4 September 2018
SDG Knowledge Weekly: Connecting Migration, Business, Food Production and Labor
Photo by Arturo Rivera
story highlights

OECD and ASEAN forums discussed responsible business conduct and looked at recent trends in anti-corruption efforts, also linking to migration issues.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN hosted a forum on African youth employment in the agricultural sector, which it noted can be a means of combatting migration.

The International Migration Outlook 2018 report reviews trends on the subject.

A thesis from Columbia University examines meat production and the livestock industry vis-à-vis migration and the SDGs through a review of official UN documentation and countries’ Voluntary National Reviews.

In recent months, the SDG Knowledge Weekly has looked at food and agricultural supply chains (30 April and 2 July) and their connection to decent work (27 August).We have also examined business engagement with the SDGs (24 July and 30 July) and migration (29 January and 25 June). This week, we look across these topics by connecting events and knowledge pieces not previously covered, to articulate the linkages among the issues as well as their relationship to the 2030 Agenda.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) opened the two-day Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct on 20 June 2018 in Paris, France. The Forum’s agenda highlighted blockchain, means of promoting social dialogue, and tackling modern slavery, recent OECD Due Diligence Guidance aimed at multinational enterprises (MNEs), and the broader purpose of business in society, among other topics. One session unpacked a partnership project between the OECD, International Labour Organization (ILO) and EU on responsible supply chains in Asia.

At the same time, OECD released its ‘International Migration Outlook 2018’ report. The publication analyzes not only migration trends, but also “the evolution of the labor market outcomes of immigrations” in OECD countries. It finds that the number of permanent legal migrants to OECD countries in 2017 declined from the previous year for the first time since 2011 (by about 5% compared to 2016). The report also notes declines in asylum applications and the unemployment rate of migrants in OECD countries. An OECD news release highlights additional statistics.

The OECD Forum and International Migration Outlook each reference the other’s subject matter. In his opening remarks, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría noted that members must uphold their values so that globalization works for all, explicitly noting trade, migration and trust in institutions as key challenges to address. Similarly, Chapter 4 of the Outlook publication looks at illegal employment of foreign workers, touching on social and ethical implications and noting the risk of exploitation of the migrants. The chapter also looks at the sectors and occupations of foreign workers, highlighting the issue in industries that are reliant on flexible, low-pay arrangements and seasonal activities, offering fruit-picking as an example.

More recently, the ASEAN Responsible Business Forum convened 27-28 August 2018, in Singapore. At the Forum, which discussed how inclusive business can contribute to the SDGs and ASEAN 2025 goals, the ASEAN CSR Network and National University of Singapore (NUS) released findings from a study conducted on corporate disclosure in business integrity. The study notes that corporate disclosure of anti-corruption practices has improved since a baseline study was conducted in 2016, but that there is still a ways to go, particularly around applying anti-corruption policies to external parties and suppliers. Migration also featured in the forum agenda, primarily during the discussion on managing human rights due diligence in supply chains and during the business and human rights workshop. Previously, ASEAN leaders signed the Consensus on Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Migrant Workers in 2017.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) discussed the linkages between youth, migration and African agriculture value chains during a meeting held 20-21 August 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. Titled, ‘Youth Employment in Agriculture as a Solid Solution to Ending Hunger and Poverty in Africa,’ the meeting discussed youth entrepreneurship, digital innovations and the future of agriculture on the continent, which has a population of over 1.2 billion people under age 25 and few job prospects in rural areas. An FAO news story summarizes some of the takeaways, noting that although 65-75% of people migrating from Africa are youth, “agricultural businesses can stem the tide of migration.”

Linking migrant labor to the business world via the food industry, Iamê Manucci, Columbia University, examines how the “meat-industrial-complex” and related “meat consumption patterns challenge the achievement of the SDGs.” Manucci’s approach features an analysis of UN documentation, governments’ Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) and other sources to study the presence or absence of key themes and terms around meat/livestock, labor, migration and the environment. The paper features case studies on the US and Brazil. It concludes that although the “SDGs can address intersectional problems with integrated solutions,” a critical gap exists in the framework, which fails to “address the link between the exploitation of migrant labor and natural resources in the meat industry.” Manucci further concludes that livestock industry profits are often dependent on migrant workers who fill labor shortages in remote areas and dangerous industries.

However, business conduct and individual industries are not the sole determinants of migration, which is influenced by a complex array of factors. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) have called for increased support to South American countries and those in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, particularly around Venezuela, to cope with the “outflow” of Venezuelan citizens from the country, which has seen hyperinflation, food shortages and high crime rates in recent years and a spike in 2018.

In the LAC region, a handbook published by the International Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICPHR-UNESCO) helps guide local governments on receiving and integrating migrants and refugees. Titled, ‘The SDGs and Cities: International Human Mobility,’ the handbook looks at city-level strategies and provides a 13-part tool that focuses on migrants and refugee populations in vulnerable situations. A summary on the SDG Knowledge Hub is available via the above link.

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.

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