The March 19 announcement by the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, has called for global solidarity in response to the coronavirus crisis. In response to this dire scenario, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), through its Financing Facility for Remittances (FFR) is convening the Remittance Community Task Force to address the challenges confronting migrant workers and their families.
The March 19 announcement by the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, has called for global solidarity in response to the coronavirus crisis. In his heartfelt address to the world, that you can watch in this you tube video or read the transcript in the UN transcript, he underscored the fact that “remittances are a lifeline in the developing world – especially now”.
Countries affected by COVID-19 are moving urgently to develop policies and to expand safety nets to help deal with health threats and job losses. However, migrant workers are generally not covered by such measures. If they are unable to work, they cannot earn the money so vital to their families’ welfare. In a much-applauded move, Portugal, Mr. Guterres home country, has granted temporary citizenship rights to migrants and asylum seekers, granting them full access to the country’s healthcare as the coronavirus outbreak escalates in the country.
More than 200 million migrant workers live and work in many countries around the world. Most of them send remittances back home on a regular basis, and these vital resources support another 800 million family members and relatives living in rural and urban neighborhoods of developing countries. The UN Secretary General went on to add in his briefing that countries should make sure remittances costs go much below the current average levels, getting as close to zero as possible. Industry leaders are very worried that the impact of the pandemic to remittance companies, both traditional and digital, is going to be widespread. How this will impact the cost of remittances remains to be seen.
The trajectory and impact of this pandemic are still unknown. My initial thoughts of the pandemic and the industry are here. However, lessons learned in past crisis point towards a dramatic reduction in family remittances sent home.
In response to this dire scenario, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), through its Financing Facility for Remittances (FFR) is convening the Remittance Community Task Force to address the challenges confronting migrant workers and their families with the COVID-19 pandemic. The convening of the Task Force was publicly announced this week.
The Task Force will provide regular updated information concerning the challenges facing remittance families in the social and economic fallout during the coming months through its Briefs. The Task Force will also provide a convening platform for international organizations, national, regional and local governments, the private sector, academic experts and civil society including migrant and diaspora groups and their families.
Nina Huelsken and myself, representing IMTC, a GFRID partner, are honored to support FFR’s Manager Pedro de Vasconcelos and his team in Rome in this important effort and contribute to the immediate priority of this Task Force to develop a coordinated and concerted effort to raise awareness of the impact of this pandemic on the one billion people directly involved in remittances worldwide. The Task Force wants to give a voice to remittance families and to the industry that faithfully serves its clients in every corner of the world. It is time to act together as one to confront this global emergency.
Many industry associations, such as the MSBA, the US Money Service Businesses Association and AUKPI, Association of UK Payment Institutions are working with its members to discuss their needs with regulators and work together. We are eager to learn more about the efforts of industry associations in these difficult times.
For more information on the Remittance Community Task Force, please contact Remittances@ifad.org.