The 4th Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, 8-11 of November, has been the opportunity for representatives from the civil society and governments to share and discuss on the migration-development nexus. But it is not sure that the vivid debates that have taken place since the beginning of the meeting really contribute to changing the preconceived thoughts that each delegate had previously to her arrival. As a matter of fact, the 2010 Global Forum has confirmed that we are still far from a global consensus on migration issues.
The non-binding nature of the GFMD
Since 2007, the GFMD has gathered representatives from the countries of origin, transit and destination to discuss best practices. It is not meant, however, to produce agreements or normative decisions. The non-binding nature of the Forum is by itself 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 actions towards a more co-operative governance framework.
The role of the civil society
Even though Mexico decided to create a Common Space, where representatives from the civil society and governments have been able to share specific concerns, it is striking that the GFMD remains divided into two consecutive events: the Civil Society days (8 and 9 of November) and the Government days (10 and 11 of November). The fact that delegates from the two sectors barely meet is significant of the many discrepancies between them, in particular as regard the role of migrants, as well as their status and position in the society. In general, the delegates of the civil society complain that their recommendations are not really taken into account by governments.
The protection of the rights of the migrants
Mexico has decided to put the emphasis on the protection of the rights of migrants. But this is rather controversial. Indeed, most countries of immigration consider that migrants who try to irregularly cross borders violate immigration laws, and therefore cannot blame states for the difficulties they face doing so. By contrast, countries of origin, as well as most representatives from the civil society, reckon that by raising increasingly restrictive migration policies, countries of destination are responsible – even indirectly – for the violations of human rights that affect migrants.
The direction of the link between migration and development
In theory, sending and receiving countries share the same interest for migration and development issues. In this respect, the GFMD enables all parties to coordinate their policies to maximise the benefits associated with international mobility. However, in practice, there is a discrepancy on the direction of the link between migration and development. Indeed, while industrialised countries see development as a way to contain immigration, developing countries tend to consider emigration as an instrument for development.
The lack of discussions on the regulation of migration flows
The Global Forum, as its name itself denotes, focuses on the link between migration and development, but does not contemplate the regulation of migration flows. However, migration policies have been at the centre of many discussions, at least implicitly. Indeed, it is difficult to mainstream migration into development strategies while putting a brake on international mobility.
So, what should be the priorities of the next GFMDs and more generally of international discussions on migration and development?
· The dialogue between the representatives from the civil society and governments should be strengthened, by making the entire Forum a common space where NGOs, trade unions, employers and public authorities could share their experiences and work together towards a better governance of migration.
· It is time to stop disconnecting discussions on the link between migration and development and those on the regulation of migration flows. This implies a more co-operative framework, with binding negotiations on migration issues.
· Industrialised countries should acknowledge that they need foreign labour (not only qualified, but also unskilled and low-skilled workers), in particular to answer the challenge of population ageing. In this respect, political leaders need to explain the role and importance of immigration instead of playing with public’s opinion fears.
· As migration flows are mainly caused by public policy failures both in industrialised and developing countries, discussions on migration and development should be oriented towards a co-responsibility framework, which implies that public authorities take into account the spillover effects of migration policies on other countries.
· A governance framework based on co-responsibility should be centred around five main priorities: the protection of migrants, the accumulation of human capital, the promotion of financial democracy, the transfer of technology, and the strengthening of social cohesion.
A position paper on Linking Migration and Development: The Need for a Co-responsibility Framework will be soon available on the OECD Development Centre website.
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