Defining Sustainable Migration

PRIO Paper

Erdal, Marta Bivand; Jørgen Carling; Cindy Horst & Cathrine Talleraas (2018) Defining Sustainable Migration, PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.

​Is current international migration sustainable? And if so, for whom? This report explores the term sustainable migration as an approach to migration from low- and middle-income countries in the Global South to high-income countries in the Global North.

Mobilizing the term sustainable migration can shed light on critical interconnections between international migration and social change. These involve different stakeholders and places over time and across economic, political, social and cultural spheres.

Several steps are required to make ‘sustainable migration’ useful. First, a clear-cut definition of sustainable migration must be applied; second, insights from existing research must be activated to avoid fragmented and piece-meal contributions; and third, care must be taken so that the question: ‘sustainable for whom?’ is not left implicit.

The question of sustainable migration is inevitably political. Choices have to be made about which stakeholders’ perspectives are the point of departure; which perspectives are potentially excluded; and how the costs and benefits of migration are gauged in order to achieve well-balanced outcomes. But if a rigorous and transparent approach is adopted, in which normative dimensions are acknowledged and scrutinized, then the concept of ‘sustainable migration’ may offer opportunities for genuinely holistic analyses of international migration and its short-term and long-term effects. Such analyses can provide foundations for future policy making.

Authors

Marta Bivand Erdal

Marta Bivand Erdal

Research Professor

Jørgen Carling

Jørgen Carling

Research Professor

Cindy Horst

Cindy Horst

Research Director, Research Professor

Cathrine Talleraas

Cathrine Talleraas

Doctoral Researcher

Research Groups