Thursday, October 15, 2009
* Speech by Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for International Development Cooperation...*
***Speech by Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for International Development Cooperation, at the conference Labour Migration and its Development Potential in the Age of Mobility (en anglais)
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here with you today to discuss the important subject of labour migration and its development potential in the age of mobility.
Let me begin by reiterating the concluding remark made by my colleague Tobias Billström - that the diversity and complexity of migration issues requires coherent policies and coordinated actions. Migration is, by its very nature, a complex phenomenon, and migration policy is therefore closely interlinked with a wide range of other policy areas that together shape the development outcome of migration, both in destination countries and in countries of origin. A policy for labour immigration, like the Swedish policy just described by my colleague, must be backed up by employment, integration and social policies to support the objective of full employment and sustained economic growth.
Policy coherence is also required to boost the developmental impact of migration in the countries of origin, and to combat adverse effects such as brain drain, human smuggling, and human trafficking. Migration policy alone cannot help to ensure that the economic value of money transfers is not depleted due to excessive charges, or lost on the way because of unsafe transfer routes. Nor can migration policy alone support more productive investments in countries of origin. What is required is collaboration with other parts of government, and with society at large. Thus, a migration policy that is committed to promoting development in countries of origin must be supported by policies that influence the development outcome of migration, such as finance, trade, peace and security, environment, social sector development and foreign policy as well as international development cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen:
There are five issues in the broad field of migration and development that I would like to raise here. My first point is that migration is both contextual and multidimensional and hence extremely varied, both in terms of the triggers for migration, the actual experience of the individual migrant, the outcome and distribution of the benefits of migration, and the implications for those left behind in the countries of origin. This is also the key message of the UNDP Human Development Report 2009 launched last week, entitled Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development.
Every migrant situation is unique. Each and every migrant can tell her own story, about the multiple reasons and nuances - social, cultural, economic, political and environmental - behind the decision to migrate, about the journey itself and the outcome. People may choose to migrate, or in fact, have no choice - or the decision to migrate may fall between these two. Each individual migrant also, in a sense, represents a community of social relations - a family or a group of relatives, neighbours or friends. They have often made enormous sacrifices to make the migration possible. They share the burden of filling the gap left behind, and they also expect to be able to share the benefits of migration. Migration can improve the livelihoods of those remaining at home, or it can make life increasingly difficult when it creates a strain on the remaining workforce or increased inequalities if the benefits are shared by only a few.
This brings me to the second point: the need for good quality data and systematic analysis of the intricate linkages between migration and development. While we have no reason to question the general positive development impact of migration, through remittances, diaspora investments and other initiatives, my concern is that we must be careful not to draw conclusions based on assumptions about cause and effect relationships. Policy formulation and decisions that we think might have an impact on the situation in developing countries must be guided by knowledge based on as much evidence as possible, and by insight. We need to know more about the impact of migration policies on development, and about the impacts of development on migration. We require a better understanding of the different reasons for migrating, of migration as a livelihood strategy (to settle in the host country, or return permanently or temporarily), and of the means and ways in which migrants invest in development at home. We also need to understand better how the global financial downturn and recession impact on the flow and value of remittances and who the beneficiaries of remittances are. Studies by the World Bank and others on these issues are therefore highly welcome.
My third point is that migration is not gender neutral. We need to ‘personalise' the migrant, in terms of sex, age and social and economic status. A gender perspective is essential for understanding both the causes and consequences of migration. Women's and men's experiences along the migration route, and of residing and working in host countries may differ greatly - as well as the outcome of their migration. We learn from studies in Southeast Asia that women often remit a larger proportion of their savings than men do, and also that their remittances may reach larger groups of beneficiaries. There is ample evidence to show that both women and men can be agents of change through migration. Migration can be an empowering experience for women - but it can also disempower them. Making women migrants more visible is a matter of acknowledging their important contributions to economic and social development, while also firmly addressing the risks and abuses that women and girls in particular may be exposed to as migrants.
My fourth point is that climate change has added a new dimension to our understanding of the drivers of migration. The International Commission on Climate Change and Development, which I chair, emphasises migration as a strategy for livelihood diversification and adaptation in response to climate change. Although we can expect that increasing weather-related disasters will create temporary displacement, and also that coastal communities will relocate as a result of rising sea levels in the longer term, we should not view the inhabitants of developing countries as passive victims of climate change. Instead, we need to develop policies that accommodate migration as an adaptation option.
My fifth and final point: we need better insight into the relationships between migration and poverty reduction in countries of origin. Many poor people pursue migration as a livelihood strategy, but the movement is most often within one's own country or region. Internal and South-South migration are an often neglected dimension in both migration and development policy. We need to look beyond the directly productive investments of migrants' savings into small and medium-sized enterprises or trade, to the long-term developmental effects of investments that poor women and men are more likely to make - in improved housing, health, education, local infrastructure and in the informal economy. Such investments promote development. The option of migration can also encourage young women and men to pursue learning and perform well in education.
The fact that migration is often good for development in countries of origin, through productive investments of migrants' savings, increased employment opportunities, etc., does not automatically mean that it contributes to reducing national poverty. This depends to a very large extent on political will and commitment to policies for pro-poor growth and the equitable distribution of resources, including through taxes and other revenues. From a developing country perspective, migration must never be seen as a substitute for national development efforts. Not even when remittance flows are substantial. The governments of countries of origin bear the primary responsibility for making effective use of the skills and experiences of their own citizens and returning migrants, and for measures to counteract brain drain. Poverty, unemployment, instability, human rights infringements and weak democratic institutions drive significant outward migration from developing countries. The same factors prevent people from returning, permanently or temporarily, to contribute to development. Migration should therefore figure more prominently in developing countries' national strategies and poverty reduction and development plans, and also in our own country strategies for bilateral development cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen:
I have raised a number of issues that I believe are fundamental to migration and development policy and practice. They all point to the significance of a coherent approach to development.
Last year my government signalled a new departure for its national work on Policy Coherence for Development by identifying six global challenges as key to achieving the overall objective of Sweden's Policy for Global Development, which is to contribute to equitable and sustainable global development. One of these challenges is migration flows. It contains three interrelated focus areas: the development potential of labour immigration, which includes the promotion of circular migration; facilitation of remittances and the transfer of skills and knowledge to developing countries; and the protection of and durable solutions for refugees. The entire Swedish Government shares ownership of and responsibility for implementing this policy and for reporting the results to Parliament. Working groups have been formed across the Government Offices to deal effectively with each of these three focus areas. This work includes identifying and sorting out conflicting interests and priorities between policy areas, and identifying new initiatives across policy areas.
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In summary, policy formulation and action must be guided by knowledge, evidence and insight. This is why we must promote and continue the international dialogue and experience-sharing in the field of migration and global development. The Global Forum on Migration and Development serves this very important purpose. We must also find new ways of collaborating with diaspora representatives and with national and international civil society organisations. We need to improve our communication with the research community and find effective ways of using research findings as a basis for sound policy formulation. Also, the requirement for different parts of the Government Offices to work together to develop coherent and effective responses to global challenges promotes reflective thinking and joint analysis and learning, and ultimately deepens our understanding and knowledge of what development is all about and how it can be promoted.
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