The current global crisis related to COVID-19 affects all regions of the world, all generations and all segments of society. However, one particularly vulnerable demographic is migrant workers and their families as well as members of diaspora. Job losses and increased job insecurities have left many of them without pay, and so the flow of global remittances, i.e. money that they send back to support their families in their home countries, is projected to decline sharply by about 20 percent, or about 110 billion USD, in 2020. This has the potential to reverse the development progress made on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals as it not only causes hardships for families and communities that rely on remittances, it possibly also impacts many developing and emerging countries on a macroeconomic level, as remittances can correspond to more than 10% of their GDP.
To mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on those who rely on remittances the most, the Governments of Switzerland and the UK together with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development/World Bank (KNOMAD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Association of Money Transfer Networks (IAMTN) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) have initiated a Call to Action entitled “Remittances in Crisis: How to Keep them Flowing” that invites all Governments and stakeholders to join. As of 25 May 2020, the Governments of Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan have already pledged their support.
Addressing the matter, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, highlighted that “remittances are important, but difficult because of COVID-19. So let’s make sure those barriers are removed worldwide! New technologies can help us here.” And indeed, thanks to its long-standing work in the field of migration and development as well as its expertise in the financial sector, Switzerland is focusing on services that enable people to send remittances using new technologies, such as by mobile phone. Additionally, the Call equips policymakers, regulators and remittance service providers with further concrete pieces of advice and guidelines to facilitate the handling of remittances and thereby making the lives of those heavily affected by the coronavirus crisis easier. More detailed information on the Call can be found on the following website: Call to Action (KNOMAD)