25.9 million registered refugees. 41.3 million internally displaced people. 272 million migrants worldwide. These are just some of the headline figures in the International Organization for Migration’s latest publication, the 2020 World Migration Report. The report serves as a comprehensive source of information about the state of global migration. From the spread of the coronavirus around the world to the influx of refugees from Syria into Turkey, recent events show the ways in which the movement of people plays a role in so many UN issue areas.

The World Migration Report seeks to synthesize both academic and policy research on all aspects of migration, and to serve as the document of record for those who seek non-partisan information about migration trends. The main analysis of this year’s report: 

The unfortunate reality is that there have been major migration and displacement events during the last two years; events that have caused great hardship and trauma as well as loss of life. Foremost have been the displacements of millions of people due to conflict (such as within and from the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan). 

In spite of these negative trends, migration remains a perennial phenomenon, and two-thirds of the world’s migrating population are labor migrants, rather than refugees or otherwise displaced persons. In the modern world, globalization drives migration patterns, and technological advancements and climate change will continue to shape the reasons for, and ways in which, humans move around the world.

On Thursday, February 27, Washington played host to the U.S. launch of the report at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a leading think tank. USA for IOM (IOM’s U.S.-based non-profit partner) was a key donor for this year’s report. At CSIS, Marie McAuliffe, IOM’s chief editor, presented the main findings, before a panel discussion with Michael Clemens, Director of Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Kathleen Newland, co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute, moderated by CSIS’s Daniel Runde.

During the CSIS discussion, panelists also sought to dispel myths about migration that have led to such a politicization of this issue. They noted that more people will be on the move over the next twenty years, and that the vast majority of migration around the world is well-managed. For policymakers, the next challenge will be the regulation of economic migration, and the continued impact of globalization on the mobility of peoples around the world.

Since the last report, UN member states have finalized two agreements designed to tackle irregular migration and displacement issues: the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and the Global Compact on Refugees. Previous IOM publications have reached huge numbers of people around the world. Over 500,000 people have downloaded the 2018 iteration, and IOM will release the latest version in French, Chinese, Arabic and Russian and possibly German, with the English and Spanish versions already complete. In accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals, this is the first World Migration Report to be digital-only, which will save over 1 million pieces of paper!

Alistair Somerville is an intern at the UN Information Center and a graduate student at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.