Thursday, 22 November 2012

GFMD Working Session and Common Space

By Grace Baey

Amidst my conversations with fellow colleagues from civil society, I was heartened to learn from those who had attended previous Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) meetings that there has been a marked shift in discourse over the past six years from a predominant focus on economic concerns (i.e. remittances) towards a growing emphasis on migrant rights.

The 2012 GFMD marked the second time that civil society and governments shared a "common space" through which to engage in face-to-face dialogue on migration and development issues. As noted by Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), "the Common Space is now a permanent fixture of the GFMD… In the past, we were ships that passed by the night along parallel courses. Now those days are over."

I participated in three working sessions on the theme on labour mobility, markets, and matching, including the common space dialogue with government representatives. Each working session featured a panel of speakers who shared different insights and best practices learned from their range of experience on various migration issues. Amongst these were Philip Hunter from Verit√©, Christine Kuptsch from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and Karl Flecker from the Canadian Labour Congress.   

During the working sessions, we were pushed to put pen to paper regarding the changes we felt were most urgently needed to improve recruitment and employment practices, as well as skills and jobs matching from the perspective of migrant workers, trade unions, and employers. Some of these included:
  • Strong licensing and regulation of recruitment that is effectively enforced, and clearly identifies the rights of workers and responsibilities of all parties;
  • Harmonisation and recognition of credentials; and
  • Promote employer investment in training that is relevant to the labour market.
Having identified these changes, we brainstormed different tools and mechanisms to operationalise these recommendations and proposed the following benchmarks:
  • Reduction in the number of brokers and intermediaries, and instances of illegal recruitment;
  • Increased ratification of UN and ILO Conventions, including ILO Convention 181;
  • Programmes to ensure that migrants are matched with jobs according to their training (to avoid de-skilling); and
  • Creating public employment agencies to assist in the placement of migrant workers.
These discussions helped to inform the common space dialogue on the third day, when civil society representatives were given the opportunity to speak first. Despite the brief time we shared, it was our hope that these exchanges would sow the seeds for a much-needed partnership towards achieving the common goal of improving the lives of migrants around the world. As Stefan Manservisi, Director General for Home Affairs of the European Commission, has rightly commented, "The common space should be turned into a common approach."

There is much work to do ahead of us, but I take heart in Khalid Koser's (Deputy Director, Geneva Centre for Security Policy) affirmation that "the sum of the GFMD dialogue is more than the total of its individual parts." To quote the words of George Joseph, Co-Chair of the GFMD Civil Society Days, in his closing speech, "We are here today not for ourselves. We are here for change."

Grace Baey is the Communications Officer for the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, one of the core partners within the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium. Grace was attending the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society Days 2012 supported by the Migrating out of Poverty RPC.

A Call to Action: 2012 GFMD Civil Society Days in Mauritius

By Grace Baey

"We have come here for change… to humanise our societies." This call to action from George Joseph, co-Chair of the 2012 Civil Society Days of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), marked the guiding principle of this year's theme on "Operationalising Protection and Human Development in International Migration".

Hosted for the first time in Africa, over 140 representatives from civil society organisations around the world gathered together on the beautiful island of Mauritius to put their hands to the plough, focused on translating recommendations made from prior GFMD meetings into practical benchmarks and strategies to be taken up at the 2013 UN High Level Dialogue (HLD) on International Migration and Development, as well as the post-2015 development agenda.

The opening address, delivered by Ali Mansoor, Financial Secretary of the Government of Mauritius and Chair-in-Office for the 2012 GFMD, emphasised what eventually became the dominant premise of our conversations: "Be pragmatic, and strive for workable solutions, not mere ideals."

Amidst the cautionary undertone of his speech, he stressed the need to "tread carefully the issue of communications on [matters pertaining to] migration—where emotions hit the core of reason." "Good intentions are not enough," he said. "You need to come out of the dry rock of principle so that we can build a bridge of communication between civil society and governments."

It was interesting to note the mirror through which both parties viewed themselves: On the one hand, civil society delegates were gathered precisely with the intention of taking issues concerning the everyday realities and struggles of migrants up to the high-level table of intergovernmental discourse. On the other, the persistent appeal on stage amongst state actors was for civil society to ground their high-minded ideals with pragmatic and implementable strategies through which to address real issues concerning migration. Thus the petition from both ends was: Come down!

Wherein lies the common ground?

The organising committee offered one clue card: Benchmarks.

