Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
"Synergies in action to improve resilience and reduce poverty in rural areas"
The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present a comprehensive and ambitious plan to eradicate poverty and hunger by 2030. A core aspect of the agenda is the promotion of policy coherence for sustainable development. Thus, understanding how policies in different areas interact to produce different development outcomes is critical to achieving the overarching goals of Agenda 2030. One such relationship - and this paper's focus - is the relationship between social protection, migration, and rural development.
The relationship between social protection, migration, and rural development is critical to the mandate of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to end hunger for all. In its capacity as an organization working across emergency and development contexts, FAO is well positioned to promote the synergies that exist at the intersection of social protection and migration in rural contexts.
Migration and social protection are both included in the SDGs. Social protection is explicitly mentioned in SDGs 1 (Poverty Eradication), 5 (Gender Equality), and 10 (Reduce Inequality); indirectly referred to in SDGs 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and is highly relevant for SDG 2 (Zero Hunger). SDG1, in particular, aims to ‘implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable by 2030’. Migration is also well reflected across Agenda 2030. Migration is explicitly mentioned in SDGs 8 (Promoting Decent Work and Economic Growth), 10 (Reduce Inequality), and also in the context of data disaggregation in Goal 17 (Means of Implementation). SDG10 calls for ‘orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies’. Further references to mobility-related phenomena include human trafficking, mentioned in the context of SDG5 (Gender Equality), and SDG8 (decent work and economic growth), and SDG16 (Peaceful and Inclusive Societies). Mobility in the context of higher education is captured in SDG4 (Quality Education). However, as several mapping exercises have demonstrated, migration as a phenomenon has relevance across the entire 2030 agenda. The 2019 FAO Migration Framework, for example, identifies 10 Goals and 22 Targets as being of relevance to migration in the context of FAO’s work.
FAO acknowledges migration as an engine of economic growth and innovation, which can significantly contribute to sustainable development and reduce inequalities within and between countries. Migrants from and in rural areas also contribute to development in a variety of contexts. FAO aims to make migration a choice rather than a necessity by supporting policies and interventions that maximize the benefits of migration while minimizing the costs to migrants and societies. Similarly, FAO recognizes the crucial role of social protection as a key strategy to tackle global poverty and food insecurity. A growing body of evidence shows that social protection when complemented by food security and nutrition strategies and aligned in broader rural development interventions, can generate a broad range of positive impacts such as boosting economic growth; enhancing the productivity of families; achieving food security and nutrition, and building the resilience of poor rural families.
FAO’s endorsement of the UN Social Protection Floor Initiative further sets out its commitment to promote the right to adequate food and social protection for all – including migrants as a basic set of rights enabling all members of a society to access a minimum of goods and services. However, FAO recognizes that ‘social protection alone may not provide sustainable ways out of poverty and food insecurity. It does not address the structural causes of these issues, which in rural areas require establishing close links between agricultural and rural development policies. Therefore, the challenge for governments is to design social protection interventions that are well aligned with broader rural development policies, in which development activities and social protection complement each other.
Member States cemented the relevance of considering social protection in the field of migration in December 2018 with the adoption of two Global Compacts. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) refers to social security in the context of migration by explicitly addressing the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits and focuses on questions of equitable access and reciprocal arrangements concerning the portability of earned benefits and touching on access to social protection and services as a critical component of sustainable reintegration. The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) identifies the relevance of social protection in the context of ensuring that refugees and host communities have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. The GCR envisages the use of cash-based transfers and social protection systems to ensure that refugees and their host communities have access to food. The GCR also supports the need to build the resilience of households and food and agricultural production systems in refugee-hosting areas Following the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees, FAO supported the organization of the first Global Refugee Forum in 2019, during which it recommitted to the GCR by taking on several pledges to address the challenges faced by refugee populations.
Context and Structure
Recent literature on the intersections between migration and social protection tends to focus on migrants as a group at risk of being excluded from social security provisions, or on the impacts of social security on mobility patterns. Additional literature has started to explore how migration and remittances interact with social protection. For instance, are remittances and social protection benefits complementary or substitutes? While highly relevant, migration, like social protection is also an integral part of development. A relatively under-explored area is the relationship between migration, social protection, and rural transformation, particularly in the context of rural-rural and rural-urban migration. Exploring the links between migration, social protection, and rural transformation processes is an area where FAO has a comparative advantage thanks to its strong technical expertise and close relationship with governments and relevant stakeholders. Therefore, achieving a better understanding of the relationship between migration and social protection, particularly with respect to rural transformation, is a crucial priority for FAO. The mutual impact of social protection and migration on reducing rural poverty, eradicating hunger and increasing resilience to external shocks, make it highly relevant for FAO to engage in both of these areas.
