The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2015, representatives of more than 150 international Heads of State, Governments and other agencies met in the headquarters of the UN in New York to establish a new global development framework to replace earlier Millennium Development Goals set at the turn of the century. They established a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 169 associated Targets to provide a measurable framework for efforts to achieve a global vision by 2030. Part of the vision of this framework would envisaged:

a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; of respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential and contributing to shared prosperity. A world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation. A world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed. A just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met ... a world in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.

Details of the 17 SDGs can be found at: https://sustainabledevelopment.

The SDGs and forced displacement

Within migration studies, there has been a slow recognition that migration and development are linked and that the gap between relief and development should be addressed. The term ‘migration-development nexus’ describes how migration policy intersects with development policy as outlined by Carling: ‘The migration-development nexus is the totality of mechanisms through which migration and development dynamics affect each other’ (Carling, 2017:1).

As Carling (Ibid.) suggests, such a definition allows an understanding that there are complicated interdependencies between migration and development. For example, Carling suggests that remittances to the society of origin both signal the benefits of migration and sustain the livelihoods of those who remain. Carling suggests that thinking of these areas as a nexus allows for complex two-way relationships to be understood (Carling, 2017:2). However, Carling goes on to point out that migration studies now has a total of 36 different nexuses and, while there are connections between different areas of migration, these are not always well defined (Ibid.).

With the arrival of the SDGs, migration and human trafficking have, for the first time, been inserted into mainstream development policy. Several SDGs and associated Targets relate to forced displacement, migration more broadly, trafficking and causes of forcible migration. Those most closely aligned are:

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Target 5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

Target 5.3: Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Target 8.7: Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.

Target 8.8: Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Target 10.7: Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Target 16.2: End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.

It is intended that Target 16.2 will be measured, among other indicators, by assessing the numbers of victims of trafficking, disaggregated by age, sex and forms of exploitation. As outlined earlier, such quantification of trafficking poses a considerable challenge as collecting data on trafficking is fraught with methodological difficulties (see Chapter 4).

Points for discussion - connections between categorisations of the forcibly displaced

Carling has provided a three-page document on the 36 different migration nexuses. Please read this and think about how all these different areas are connected.

  • • Do you think there is a strong connection between development and migration?
  • • Why do you think providing connections or links between different topics has been so compelling for different authors in the area of migration studies?

Carling, J. (2017) Thirty-six migration nexuses, and counting, view at: https://

Point for discussion - describing the forcibly displaced

People who are forced to migrate are often described in negative or polemic ways. Why do you think this might be the case?

Outline of the book

The initial chapters in this book provide an outline of different forms of forced migration and key legal definitions of who is a ‘refugee’, ‘stateless person’, ‘internally displaced person’ or ‘victim of trafficking’.

In the next chapter — Chapter 2 — the topic of people who cross borders to seek protection from persecution is explored in greater depth. There is a discussion of the internationally recognised legal definition of a refugee according to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the subsequent 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees and other definitions contained within regional mechanisms for protecting refugees. Thereafter available statistics for the number and locations of refugees are outlined. Why international protection for refugees is crucial and how ‘durable solutions’ have evolved over time are explored through the work of a number of key thinkers who have shaped the protection of refugees over time.

Chapter 3 goes on to reveal how forcible displacement occurring within national borders is statistically higher than for those who cross borders. This chapter therefore looks at those who have been internally displaced - internally displaced persons (IDPs) - and protection needs and gaps. The 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement are discussed as is their integration into regional protection mechanisms. Again, a focus on key thinkers are drawn upon as are maps and key concepts such as ‘hosting’ of IDPs.

Chapter 4 looks at who is a ‘victim’ of human trafficking according to the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, otherwise known as the Palermo Protocol. In the context of tight control of borders across the globe, adults and children can also be ‘smuggled’ or ‘trafficked’ within and across borders. Problems with statistics and estimates of trafficking, the issue agency of those involved and other debates that are hotly debated in relation to trafficking are outlined. Key thinkers and key concepts plus case studies are utilised to illustrate these debates.