To achieve this, the bulk of the two-day agenda was focused on three working sessions surrounding the themes of "Labour", "Development" and "Protection":
  • Operationalising a Rights-based Approach to Labour Mobility, Markets, and Matching;
  • Operationalising Human Development in International Migration; and
  • Operationalising the Protection of Migrants and their Families.
Thomas Stelzer, UN Assistant Secretary General for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), noted in his plenary speech that these working session themes paralleled those envisioned for the 2013 HLD, and so the outcomes of our deliberations would channel seamlessly into these dialogues.

"Think strategically," he urged. "After 6 years of talk, its time to come to action."

Grace Baey is the Communications Officer for the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, one of the core partners within the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium. Grace was attending the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society Days 2012 supported by the Migrating out of Poverty RPC.

Day Two at the GFMD Civil Society Days 2012

By Linda Oucho

We started the day with such an interesting choice of workgroup sessions that it was difficult to select which one to attend. There are representatives from organisations across the globe who have come with an agenda and aim to share their ideas on the issues concerning migration and/or development, several of whom initiated mind opening discussions. There are so many people to talk to that I find it difficult to locate the other core partners from the Migrating out of Poverty Consortium but I am certain our paths will cross at some point.

Today's breakout sessions continue yesterday's discussions with the hope of reaching a consensus on what should be presented to the government session on the following day. Throughout the breaks I roam around the stalls to see the recent literature or information from organisations that deal with areas within our remit. The usual suspects - the International Labour Organisation and the International Migration Organisation - are prominent, but there is also a separate table where information from a range of organisations across the globe is available. In addition, I talked with organisations located all over Africa about the African Migration and Development Policy Centre's (AMADPOC) activities, including the Migrating out of Poverty programme. The people I spoke to seem to be keenly interested in our research findings.

The Mauritians are a very warm and welcoming nation and have an interesting way of entertaining their guests. The event was closed by Mr Ali Mansoor with a telling tale about the two boys who tried to trick the wise man by hiding a bird behind their backs and asking the wise man to guess what one of them was hiding. Expecting him to know the answer, they decided to ask whether the bird was alive or dead. Realizing the trick, the wise man stated "the answer to your question is in your hands", reminding us that we all hold the answers to the migration question.

Dr Linda Oucho is Director of the Research and Data Hub at the African Migration Development and Policy Centre (AMADPOC), a core partner within the Migrating out of Poverty consortium. She  participated in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD)  Civil Society Days 2012  with the support of the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Day One at the GFMD Civil Society Days 2012

By Linda Oucho

The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society Days 2012 was opened by John Bingham who introduced panellists Ali Mansoor (GFMD Chair in Office), Shakeel Mohammed (Minister of Labour Industrial Relations and Employment in the Government of Mauritius) and Patricia Adele Felicite (Secretary General of Caritas Mauritius).

Ali Mansoor advised us to always bear in mind that we are not looking at labour but human beings. Shakeel Mohammed recounted the story of his experience of migration to Canada. The support he received on arrival demonstrated the importance of being received at your destination country by a familiar group. He added that we should focus on confidence building between civil society and the government in order to tackle the issues plaguing migration. Patricia Felicite asked us to question our part in trying to deal with some of the MDGs that still need to be dealt with asking are we part of the problem and do we want to be part of the solution. These welcoming remarks reminded us of why we are here and what we have been called to do.
The morning session revealed some inspiring stories from the work by George Joseph (Director of Migration Department, Caritas Sweden), who told us of a 16 year old Afghan girl who has endured horrible conditions in order to improve the lives of herself and her family. Even though she has lost everything, she wants to become a lawyer to fight for the rights of migrants in order to protect others from facing the same things she has experienced. George Joseph reminded us that we should seek to help all migrants and protect their rights from being violated.
By the time the afternoon session had begun, we had already taken up part of the time due to interesting discussions overrunning. I attended the working session on "Engaging Diaspora as Entrepreneurs, Social Investors and Policy Advocates". Panellists informed us of the activities of their organisations and asked us to recommend ways of improving their work efforts for the benefit of the diaspora and the government. Let’s just say the discussion was so engaging, the co-moderator, Gibril Faal (AFFORD UK) had to work hard to ensure we did not go over time. At the end of the day, everyone left with recommendations that will help to improve their efforts towards migration initiatives.
We were treated to an eventful cultural night where they showcased Mauritian culture from their vocal talents to their artistic dances from China and India. It was a perfect end to an intriguing day of discussions. I look forward to the next day....
Linda Oucho is the Director of the Research and Data Hub at the African Migration Development and Policy Centre (AMADPOC), a core partner within the Migrating out of Poverty consortium. She is participating in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Mauritius with the support of the Migrating out of Poverty programme.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Below the Radar: Why governments need to recognise the importance of the urban informal sector and migration for rural poverty reduction

