Climate change impacts can greatly exacerbate and intensify rural-urban and urban-urban migration flows. If growing urban populations are not well-managed, migrants and displaced persons could be moving into areas of risk such as poorly-serviced or informal settlements with little access to sanitation and high pollutant risks. Migrants and displaced populations (especially women, elderly persons, and persons with disabilities) are highly vulnerable to natural disasters in urban areas, as well as air, land and water pollution, and thus should be included in all targets relating to urban disaster risk reduction and management and urban environment initiatives. (In line with SDGs 6, 7, 13 and 15)
  • Governance: Urban plans, laws and policies that take migrants and displaced people into account and empower them to play key roles in local-level decision making will allow them to access social benefits and legal identity, which in turn fosters social cohesion and addressed inequalities. (In line with SDG 16) 
  • Rural development: Urban planning can better prepare migrants who come from rural areas to urban areas to find employment opportunities, enable the positive contribution of migrants to cities and strengthen urban-rural linkages. Remittances (both urban-rural and rural-urban) and seasonal and circular migration can also be leveraged for rural development purposes. (In line with SDGs 1, 5 and 8)

In Europe alone, 74% of Europe's population lives in cities, and the EU hosts two of the world's megacities (London, Paris). Just as cities attract nationals, they also attract migrants: in Brussels, 62% of the population is foreign-born, and in the UK, 35% of all international migrants in the country live in and around London. This is equally clear for displacement: in Greece, 57% of refugees live in urban areas. Yet it is often harder for migrants to fully enjoy the range of opportunities and services that cities offer: significantly fewer migrants own their own homes and 35% of non-EU citizens live in overcrowded housing compared to 14% of nationals. Globally, as of 2022, nearly 1.1 billion people lived in slums or slum-like conditions in urban areas, with an additional 2 billion expected to live in slums or slum-like conditions over the next 30 years. 

We need to rapidly expand and adapt our urban services, policies and approaches to be inclusive and accessible to all, so that everyone can thrive. Being inclusive and celebrating diversity in urban settings can bring innovation, entrepreneurship, investment, fill labour gaps, drive social change and more. It is crucial to ensure the inclusion of human mobility considerations in urban planning and work with and empower local and regional authorities and other local actors; to ensure inclusive public participation for local solutions that are carved together with all populations. 

GCM Objectives

SDG 11 and its important role in migration governance is recognized primarily in Objective 15: Provide Access to Basic Services for Migrants, but also has strong relevance in other objectives including notably Objective 16: Empower Migrants and Societies to Realize Full Inclusion and Social Cohesion. For a full list of Objectives relevant to SDG 11, please see the icons below, and learn more about SDG 11 and the GCM from the UN Network on Migration GCM Booklet and Migration Network Hub.

gcm 2

Urban authorities are often first responders to sudden onset disasters. Strong urban disaster risk reduction strategies can minimize the adverse drivers that often lead to migration.

GCM 19

Migration is an increasingly urban phenomenon. Enabling migrants and diaspora to contribute, through skills, remittances, labour, culture and more, enhances the socio-economic and cultural life in cities.

gcm 6

Strong urban governance, which includes migrants and displaced people, can guarantee their labour rights and facilitate their contributions to urban economies.

GCM 20

As more migrants move to urban areas, effective and accessible urban banking services and financial literary training is crucial to ensuring migrants can send remittances back to their families and communities.

GCM 15

Migrants face particular barriers to accessing basic services, from language to fear of deportation. Cities must proactively guarantee housing, psychological support, education and more, for all people.

GCM 23

Cities are key migration governance actors in their own right, and integrating migration into urban development can align local and national policies to achieve sustainable development.

GCM 16

Participatory urban planning that includes migrants (especially women and children) can foster their inclusion in society and build stronger policies and services that respond to everyone’s needs.

Data & Measuring Results

For the latest data on migration and SDG 11, check out: 

Infographic on human mobility and cities, with data from SDG 11


Developed under the Mainstreaming Migration into International Cooperation and Development (MMICD) initiative, the Toolkit on Integrating Migration into Urban Development Interventions helps integrate migration into urban development at any stage of the Intervention Cycle. The toolkit includes practical tools for practitioners including for measuring results, such as a Theory of Change and Indicator Bank.

What SDG 11 targets are relevant for migration?

  • 11.1 By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums 
    • Improving living conditions, access to secure and decent housing for migrants and displaced persons. 
    • If relevant in a particular context, addressing land and property rights of migrants. 
  • 11.3 By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries 
    • Promoting inclusive and sustainable urban planning that integrates the rights and interests of migrants and proactively addresses migration dynamics. 
  • 11.5 By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations 
    • Reducing risk of natural disasters, impacts of climate change and other environmental factors. 
    • Including migrants in disaster risk reduction and management, and emergency response systems, according to the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) guidelines. 
  • 11.A Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, per-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning  
    • Linking plans to assist communities vulnerable to climate change-related migration, and migrants from areas affected by environmental change, with local, national and regional development policies in other areas. 
    • Linking plans to help coordinate rural-urban migration needs, including between the local and national levels. 
  • 11.B By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels 
    • Integrating migrants and their needs in urban planning. 
    • Integrating migrants’ safety and protection in urban disaster risk reduction and management.
    • Addressing displacement by natural disasters, climate change and other environmental factors in urban planning.
Infographic on human mobility and cities, with data from SDG 11. This is specifically a case study with data from Serbia.
Case Studies

How does migration and SDG 11 truly impact people’s lives? Rebecca is an internal migrant living in a densely populated district in metro Manila, Philippines. With predictions of a category seven earthquake among the threats in her district, Rebecca fears displacement due to disaster. By getting involved in local Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) initiatives run by the local government, Rebecca and her family feel better prepared.

This video is a part of a #MigrationConnection series that have been produced by IOM through the “Mainstreaming Migration into International Cooperation and Development” (MMICD) initiative funded by the EU.


Key resources on migration and SDG 11: