Ministerial Conference of Least Developed Countries Focuses on Migrant Remittances

Ministerial Conference of Least Developed Countries Focuses on Migrant Remittances

A two-day ministerial conference gets underway this week in Benin’s capital, Cotonou aimed at improving the impact of migrant remittances on development in the world’s least developed countries.

The conference, the first at ministerial level on this subject, has been organized by the Benin government in collaboration with IOM and the UN’s Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).

Thirteen ministers number among the 50 participants from 28 countries that will be attending the conference beginning on 9 February. Other participants include government officials, representatives from the private sector, international organizations and diaspora associations.

Remittances, an outcome of migration, constitute the most direct link between migration and development. Migrants now number between an estimated 185-192 million people who last year officially sent an estimated US$ 232 billion in remittances, US$167 billion to developing countries. However, sending remittances through informal channels is estimated to be at least 50 per cent of recorded flows, implying that the true size of remittances reaching development countries last year is probably more than US $250 billion. These figures are likely to rise in time as migratory pressures are also forecast to increase.

Remittances are an important financial inflow to least developed countries, with Bangladesh for example, listed in the top 20 remittances receiving countries. In developing countries, they also constitute the second largest capital flow after direct foreign investment and have helped to improve the standard of living of millions of people by providing them with essential resources for food, housing, health and education.

However, remittance flows to Africa, where 35 out of 50 of the least developed countries are to be found, and in particular to the Sub-Saharan Region, are not only considerably low compared to other countries, but are also heavily under-reported.

The lack of efficient, adequate and reliable banking facilities, high transfer costs and low access to the formal sector are some of the reasons for the use of informal channels.

“By 2015, more than half of the world’s poor will be living in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s the most critical challenge facing Africa and this conference which gathers most of the least developed countries is a unique opportunity to commonly explore new and innovative ways of enhancing the development of the world’s poorest,” said Ndioro Ndiaye, IOM Deputy Director General.

IOM has done considerable research in order to provide governments with tools to define their remittance policies, including in Bangladesh, Burundi, Cambodia, Haiti, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all of which number among least developed countries.

The two-day conference will end with the adoption of a series of recommendations to optimize the development benefits of remittances and to mobilize support for their implementation.

For further information, please contact:

Nilim Baruah
IOM Head of Labour Migration in Cotonou
Tel: + 41 79 783 7924