By Priya Deshingkar

For millions of poor rural people across the globe, accessing urban labour markets is critical for survival and coping with seasonal adversity.   Their first point of arrival in a city is often an informal settlement or slum  such as Dharavi in Mumbai (with a population of 6.5 million) or Kibera in Nairobi (population of 1.7 million) and their first jobs are often in the informal sector. Early migration models viewed urban informal sector employment as a temporary staging post for new migrants on their way to formal sector employment. But decades of experience in developing countries has shown that the informal sector has persisted and grown, and graduation to the formal sector has been elusive.

In fact, recent assessments by UN-HABITAT indicate that the proportion of people living in slums exceeds the proportion of people living in officially authorised parts of the city in many parts of Africa and Asia. According to the State of the World Cities 2010/2011: Bridging the Urban Divide, the number of slum dwellers globally has increased from roughly 776 million in 2000 to roughly 827 million in 2010, despite the fact that 227 million people were rehabilitated through slum improvement projects. 

Most governments view informal settlements as hotbeds of crime,  filth and disease that cities need to be rid of. The policy response has been negligent at best, with slums continuing to have no services for decades, and demolition at worst where people are threatened with eviction without the provision of any real alternatives, as recent reports from Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Ghana indicate.  There are also (failed) efforts to keep migrants in rural areas through employment creation programmes – for example watershed development projects in India aim to reduce migration. According to the UN Demographic Yearbook 2009-10 an astonishing 67 per cent of all governments had policies to halt or limit rural-urban migration even in 2009.

This policy position is eloquently captured by Hernando De Soto, the Peruvian economist and author of The Other Path:  
When they arrived in the cities, however, migrants encountered a hostile world.  They soon realised that, while formal society had a bucolic vision of Peru’s rural world and acknowledged its right to happiness, no one wanted that other world to descend on the cities.  Assistance and development programs for rural areas were designed to ensure that the peasants improved their lot where they were, well away from the cities. Civilization was expected to go to the countryside; the peasants were not expected to come looking for it.

The genesis of these negative perceptions can be traced to theories of migration, urban unemployment and slum formation as well as ignorance related to the richness and dynamism of the urban informal sector.  Although participatory mapping of slums is gaining momentum, we have little understanding of the microenterprises that the urban poor are engaged in.  

Despite the persuasive arguments put forth by De Soto urging governments to recognise the economic contribution of workers in the urban informal sector, little has been done to address these concerns in developing regions of Asia and Africa. Where efforts have been made the results are impressive as in the case of research by Sumila Gulyani and Debabrata Talukdar in the slums of Nairobi: their results show that the urban poor engage in a range of micro-enterprises (retailing food and household appliances, small scale manufacturing, etc.). Contrary to older narratives that view the economic activities of the urban poor mainly as survival activities, their research indicates that such microenterprises can put people on a trajectory out of poverty.  

Nor is there any understanding of the amount of money that poor migrants to urban cities are able to send to their families back home.  Recent calculations by Adriana Castaldo, Priya Deshingkar and Andy McKay in 'Internal Remittances and Poverty', based on household surveys, comparing internal and international remittances in Ghana and India, two countries with marked regional inequalities and high levels of internal migration, show that the total sum of internal remittances far exceeds international remittances.  

Given that these remittances are from poorer migrants than those migrating internationally, and reach a larger number of poorer source families, the impacts on poverty are likely to be significant.  Remittances are critical for families in rural areas where credit and insurance markets are weak – the new labour economics of migration argument – and it helps them to eat regularly, send their children to school, improve housing and to pay for health care.  

Finally, systematic efforts are needed to understand and appreciate the economic contribution of  migrants.  Doug Saunders argued in his book Arrival City that migrants are the economic engines in cities across the world; indeed Deshingkar and Akter calculate that the economic contribution of migrants in India is 10% of the GDP.

Governments would do well to recognise people’s own efforts at managing risk and adversity in rural areas by migrating to towns and cities.  Urban and rural planners need to work together and recognise the reality of multilocational livelihoods and accept mobility rather than fighting it.

Priya Deshingkar is the Research Director of the Migrating Out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium at the University of Sussex