UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the ‘Refugee Gap’: Leaving Refugees Behind?


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The Global Indicator Framework for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identifies seventeen goals with related targets and indicators of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and only one target includes an explicit reference to migration processes and policies. Under Goal 10 “Reduce inequality within and among countries,” target 10.7 concerns the facilitation of “orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration, and mobility of people, which includes the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies” that should be measured through four related indicators, three of which are potentially relevant to refugees. After exploring what the International Rescue Committee defines as “refugee gap” concerning SDGs (2019) in their report “Missing Persons: Refugees Left Out and Left Behind in SDGs,” this article reconfigures this gap as a multidimensional concept, and seeks to provide insights on which further steps could be undertaken to bridge it. The main analytical threads identified in this process include: 1) the partial availability of data concerning refugees” progress towards SDGs due to current data disaggregation policies and practices; 2) the limited presence of refugees in voluntary reporting activities by States; and 3) the conceptual framework behind target 10.7, as well as the methodology used to measure progress of three (out of four) indicators toward this target. The focus on target 10.7 and related indicators is aimed at checking their ability to provide information on how refugees’ access to fundamental rights and well-being are taken into account in the assessment of so-called “well managed migration policies.” From a methodological point of view, our analysis has also been supported by semi-structured interviews with the main experts on the issue, having key roles both in the conceptualization of the SDG refugee gap and in the definition and proposal of three selected indicators. To conclude, this article will ask whether and to what extent the refugee gap is still present despite the inclusion of a new refugee dedicated indicator in 2020 and despite the UNHCR’s advocacy efforts to include the forcibly displaced dimension in disaggregation policies. Moreover, it will investigate how such a gap can potentially be closed and whether the definition of “well-managed migration policies” is sufficiently comprehensive, is able to involve refugees in the assessment of progress towards SDGs and is consistent with the SDGs-linked principle of “leaving no one behind.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-107
Number of pages29
JournalRefugee Survey Quarterly
Early online date28 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • UN sustainable development goals
  • Goal 10
  • migration management
  • refugee rights
  • refugee gap
  • human rights
  • well-managed migration policies

Research Centres

  • International Justice and Human Rights Research Centre

Research Groups

  • International Justice and Human Rights Research Group


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