Migration Governance Index

September 14th, 2016


In May 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published the first ever iteration of “Measuring well-governed migration: The 2016 Migration Governance Index“(MGI) in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The project involves the development of a policy benchmarking framework to assess the extent to which national migration policies facilitate orderly, safe and well-managed migration, as laid out in SDG Target 10.7.

 The framework is composed of over 70 indicators, grouped under five different dimensions of migration governance, and draws upon the Migration Governance Index and Sustainable Development (MiGOF) principles. Research was conducted in 15 pilot countries, the results of which were released on 2 May, 2016 at IOM HQ in Geneva, and 3 May, 2016 at GMDAC in Berlin. The aim is to replicate this initial exercise in a larger number of countries during a second phase of the project.

Cities of Migration asked David Martineau, Associate Policy Officer, IOM (Geneva) about the Migration Governance Index and the implications this tool could have for cities.


In a nutshell, what is the Migration Governance Index? And why is it important?

For years, IOM has sought to develop a clear, all-encompassing definition of good migration governance. With the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the timeliness for such a definition became critical given that most of the 17 SDG’s are directly or indirectly related to immigration (see below).

Still in its pilot phase, the Migration Governance Index (MGI), developed by the International Organization for Migration and The Economist Intelligence Unit, is a tool to assist governments in examining the comprehensiveness of their policies while helping them identify gaps in order to prioritize when building institutional capacity and devising programmes on migration.

Fifteen countries were selected for the pilot project, all of which reflect a diverse range of migration contexts ranging from countries of origin, destination, and transit to migration contexts in transformation. The intention here was twofold: firstly, to demonstrate that it is possible to synthesize and compare such complex policy areas for countries in very diverse migratory contexts. Secondly, the intent was to indicate that the SDG’s are not only a challenge for developing countries to achieve, but for all countries.

The MGI is not a ranking exercise. Unlike many indices, the MGI is not merely a list of countries to be `named and shamed` into faring better than their neighbours. Rather, the MGI must be understood as a tool that can help national governments understand specifically where their challenges and strengths lie, and how to effectively measure progress over time. Thus, the MGI can be better understood as a gap analysis tool.

The MGI’s methodology is not final. In its current iteration, the MGI uses 5 policy domains to assess participating countries (and ensuing participants) including: institutional capacity; migrant rights and integration; migration management; labour, economics and investment; and regional and international cooperation and partnerships. However, the methodology is not final. In fact, with each additional country launch of the tool, IOM and EIU expect to strengthen the methodology with consultations in all regions of the world. Furthermore, we intend to put together an expert group that consists of representatives of Member States, scholars and migration experts to discuss how the methodology could be improved. A very important and current component missing from the MGI to date is related to crisis migration. The team would most likely like to see this component incorporated in the second phase of the report.

What is the relationship between a country’s MGI assessment and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals?

We recognize SDG target 10.7 on migration policies to be the basis for the successful implementation of all other SDG targets relevant to migration issues, ranging from human trafficking strategies to climate-induced mobility. Without coherent and effective policies at the national level, it is difficult to implement migration-related targets.

“Facilitating safe and orderly migration through well-managed migration policies” – SDG 10.7

“Facilitating safe and orderly migration through well-managed migration policies” – SDG 10.7

The MGI is understood as an important tool that will allow national governments to be able to track and review progress towards their SDG goals and regularly report on the status of these targets using the MGI indicators. By conducting in-depth assessments at the national level against a standard, MGI country participants have a common language that allows them to then discuss and assess their progress in international and supranational forums with greater ease.

Given that it’s at the local level that the truism “Migrants Matter” is put to the test, the MGI has little to say about cities. What is the relationship between MGI, SDG’s and cities?

I completely agree that cities are at the forefront of migration opportunities and challenges, and the MGI has consciously omitted cities from its methodology. The second phase of the MGI may be an opportunity to open up to different levels of governance. For instance, in Canada, we have possibly not given enough attention to the role of provincial governments. Cities may be another subnational context we need to investigate. We are looking forward to meetings with stakeholders to see the ways in which this can be addressed.

