MOSCOW, June 4, 2010 -With migration from the countries of Europe and Central Asia accounting for forty percent of the immigrants’ stock in developing countries, remittances represent a large portion of GDP in several countries of the region. An action plan to improve and unify how remittances are estimated, data collected, and monitoring systems developed was adopted this week by migration experts from nine countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) at a four-day conference on migration and remittances held in Moscow, Russia.
The first conference of Migration and Remittance Peer Assisted Learning network (MIRPAL) brought together more than 90 participants, including government practitioners and policy makers, representatives of academia and think-tanks, non-government organizations from Armenia, Belarus, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, as well as development partner organizations and international experts. The event took place on May 31- June 3, 2010 and was co-sponsored by the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
“The recent economic crisis hit the CIS countries particularly hard,” said Luca Barbone, Director for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management for the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Region. “The impact was especially strong in countries heavily dependent on migration and remittances. We consider the launch of MIRPAL to be a significant event as it can provide a forum to help CIS countries improve their migration policies.”
Remittances represent a large portion of GDP in several countries of Europe and Central Asia such as Moldova and Tajikistan, which are included in the top 20 recipients of remittances in the world. A significant rise in unemployment in migrant-hosting countries like Russia led to a decline in remittances as high as 30 percent in most remittance-dependent CIS countries, leading to growing poverty and worsening standards of living for the most vulnerable. Labor lay-offs, delays in payment of salaries including those of labor migrants, slowdown in some critical sectors like construction and industry that came with the onset of the global crisis affected countries across the CIS.
Since early 2009, the World Bank has been engaged with all nine countries involved in the MIRPAL initiative in bringing the issues of migration and remittances to the forefront of policy dialogue. The Conference in Moscow marks a significant step forward as it has resulted in a number of important achievements.
First, the conference participants agreed on the MIRPAL development strategy and detailed activity plans for the participating countries, as well as discussed next steps, tools, and approaches to be used by MIRPAL in advancing migration policy reform, regional dialogue and cohesive actions.
“MIRPAL is an attempt to synthesize the most modern international network environment which will not only allow monitoring of migration processes in CIS countries, but will also for the first time lead to their practical application,” said Vyacheslav Postavnin, Director, Migration XXI century, a Moscow based think tank co-hosting the first MIRPAL event with the World Bank.
Second, MIRPAL practitioners have developed and agreed on specific recommendations to improve remittances and international labor migration estimation methods in MIRPAL countries. They also agreed on approaches and possible actions to develop a unified migration data collection, exchange, and monitoring systems.
In addition to better remittances and migration estimation methods MIRPAL participants stressed the need to cover other critical topics in migration faced by the CIS countries such as social and welfare protection of migrants as well as improved skills. It is important for participating countries to learn from the best international and CIS experiences to capitalize of benefits migration can bring to countries, households, and individuals.
“CIS countries will need to focus on implementing a coordinated migration policy aimed at protecting migrants’ rights, developing efficient migration support services in both ‘recipient’ and ‘donor’ countries, and crafting a unified labor market approach,” said Sudharshan Canagarajah, World Bank Lead Economist and coordinator for the MIRPAL event.“Based on this approach migration can become a ‘win-win’ strategy both for labor sending and receiving countries.”