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Reversing migration flows — a battle we cannot afford to lose

As the world celebrated World Food Day, with an emphasis on the role of migration in food security, it was remarkable how many times the term “rural development” was mentioned in both official and non-official statements. The term was used so much that everyone seemed to be trying to align their work with this “new” concept.

In fact, this 40-year-old concept, adopted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) from its earliest days, continues to reflect the importance we place on investing in rural people.

In the context of migration, we believe our primary role is to create prosperity in rural areas that encourages people to stay in their villages, and to motivate those who left to come back, rebuild their lives, and help us to feed the world by restoring agricultural productivity.

We know that people need the right tools to achieve successful agricultural development, including capacity-building and access to financial facilities. This is something we are striving toward in conjunction with our partners worldwide.

In the Near East and North Africa, where climate change and protracted crises are endemic, we have designed a multitude of programs to help mitigate the impacts of these extremes. One of the many advantages of our modus operandi was to build these tools in consultation with end users, as there is little time to waste.

Our Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability (FARMS) clearly recognizes that successful interventions need to address the root causes of migration, in addition to providing immediate support during times of crisis.

As inequality creates a favorable environment for the initiation and perpetuation of conflicts, it is imperative to reduce these inequalities by looking closely at the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations.

Time is of the essence. Thirteen years might seem like an ample amount of time to achieve our 2030 development agenda. But it is probably insufficient to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 objectives, especially in light of the many parameters that are hindering our efforts.

Climate change, conflict and unpredictable weather extremes are becoming a reality in our daily life, with devastating consequences on our efforts to eradicate hunger and address the root causes of poverty.

This fragility is undermining and adversely affecting the development outcomes achieved by the international community and our national partners over the past decades. Although we urgently need immediate, life-saving support, nothing should distract us from focusing on the long-term goal of achieving equitable and sustainable rural development.

While the global community speaks of the need for billions of dollars to meet the SDG requirements by 2030, a more realistic figure is probably in the trillions. That said, we need to ensure that these investments are allocated wisely and transparently. Good governance in managing development investments is as important as those investments themselves.

If we are serious in our efforts to reverse migration flows, we need collective efforts from governments, financial institutions, the private sector, civil society and communities to make sure we are all moving in the right direction.

As enunciated by IFAD’s President Gilbert F. Houngbo on World Food Day: “We need to double our efforts to support rural people at all levels (financially and not financially) in order to win this ultimate battle against hunger and poverty, maybe because we can’t afford to lose it.”

• Dr. Khalida Bouzar is director of the Near East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).