The Migration Governance Framework (MiGOF) is currently re-considering the ways it can be adapted for the city-level. IOM aims to present some of these findings at the upcoming HABITAT 3 meeting in Quito, Ecuador. The strong relationship between MiGOF and the MGI may influence a change in the existing index’s methodology. Additionally, the upcoming International Dialogue on Migration (IDM) will also be a venue for different stakeholders to reflect on how to best review migration aspects of the SDGs.

It is important to reiterate that the methodology chosen for the MGI pilot project remains flexible during this consultation phase.

Video: MiGoF: The Migration Governance Framework

A significant finding of the MGI report is that “institutional coherence” and “policy connectivity” are key to good governance. Can these recommendations also advance the role of cities in migration governance?

Some of the answers this question may be found in the “White Paper on Mainstreaming Migration into Local Development Planning” that we have recently launched with the Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI). One important aspect of coherence and connectivity stemming from this publication is the ability to develop strong relations with local stakeholders. A good example of this is the New York City Municipal ID Card Program which allows undocumented individuals to access local services. Financial services have partnered with the city to enable IDNYC card-holders to open bank accounts. This is a good example of a city working with various stakeholders, NGOs, private sector and migrant groups to ensure that migrants have access to basic services.

Another example of good coordination at all levels of governance comes from Switzerland. In 2008, legislation was passed giving more power to cantons [districts] to manage integration strategies from the local or regional level.

Given the important role that cities have in maintaining this “connectivity” between relevant actors, how can city-level actors and leaders use the MGI as a tool to measure and facilitate good governance?

It would be unfair to claim that the MGI applies to all levels of governance without considering that it was designed for the national level. Nevertheless, broadly speaking, categories within the MGI and within the MiGOF do apply to cities. For instance, topics such as labour migration and institutional capacity or partnerships, are absolutely relevant at the local level. It is possible to consider the MGI as a tool that will open the discussion and inspire stakeholders.. One conclusion that can be drawn at this early stage is that countries with strong institutions—or cities with a specific body dedicated to migration management—have fared better. Policy coherence at the local level means there are better systems in place to mainstream migration towards local development. This can entail the creation of a focal point in the local government to create a discussion of these issues and to coordinate with other levels of government. This same conclusion was found in both the “White Paper on Mainstreaming Migration into Local Development Planning for the local level as well as the MGI publications for the national one.

Were there any findings within the report that surprised you?

If you are familiar with the other EIU indexes you see that typically, country results are strongly correlated with their level of GDP, with Canada and Sweden typically reigning high, and developing countries at the tail end. However, with the MGI, this does not seem to be the case. For example, within the MGI, the Philippines is among the countries that have done the best.

Another finding worth noting was that no country had a perfect score. To quote David Nabarro “with the SDGs all countries are developing countries. All countries need to develop on their SDG targets.” This goes to show that the SDG’s and the MGI are not targets designed primarily for developing countries. In fact, all countries can benefit greatly from improving their migration strategies.

What’s next for the MGI?

The next step for MGI is to go global. We would like to have an assessment of all countries in the world as soon as possible. However, this requires a lot of resources. In order for the MGI to be a useful tool, we will need to publish regularly to effectively understand and assess the state of migration governance.

What Is your favourite city?

My favourite city is the City of Montreal. Montreal is a multicultural city where migrants have historically been the cornerstone of development. Walking through the city you can still feel the influence of Irish, Chinese, or Italian settlements. The city is vibrant because of its history of migration. It is a place where people don’t really care where you’re from. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is which hockey jersey you wear.


Migration Governance Index project and report at the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC).

To download the 2016 Migration Governance Index report please click here.


david-martineau-iomAbout David Martineau: David Martineau is an Associate Policy Officer at the International Organization for Migration’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Mr. Martineau mainly works on issues related to migration and sustainable development, with a specific focus on the Sustainable Development Goals. Originally from Montreal, Mr. Martineau holds Master’s degrees from the University of Toronto and Queen’s University.

IOM: Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners.

SDG Target 10.7: “Facilitating safe and orderly migration through well-managed migration policies”

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