Migration and development

Migration and development have become interlinked issues which would certainly play a crucial role in development cooperation in the coming decades. Attitudes towards the topic of migration within the development debate have shifted considerably. While the earlier focus of the discussion about migration was largely put on potential and actual brain drain, the more recent discourse identifies large development potentials from migration through economic and social remittances from the countries of residence.

More recently, much of the focus has shifted to the impact of remittances returned to home countries by all emigrants. Worldwide, these flows are second only to private investment flows. They far exceed aid flows and constitute a major share of GDP and resource of foreign exchange for many developing countries. Nonetheless, recent research presents a more complex picture of the impact of emigration and diasporas on home countries’ development, especially in the area of ‘social remittances’, such as skills, knowledge, and technology exchange between home and host countries and cultural and civic awareness.

We believe here in the Nordic region and many parts of the EU, the potential contribution of Diasporas to the development of their ‘homeland’ as well as the ‘host’ country are largely under-utilized. If constructively and creatively harnessed, migrants can contribute to a better social, political and economic transformation both to their adopted and native countries. Today, the objectives of migration policies within a development context are to foster the potential of migration and to reduce the risks associated with migration, both for the individual migrant as well as for entire countries.

In mid-March the Nordic Africa Institute and the George Washington University convened a workshop in Stockholm and Uppsala titled "Migration, Diasporas and Development: Transatlantic Perspectives". The workshop had several goals: first, to facilitate an open policy dialogue among stakeholders in the migration and development field such as diasporas organizations, researchers, development practitioners, policy makers in the government institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector.

Up to now, the policy dialogue on the migration and development field in the Nordic region has largely been dominated by the mainstream institutions. Yet, one key strategic stakeholder in this field whose voices, views and perspectives have not yet sufficiently been heard is the migrant constituency. The Diasporas constituency’s wealth of knowledge and expertise have not been sufficiently harnessed, or even documented. There is therefore a need to stimulate the active participation of the Diasporas in the generation of ideas and policy insights so as to ensure that their voices are better represented in policy deliberations in migration and development related matters.

But migration and development cannot be looked at in a compartmentalized manner — they are inter-related processes. The OECD has called for increased policy coherence in migration policies to promote development. What does this mean in practice? Policy coherence need clear objectives and transparent priorities. But it is here where the discussion is convoluted, imprecise and vague. Coherence between different ministries is key in this regard as there is not one single policy solution to all different aspects of migration issues. The various approaches — i.e. from asylum policy, to integration policy, and development policy — need to converge to one policy framework. In this respect, it is important to officially formalize the consultation and policy dialogue between host governments and their diasporic communities. This could be facilitated through the establishment of a ‘migration and development policy dialogue platform’ that meets regularly, bringing together different stakeholders at the table. The Remittance Task Force in Germany is one such good example.

Carin Norberg

Director of the Nordic Africa Institute

Fantu Cheru

Research Director of the Nordic Africa Institute

To the top