FAO has a history of working in each of these respective fields. However, the closer examination of the synergies between these fields is a relatively new area of work. Accordingly, this paper seeks to strengthen migration/social protection synergies in FAO’s programming by 1) identifying linkages between social protection and migration from currently available literature; 2) highlighting illustrative examples of areas where FAO has already started to work at the intersection of migration and social protection; 3) offering ways of how FAO can further mainstream migration-social protection synergies. In doing so, the paper draws on extensive literature review, a mapping of relevant FAO projects, and interviews with key informants.
Conclusions and Recommendations
This report has highlighted the relevance of exploring synergies between migration and social protection with respect to FAO’s mandate. FAO is well positioned in the remote and rural parts of many countries, and this widespread and longstanding presence has helped to build trust and networks with local, regional and national authorities. Through its programs, projects, policy advice, advocacy and research, FAO can promote synergies between social protection and migration at the policy and programmatic level. Accordingly, FAO should continue to address the adverse drivers of migration by promoting the extension of social protection to the rural poor, thereby making migration a choice. In turn, well-planned migration can contribute to the improvements of rural livelihoods, for instance, by combining economic inclusion programs, which could link social protection, remittances and knowledge transfer. FAO can help countries to further reap the benefits of well-managed migration by creating programs and incentives to invest remittances and skills of migrants into productive and sustainable activities in rural areas and to support seasonal rural migration. In this way, a virtuous cycle could be established, that allows rural households to exit poverty and food insecurity while boosting agricultural and food systems that are sustainable, inclusive and more efficient. By systematically mainstreaming questions relating to migration and social protection in its work, FAO is also well positioned to increase knowledge and evidence on the intersections between social protection and migration in rural areas. This final section of the report concludes by offering some concrete recommendations on how FAO can move forward.
In considering each of the possible ways in which social protection and migration may be more coherently approached in FAO programming, it is important to acknowledge and understand how specific contextual factors affect the interactions between social protection, migration and rural development. This points to the importance of data and research. While some aspects of the social-protection-migration nexus are well represented in the empirical literature, some gaps exist.
FAO is well positioned to help build the knowledge base. For example, FAO adopts a broad definition of social protection which includes Food Security and Nutrition and Natural Resources Management instruments and rural enablers with social protection function. However, the existing empirical literature often focuses on a narrower understanding of social protection when analyzing the impacts of public social protection programs on rural development, migration and migrants. A systematic empirical analysis of Food Security and Nutrition and Natural Resources Management instruments and rural enablers with social protection function has yet to be systematically undertaken. Furthermore, FAO has made use of public works programs and other social protection instruments in their work in rural areas. The effects of public works programs are not fully understood, and FAO would be well positioned to increase the empirical evidence base. Another important, yet understudied area relates to complementarities between social protection and migration in the context of rural transformation. For example, exploring how remittances and social safety nets could complement one another to promote investments in agriculture, and, in turn, how those investments can facilitate access to social security.
FAO can contribute to building the empirical evidence base on the complementarities between migration and social protection in rural development by:
Continuing to mainstream questions on migration into social protection impact surveys.
Build new and expand existing partnerships with key academic institutes and think tanks working at the intersection of social protection and migration.
Developing policy briefs, guidance and policy documents, research reports, webinars to ensure maximum dissemination of FAO insights and empirical findings.
Finally, there are also operational recommendations that would help FAO to promote a more coherent approach to its work on social protection and migration. These include:
Establishing a working group or task force on social protection and migration.
Establishing similar mechanisms at the regional and national level to promote greater coordination and facilitate the mainstreaming of social protection into work on migration and vice versa.
Creating a database of relevant projects to enhance FAO’s visibility in the area of social protection and migration interlinkages in rural areas.
Support the increased understanding of the relationship between social protection and migration within FAO by developing training tools.
Developing operational guidelines for the mainstreaming of social protection and migration into the work of FAO targeted at program managers.
Owing to the complex and interrelated nature of social-protection and migration interlinkages, FAO should continue to work with and strengthen ties with strategic partners within the UN System including key partners working at the intersection of social protection and migration.
Continuing to engage in relevant fora, dialogues and committees on migration and/or social protection.
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