Thursday, 12 October 2017

Migrating out of Poverty at the UNU WIDER development conference

By Emmanuel Quarshie

The United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) in collaboration with the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) organized a development conference on migration and mobility on 5-6 October 2017 in Accra, Ghana. The theme of the conference was ‘Migration and mobility - new frontiers for research and policy’. In this blog I will discuss some of the main themes running through the conference and the Migrating out of Poverty contributions.

The issues of migration and mobility have become very topical and find their place at the heart of high-level global economic development debates. They are a feature of the Sustainable Development Goals due to the range of opportunities and challenges they pose globally. For this reason the conference sought to bring together a variety of disciplines ‘to inform policy-relevant debate and action’.

The conference was well attended by a wide range of researchers and scholars in the fields of migration, development economics and anthropology, among others. Favourably, Migrating out of Poverty team members from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Ghana were present. His Excellency, the Vice-President of Ghana, Mahamudu Bawumia gave the opening speech after a warm welcome address by Finn Tarp, Director of UNU-WIDER, and Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary General of ARUA.

The first keynote lecture was delivered by Ingrid Palmary, professor and academic director of the African Centre for Migration & Society at Wits University, South Africa. In her lecture, ‘How unpopular policies are made’, she discussed the following six key factors impacting on policy:

  • The nature of the policy being made
  • Who is the policy for?
  • Who are the role players?
  • Which positions have been taken? i.e. Is it from the moral/ethical or legal/human-right point of view?
  • Contestations over knowledge and
  • The political environment.

In her conclusion, she highlighted the fact that there is the need to attend to the relationship between global and local processes in policy formulation in order to avoid political rhetoric.

Professor Mariama Awumbila and Benjamin Schraven served as conveners for the parallel session on ‘Migration within Africa: defining the governance challenge’. A series of discussions went on after the three presentations, where focus was on the challenges of regional migration, economic integration and marriage migration. Having a keen interest in the presentation on ‘Challenges to regional migration and economic integration in West Africa: the case of Ghana and Nigeria’ I asked the presenter, Stephen Adaawen, if he could clearly explain the major problem impeding the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocol implementation, and if one of the plausible reasons was the conflict that exists between country-specific policies and ECOWAS protocol? He responded that the major challenge hampering the observation of the protocol for nationals from other member states was political will.  Countries within the community of the West Africa states looked to prioritize their citizens over citizens of other ECOWAS countries. Prof Awumbila suggested to improve mobility there was a need for ECOWAS to refine and define some key policies on the acquisition of work permits, residence permits and other such permits, to take into account those nationals residing outside their state that pass the 90 days of allowed stay in the another ECOWAS country. She also added that most of these issues emanate from the paucity in data on job categorisation and a lack of universality in school certificates among member countries.

During an afternoon session which was chaired by Ingrid Palmary, Julie Litchfield presented on
‘Migrant remittances and gender in Zimbabwe’. The presentation shed more light on in-kind remittances, which she stated, are more often sent by female migrants. It was put across, that in order to clearly understand the gendered dynamics of remitting and the overarching motivation to remit, these types of remittances must be acknowledged and explored. She argued that a focus on cash remittances ignores the larger volume of remittances sent by both men and women, but particularly undervalues the contribution of women to rural and household economies and this may have implications for policy around remittances. Looking solely at monetary remittances creates an incomplete picture.  Women are as likely as men to send remittances home and there is no difference in the value of what they send.

Eva-Maria Egger presented on ‘The nature and impact of repeated migration within households in rural Ghana’. The research sought to explore whether new migrants differ from the previous migrants of the same household and how having a new migrant affects the welfare of households who had already engaged in migration. She concluded with these four points:

  • There are repeated migration patterns and different motivations for migration within the same household
  • ‘New’ migrants are often from the younger generation, move more for educational reasons and because of household dynamics. They pay less for their move, remit rarely and when remitting, send smaller amounts
  • There was no impact of having a new migrant on the households of those left-behind who had already engaged in migration. Lower costs and the use of savings could explain this result
  • More longitudinal data and more outcome measures are needed for conclusive analysis

The last session of the conference highlighted an issue that many of us are grappling with. How can research affect policy? This invited a lot of views which highlighted the gap between research and policy; the role of politics in the implementation of key policies; the lack of proper liaison between researchers and policy makers; and the conflicting interests among these various actors. All places where more research can and should be done.

Emmanuel Quarshie is the Communications and Research Uptake officer for Migrating out of Poverty at the Centre for Migration Studies in Ghana

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