Chapter 5 is dedicated to looking at both mixed migrations (Zetter, 2019) and the ‘root causes’of human displacement, distinct patterns related to political events and associated human rights violations. The root causes of forced displacement have been debated for several decades, and understanding human rights is vitally important within the study of forced migration.

Chapter 6 considers how children are affected by forcible displacement, both within and across borders, and how women and children have been depicted in forced migration debates. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines children as being below the age of 18 years. This chapter looks into the descriptors and categorisations of children used to offer protection. It also considers how the causes and consequences of forcible migration can be gendered. Issues around sexual and gender-based violence during conflict and displacement are viewed through the use of case studies to ground the work of key thinkers.

In Chapter 7 legislative and policy responses to displaced persons are explored, including UNHCRs ‘durable solutions’ of resettlement, local integration and repatriation and regional case studies of policy responses towards refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs and people who have experienced human trafficking. This includes recent Global Compacts — one for refugees and another for migrants. Chapter 7 also introduces the issue of ethics in both working with people who have been displaced and conducting research with displaced populations. Scenarios are provided for students to work through - these are

The study of forced migration 23 based on working and conducting research in humanitarian contexts. Suggested further reading around the need to move beyond standard ‘Do no harm’ ethical frameworks are provided. Examples of ethical guidance available in the field of forced migration are included.

Finally, Chapter 8 addresses contemporary issues in the past five years. Case studies of forced migration are included on what has been termed a ‘refugee crisis’across Europe and the arrival of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh. The case study of Rohingya refugees felling what many have termed a genocide in Myanmar allows consideration of statelessness and the way in which the rights of the displaced fall into cracks of international protections. Emerging and future trends in research in this area are discussed. Suggested further reading completes this book.

Further reading

Carling, J. (2017) Thirty-six Migration Nexuses, and Counting, view at: https://jorgencarling.


Castles, S., de Haas, H. and Miller, MJ. (2014) The Age of Migration: International Populations Movements in the Modern World, Palgrave Macmillan, London.

(In particular see Chapter 2 - sections on functionalist, neo-classical and historical-structural theories and Chapter 3 - section on the transformation of receiving societies.) Crawley, H. and Skleparis, D. (2017) Refugees, Migrants, Neither, Both: Categorical Fetishism and the Politics of Bounding in Europe’s ‘Migration Crisis’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 44(1), 48-64.

Khosravi, S. (2007) The ‘Illegal’Traveller: An Auto-ethnography of Borders, Social Anthropology, 15(3), 321-334.

Khosravi, S. (2010) ‘Illegal’ Traveller: An Auto-Ethnography of Borders, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire.

King, R. and Skeldon, R. (2010) ‘Mind the Gap!’ Integrating Approaches to Internal and International Migration, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(10), 1619-1646.

(In particular see Figure 1 on migration pathways that outline the range of options available to migrants, including return migration, and the interface between internal and international migration.)

O’Reilly, K. (2012) International Migration & Social Theory, Palgrave Macmillan, London and New York.

(This is about all forms of migration, not only ‘forced migration’ but there is a chapter specifically dedicated to refugee and forced migration that focusses on children)

Zetter, R. (2007) More Labels, Fewer Refugees: Remaking the Refugee Label in an Era of Globalization, Journal of Refugee Studies, 20(2), 172-192.


Agustin, L.M. (2007) Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry, Zed Books, London and New York.

Anderson, B. and O’Connell-Davidson, J. (2002) Trafficking — A Demand Led Problem?, Save the Children, Sweden.

Bauman, Z. (2015) The Migration Panic and Its (Mis)Uses, view at: www.socialeurope.


Bobbio, N. (1996) The Age of Rights, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Boswell, C. and Crisp, J. (2004) Poverty, International Migration and Asylum, Policy Brief No.8, United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER), Helsinki.

