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The economic and political costs of population displacement and their impact on the SDGs and multilateralism


  • Kristinn Sv. Helgason


While migration and population displacement has always been part of the human experience, the context within which it occurs today has materially changed. Migration has become an important part of economic globalization and closely related to countries´ development process. Conflicts, poverty, natural disasters and climate events are also forcing people to migrate in an ever-increasing number. For many low-income countries with large number of internally-displaced people, on the other hand, the high economic costs are making it more difficult for them to invest in SDG implementation. Developing countries also host most of the externally-displaced people at high economic costs, which similarly affects their ability to achieve the SDGs. The political costs of hosting large number of refugees in developed states have also been significant in recent years, particularly in the aftermath of the 2015 European Refugee Crisis. The refugee crisis triggered intense politicization of migration and sharp rise in anti-immigration sentiments and support for populist parties in many countries of the region, leading some governments to tighten their borders, introduce more restrictive immigration policies and retreat from multilateral migration efforts. There is at the same time growing recognition that population displacement and migration is a contemporary global challenge that can only be solved through effective multilateral cooperation. In this context, it becomes important for states to build on the current nascent governance architecture such as the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Migration so that the benefits of migration and population displacement can be more effectively harnessed for the achievement of the SDGs.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristinn Sv. Helgason, 2020. "The economic and political costs of population displacement and their impact on the SDGs and multilateralism," Working Papers 167, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
  • Handle: RePEc:une:wpaper:167

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    migration; population displacement; climate change; conflicts; populism; multilateralism; SDGs;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development

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