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The link between migration and development

While the regulation of migration flows has been characterised by a lack of international co-operation, there has been a growing interest over the last decade in migration and development issues. Such interest materialised in 2006 with the United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, a state-led process aimed at building effective partnerships to leverage the impact of international migration on development.6 Even though the High-Level Dialogue did not translate into formal co-operation mechanisms (Martin et al., 2007), it contributed to furthering global discussions on migration issues and gave rise to the Global Forum on Migration and Development (see Box 2.2).

Box 2.2. The Global Forum on Migration and Development

The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) is not meant to produce agreements or normative decisions, but rather to gather representatives from the countries of origin, transit and destination to discuss best policy practices. The annual event has been held in Brussels (2007), Manila (2008), Athens (2009), Puerto Vallarta (2010) and Geneva (2011).

So far the process has resulted in a series of policy recommendations oriented towards the improvement of migrant conditions, better inclusion of migrants - in particular through diasporas - into development strategies, and a better coherence of migration and development policies. But despite the efforts, there is still a long way to go before a global consensus on migration and development is reached.

  • • The non-binding nature of the Forum is a point of disagreement between those who consider the flexibility of the process as a chance to move forward on such a sensitive issue as migration, and those who see it as an obstacle to concrete action towards a more co-operative governance framework.
  • • The role of civil society needs to be clarified, as the delegates of civil society complain that their recommendations are not taken into account by governments. The fact that delegates from both sides barely meet is indicative of the many misunderstandings between them, particularly on the role of migrants, as well as their status and position in society.
  • • The protection of the rights of migrants is a controversial issue. Most countries of immigration consider that migrants who try to cross borders irregularly violate immigration laws, and therefore cannot blame states for the difficulties they face by doing so. By contrast, countries of origin, as well as most representatives from civil society, reckon that by implementing increasingly restrictive migration policies, countries of destination are responsible - even indirectly - for the violations of human rights that affect migrants.
  • • In theory, sending and receiving countries share the same interests concerning migration and development issues. In this respect the GFMD enables all parties to co-ordinate their policies to maximise the benefits of mobility. In practice, there is a discrepancy on the direction of the link between migration and development. While a number of industrialised countries see development as a way to contain immigration, many developing countries consider emigration as an instrument for development.
  • • The Global Forum, as its name indicates, focuses on the link between migration and development, but there is a lack of discussion on the regulation of migration flows. Nevertheless, migration policies are implicitly at the centre of discussions. It is difficult to leverage migration for development if people are not allowed to move.

In parallel with the GFMD, the Global Migration Group (GMG), an inter-institutional group of agencies involved in migration-related activities, was established in 2006, with the purpose of providing analysis to its members, promoting the application of global and regional instruments and norms, and encouraging the co-ordination of migration and development policies. It has also served as a focal point for many of its members' recent initiatives, as advocated by the 2007 Report of the UN Secretary-General International

Migration and Development, which in particular concludes that relevant bodies, agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system should carry out migration-related activities such as "building capacity, assisting in the formulation and implementation of migration policies, and promoting practices that maximise the positive impact of migration on development and minimise its negative outcomes" (UN Secretary-General, 2007: 19). In the same perspective, the 2009 Human Development Report Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development proposes policies to enhance the human development impact of migration (UNDP, 2009).

The renewed interest in the migration-development nexus has come with an impressive amount of - sometimes conflicting - literature on the role of emigration as a driving force for (or a hindrance to) economic and social development. It has also resulted in the inclusion of migration and development issues in the international co-operation framework of several OECD countries.

In France, for instance, one of the stated missions of the Ministry of the Interior7 consists of supporting economic and social initiatives that enable migrants to take part in the development of their home countries. Similarly, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a specific division in charge of international migration and development, and the Spanish Agency for International Co-operation and Development (AECID) has included migration among its key intervention channels. Even more significantly, the 2008 European Council, in Brussels, adopted the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, which emphasises the importance of involving immigrants in development projects, and co-ordinating migration and development policies to benefit migrant-sending areas.

The formulation of policies linking migration and development is based on the idea that it is possible to enhance welfare in migrant-sending countries through the efficient management of international movements, but also - at least implicitly - that development should contribute, in the shorter or longer term, to reducing migration pressures from developing countries. Such assumption manifests itself in the so-called co-development policies (Khoudour- Castёras, 2010).

The notion of co-development first appeared in the 1980s, mainly under the influence of French diplomacy. The purpose was to give a new direction to international co-operation programmes, and to move from the logic of official development assistance, according to which Northern countries set the measures they deem necessary for the development of the South, to the logic of shared management of resources and responsibilities (Malgesini, 2001).

In the context of global interdependence, co-development implies that economic, social and environmental problems in the South may turn into a burden for other countries, while the improvement in living conditions in developing countries has positive repercussions on the international community. Therefore, industrialised countries have a direct interest in the development of the poorest nations in the world, such interest being particularly manifest with regard to migration.8 Co-development is actually based on the idea that public authorities should spur the financial and human capital gains associated with migration by mobilising migrants to contribute to the socio-economic development of both their host and origin countries (Narr, 1997).

But while the notion of co-development emphasises the positive role of migration in the development of both receiving and sending countries, it has increasingly become an anti-immigration strategy. The insistence of European authorities on financing productive - meaning job-creating - projects instead of investing in social or educative ones, is thus symptomatic of the use of codevelopment as a containment policy (Daum, 1998). Likewise, return policies reflect developed countries' temptation not to integrate new immigrant populations into society (Weil, 2002).

At the same time, there has been a growing tendency to trade development aid for migration controls, in particular through the externalisation of migration policies. In exchange for their co-operation on migration issues, origin and transit countries benefit from increased development assistance, independently of poverty reduction objectives (AidWatch, 2010). This is notably the case of Cape Verde, which, because of its strategic position off the west coast of Africa, has benefited from increasing development assistance from European countries, first among them Spain, to make Frontex (European Union border security agency) operations possible in its territorial waters.

More generally, many North-South co-operation policies rest on the illusion that economic development constitutes the best way to reduce immigration. In such a perspective, an increase in official development assistance (ODA) or in trade preferences is supposed to work in favour of both development and of migration reduction (Bohning, 1994). However, experience shows that development aid and trade liberalisation policies tend to increase emigration in developing countries, since the improvement in living conditions that usually follows such policies contributes to relieving the financial constraint associated with the decision to migrate (Berthelemy et al., 2009; de Haas, 2007; OECD, 2007).

 
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