Migration and Development Issues: No Longer a Novelty in Policy Discussions
The language of migration and development — remittances, diaspora, brain drain, circular migration — has become standard among researchers and NGOs interested in development issues. In 2007, that language formally became part of the migration policy agenda, particularly in Europe.
The EU Blue Card proposal released in October is designed to encourage highly skilled migration. But it also advocates ethical recruitment standards to limit — if not ban — active recruitment in developing countries already suffering from serious brain drain (see Issue #3: Wanted More Than Ever: The Highly Skilled).
Issue No. 9 of Top Ten of 2007
In the immigration law France passed in 2006 (which went into force in 2007), the French government agreed to give "skills and talents" visas to qualified immigrants from a developing country only if the sending country has signed a "co-development" agreement with France or if the immigrants in question agree to return to their country of origin within six years.
The European Commission's communication on mobility partnerships in May made clear that third countries could ask for measures to address brain drain and mechanisms to encourage circular migration (see Issue #8: Mobility Partnerships, the Latest Policy Fashion).
A turning point for the migration and development policy agenda came in July, when Belgium hosted the first Global Forum on Migration and Development, a consultative process that followed up last year's UN High-Level Dialogue (UNHLD) on International Migration and Development. On the agenda: human capital development and labor mobility, remittances and other disapora resources, and enhancing institutional/policy coherence and promoting partnerships.
In all, 200 civil-society actors participated in the Global Forum's Civil Society Day and representatives of 155 countries gathered in Brussels. None of the countries had to formally agree to anything, but several announced the launch of projects based on forum discussions; others declared their intentions to take on a variety of initiatives, many related to easing the flow of and reducing the costs of remittances.
Perhaps most importantly, Global Forum participants declared their intention to continue this unique multilateral meeting. The Philippines will host the 2008 Global Forum.
In her closing address, Global Forum organizer Ambassador Régine De Clercq said, "It is fair to say that our meeting of the last three days heralds a new common vision on migration and development, based on cooperation and partnership, rather than on confrontation."
The impact of the UNHLD and the Global Forum in 2007 extended to smaller groups, which used the forum as a reason to hold their own events on migration and development issues.
The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration held a cities-oriented event in The Hague in late January that included Ambassador De Clercq. Among its intentions was to feed its findings into the Global Forum.
In October, the Austrian government collaborated with the United Nations Information Service and the Vienna office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to host a one-day conference on migration and development. The conference reunited some of the players from the Global Forum, and, judging by the event's subtitle ("Progressing from Brussels 2007 to Manila 2008"), it was clearly positioned as a stepping stone.
Noticeably absent from the Global Forum was the United States, where immigration reform debates focused on the unauthorized population and a temporary worker program, with hardly a mention of migration and development issues.
In a "sense of Congress" resolution, the Senate bill that ultimately failed (see Issue #1: Political Paralysis: The Failure of U.S. Immigration Reform) stated that the United States should help Mexico generate economic growth to reduce migration and should encourage the Mexican government to create incentives for Mexicans citizens to return. However, such resolutions only express the opinion of Congress — they do not create law and are not enforceable.
With migration and development issues now a "normal" part of migration policy discussions, the question of what will actually change in both sending and receiving countries remains.