The war in Syria has forced tens of thousands to flee their homeland, many across the Turkish border. In turn, the EU and Turkey are holding urgent talks to channel these flows. Meanwhile migration looms large on the international agenda, in particular for the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals and in general for international labour policies. Our researchers focused on all these issues at the Civil Society Days of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), held in Istanbul in mid-October 2015.
The Global Forum on Migration and Development is the world’s largest migration event, gathering 260 civil society delegates, over 100 reps from international organisations and more than 300 government officials from across the world. Dr. Katie Kuschminder attended as a member of the civil society International Steering Committee which provides guidance to the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in their role as coordinator of the GFMD Civil Society Days and the Migration and Development Civil Society Network (MADE). Elaine McGregor attended as the author of the MADE Movement Report which provides insights into progress towards achieving the 5-year 8-point Plan of Action (PoA), launched by civil society leaders, networks and organisations from around the world as a call for action and collaboration with governments at the 2013 High Level Dialogue (HLD) on International Migration and Development in New York. Finally, Dr. Ozge Bilgili represented MIPEX, the most comprehensive index for measuring equal rights and opportunities for immigrants in integration policy.
Forced Migration & Times of ‘Crisis’ – Dr. Katie Kuschminder
This was the first GFMD to discuss forced migration. Hosted by the Government of Turkey, the country that also hosts the largest number of refugees globally, several issues were discussed — with Syria often in the foreground. At the common space session, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called for further integration of Syrian refugees into Turkish society. Turkey has clearly experienced a time of mass influx which is not yet over as conflict continues in Syria, as well as other parts of the world including Afghanistan. The call for integration and further opportunities for Syrian and Turkish children to learn and grow together is especially welcome — it comes at a time when several countries want to close their doors to refugees.
To this effect, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said, “It does not make sense to ask Turkey to keep one door open and close the other borders”. With several European governments, including the Netherlands, focused on ‘stemming’ the flows, it was also welcome to hear Mr. Sonke Lorenz of the German Government say that the two greatest challenges facing his country are i) protecting the rights of migrants en route to Germany and ii) ensuring integration. CSD Chair Ignacio Parker reminded us all that values need to be at the core of our policies and priorities. The GFMD provided strong motivation to focus on protection, rights, solidarity, and further international cooperation. In times of forced migration and crises all governments and citizens need to remember to not only treat refugees and migrants with dignity, but to uphold the values of the Geneva Convention on Refugees — and ultimately grant protection to those in need.
The Sustainable Development Goals at the GFMD – Elaine McGregor
The UN Sustainable Development Summit, 25-27 September 2015, saw the formal adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, presenting 17 goals and 169 targets to stimulate action from 2015 to 2030. In terms of migration, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a global agreement that migration is important for development and vice versa. Civil society’s role in monitoring the roll out of of the SDGs was the subject of much discussion at the CSDs, and the important role of evidence was highlighted by Ignacio Packer (Terre des Homes) in the Civil Society Chair Report, delivered to government delegates on 14 October 2015. To focus on the specifics, the disaggregation of national statistics by migratory status would already go a long way to increase the understanding of the dynamics of migration and development. Beyond this, creating an inventory of the many indicators already collected, monitored and measured by different government ministries and departments with a role in migration in a country could provide momentum to the increased sharing of information and data. In turn, this would contribute to an increased understanding of migration impacts in origin, transit and destination countries leading, in theory, to more coherent policies. Yet there is also a need to increase the number and availability of impact evaluations.
Impact evaluations, often confused with process evaluations, focus on whether an intervention had its intended impact on beneficiaries; it is essential to get these right from the outset, from the design phase. Baseline indicators also need to be defined and measured. If done consistently and well, systematic literature reviews can aggregate the findings of these evaluations to establish whether, and in what contexts certain interventions work. For example, what are the educational outcomes for Syrians in Turkey and how do the various programmes by the government and civil society organisations function? Can any of these be upscaled to ensure that children and young people displaced by the Syrian crisis do not face major interruption to their education? Are there lessons to be learnt to ensure a quick response to mass displacement in the future? And when doing so, what contextual factors should be take into consideration? Collectively, we should be able to answer these questions. Just as governments have a duty to check that their programmes work, civil society organisations share an equal responsibility. By working together to improve the evidence base, civil society and governments have a real chance of achieving the commitments made by governments at the HLD in 2013, and the objectives of the 5-Year 8-Point Plan of Action.
Reforming Migrant Labour Recruitment Policies & Practices – Dr. Özge Bilgili
One of the four main objectives of the GFMD Civil Society Days was to discuss goals for labour mobility, labour rights and decent work. In two panel sessions, the topic was approached by focusing on reforming labour recruitment policies and practice, based on inspiring practices, partnerships and new tools. The starting point of all discussions was that individuals do not leave their country of origin or face integration challenges in the country of destination solely due to lack of opportunities in the labour market. In many instances, individuals can find employment but these positions may not be the most desirable ones. Questions on labour market integration are more about quality of jobs and working conditions. In many countries, agreements on labour standards exist, but the challenge is to implement them in a way to satisfy people’s needs and expectations — to provide them with decent work environments. It will not be easy to achieve this goal, as it relies on various factors: the enhancement of transnational governmental cooperation, the inclusion of Civil Society Organisations in national and international dialogues, and the strengthening of foreign missions to better protect the labour rights of individuals (within borders but also in transit, in distress and at borders).
Only through such a comprehensive approach can both national constitutions and international laws be improved to enhance equal responsibilities and opportunities of migrants in a society free of discrimination and unjust obstacles. It is true that migrants’ labour market integration shows great variation; and successful integration happens over time depending not only on immigrants’ skills and reasons for migration but also the specific context in the receiving country. In this regard, evidently, besides the general policies, targeted labour market integration policies play a defining role. MIPEX results have illustrated that this is one of the policy areas where many countries continue to invest in reform. There is a clear expansion of pilots and funding of targeted policies that specifically focus on the needs of foreign-trained, low-education, young arrivals and migrant women. The Civil Society Days discussions highlighted the need for stronger partnerships with the private sector to support better targeted programmes and roll out of policies. In cooperation with CSOs, the private sector can strengthen monitoring and standards within them and help to manage the supply chain.
The GFMD Civil Society Days highlighted once again that migration is a reality that needs to be managed. The meetings put forward some credible recommendations to improve the positive effects of migration at the micro, meso and macro levels.
UNU / O.Bilgili, H.Hudson, K.Kuschminder, E.McGregor