Carling,). (2015) A Landmark in the Landscape of Migration Studies, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(13), 2373-2376.

Castles, S. (2003) Towards a Sociology of Forced Migration and Social Transformation, Sociology, 37(13), 13-34.

Castles, S. (2013) The Forces Driving Global Migration, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 34(2), 122-140.

Castles, S. (2014) International Migration at a Crossroads, Citizenship Studies, 18(2), 190-207.

Collyer, M. (2015) Steel Wheels: The Age of Migration 5.0, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(13), 2362-2365.

Crawley, H., Duvell, E, Jones, K., McMahon, S. and Sigona, N. (2018) Unravelling Europe’s ‘Migration Crisis’: Journeys over Land and Sea, Policy Press, Bristol.

Giddens. A. and Sutton, P.W (2017) Sociology (8th ed.), Polity Press, Cambridge.

Gould, C. (2010) The Problem of Trafficking, in Palmary, L, Burman, E., Chantier, K. and Kiguwa, P. (Eds.), Gender and Migration: Feminist Interventions, Zed Books, London.

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (2020) Global Report on Internal Displacement, IDMC and Norwegian Refugee Council, Geneva, Switzerland.

International Organization for Migration (IOM) (2016) Assessing the Risks of Migration along The Central and Eastern Mediterranean Routes: Iraq and Nigeria as Cast Study Countries, IOM, Geneva.

International Organization for Migration (IOM) (2017) Migrant Vulnerability to Human Trafficking and Exploitation: Evidence from the Central and Eastern Mediterranean Migration Routes, IOM. Geneva.

King, R. (2015) Migration Comes of Age, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(13), 2366-2372.

King, R., Black, R., Collyer, M.. Fielding, A. and Skeldon, R. (2010) The Atlas of Human Migration: Global Patterns of People on the Move, Earthscan, Brighton.

King, R. and Skeldon, R. (2010) ‘Mind the Gap!’ Integrating Approaches to Internal and International Migration, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(10), 1619-1646.

Kunz, E.F. (1973) The Refugee in Flight: Kinetic Models and Forms of Displacement, International Migration Review, 7, 125-146.

Kunz, E.F. (1981) Exile and Resettlement: Refugee Theory, International Migration Review, 15, 42-51.

Palmary, I. (2010) Sex, Choice and Exploitation: Reflections on Anti-Trafficking Discourse, in Palmary, I., Burman, E., Chantier, K. and Kiguwa, P. (Eds.), Gender and Migration: Feminist Interventions, Zed Books, London.

Ravenstein, E. (1885) The Laws of Migration, Journal of the Statistical Society of London, 48(2), 167-235.

Richmond, A.H. (1988) Sociological Theories of International Migration, Current Sociology, 36(2), 7-25.

Richmond, A.H. (1994) Global Apartheid: Refugees, Racism and the New Hvrld Order, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Skeldon, R. (2015) What’s in a Title? The Fifth Edition ofThe Age ofMigration, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(13), 2356-2361.

Thomas, W. and Znaniecki, F. (1918) The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, Badger, Boston.

UNDESA (2016) International Migration Report 2015, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) (2016) Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Geneva.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) (2020) Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2019, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Geneva.

UNODC (2016) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna.

van Hear, N. (2012) Forcing the Issue: Migration Crisis and the Uneasy Dialogue between Refugee Research and Policy, Journal of Refugee Studies, 25(1), 2-24.

Vertovec, S. (1999) Conceiving and Researching Transnationalism, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22(2), 447-462.

Vertovec, S. (2007) Super-diversity and Its Implications, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 42, 125-139.

Zetter, R. (2019) Theorizing the Refugee Humanitarian-Development Nexus: A Political-Economy Analysis, Journal of Refugee Studies,

Zolberg, A., Suhrke, A. and Aguayo, S. (1989) Escape from Violence, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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