Nepal became an IOM member state in 2006. In 2007, the Government of Nepal (GoN) and IOM signed a Cooperation Agreement to encourage cooperation and the delivery of services to Nepal, which is a country of origin, transit and destination of migration. IOM’s initial focus was on the resettlement of Bhutanese refugees. Since then, IOM has expanded significantly both in terms of programme areas and target populations and has been contributing to the government of Nepal’s efforts to manage migration more effectively through a wide range of programmes such as Refugee ResettlementMigration and HealthEmergency ResponseDisaster Risk Reduction and ResilienceLand, Property & ReparationMigration, Environment and Climate ChangeLabour MigrationMigrant Assistance & Protection; and Migration & Development. IOM Nepal also supports Regional Consultative Processes on Migration  with technical expertise, policy guidance, research, capacity building and targeted project initiatives.

IOM is a member of United Nations Country Team and works within the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) whose strategic areas are derived from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and Nepal’s Fourteenth National Development Plan.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes that migration is a powerful driver of sustainable development, for migrants and their communities. Migration brings significant benefits in the form of skills, strengthening the labour force, investment and cultural diversity. It supports growth by contributing to the improvement of communities in countries of origin through the transfer of skills and financial resources.

Nepal’s migration situation is dominated by the migration of Nepalese for foreign employment. The Nepal Migration Profile 2019 estimates over 3.2 million Nepali migrant workers are currently working in foreign countries including India and over a half of Nepalese households has a migrant member who is either abroad or returned from a working experience abroad. The most evident impact of Nepal’s migration is brought by the remittances which flow back into Nepal. They positively and significantly contribute to both, the household as well as the national economy. 

The current outbreak of the COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on human mobility. The pandemic will have broad-ranging, long-term humanitarian and socio-economic impact. Loss of jobs and income in destination countries has pushed already vulnerable migrants and their families further into deeper poverty. Though migrants all over the world, including that of Nepalese, have often been working in frontline in response to the pandemic in their host countries, the pandemic has also intensified stigma, xenophobia and discrimination directed towards migrants and other vulnerable population due to perceived linkages with the origin or transmission of the pandemic.

In line with its global call for a migrant-inclusive approaches in the overall COVID-19 response, IOM in Nepal has been supporting the efforts of the government of Nepal in preparedness, response and recovery from the pandemic.

Overview of Nepal

Nepal is governed according to the Constitution of Nepal 2015. The Constitution, which has transformed Republic of Nepal into a federal state, came out following a decade-long armed insurgency that ended in 2006 and another nearly decade-long political transition. 

Nepal has a long history of dynamic population mobility and recent years have seen an increase in the complexity of migration patterns. Increasing number of Nepalese, especially the youth, are seeking better opportunities abroad. Over half of all Nepali households have at least one migrant family member currently abroad or living in Nepal as a returnee. International migration and remittances have played a pivotal role in Nepal’s economic development and poverty reduction. The scale of the dependence on migration and remittances is illustrated by remittances constituting 29 per cent of the country’s gross product (GDP).  At the same time, however, migration experiences often come with risks and vulnerabilities. Many migrants face abuse, forced labour, exploitation, health risks and life-threatening conditions.   

Nepal is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world. It is exposed to multiple recurrent natural disasters which have destroyed thousands of lives and millions of houses over the decades.  Furthermore, the adverse impacts of climate change for livelihoods, food security and water availability are likely to exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and increase overall levels of migration in the coming decades.