Issues on migration and development
Collectively, diasporagroups, which includes migrants, immigrants, refugees, is one of the most marginalised sectors of the society. Understanding the issues of diaspora and migration should be taken within the context of domestic and global structural inequality.
In the recent decades, the world has seen the plight of laborers and professionals from developing to developed countries in search of better work opportunities. Most of the Diasporas were forced out of their own countries because of the prevailing social and economic inequality, i.e. lack of jobs, landlessness, and the yawning gap in living standards and wages. Some of them have also complained of unequal access to public services, e.g. health, education opportunities, which also leads to rural to urban migration within countries. The world has also seen forced migration and increased exodus of people, both domestically and internationally, due to wars and conflicts, and climate catastrophes. The UNHCRreported that in 2013, there were 51.2 million people forcibly displaced worldwide. There were 16.7 million refugees at the end of 2013, 50% of whom are under 18 years old. IDPs number 33.3 million while the number of stateless persons could not be determined, but is approximated at 10 million people at the end of 2013.
While it is recognized that their activities are engines of growth at the national and global levels, and most of them face human rights violations and social discrimination, diasporas are marginalised in any participation in the development agenda. Even in policy arenas, there has been little discourse on the relationship of the diaspora and development, more so, with development effectiveness. Ironically, the remittances and labour value of Diasporas (both temporary and permanent) are cited by some as potential huge sources of development finance. Currently, they directly contribute to the gross national indices of both the sending and receiving countries.
According to the World Bank (as cited by IBON), ‘remittances sent by migrant workers to their homelands far outperform official development assistance (ODA) funds and is second only to foreign direct investments.’According to the International Organisation for Migration, remittances from Diasporas globally can directly contribute to reducing poverty, foreign reserves and balance of payments of their country of origin.4 Diasporas also contribute to the economic activities and growth of their host countries. The same report of the IOM argues that migration brings ‘macroeconomic benefits’ such as “mitigation of labour shortages enrichment of human capital and the job opportunities and wealth which result from migrant entrepreneurial activities.”5 While migrants’ remittances are important in keeping sending countries’ economies afloat, massive labor export robs the sending countries both skilled and professional labour which leads to brain and brawn drain. These phenomena lead to weak domestic economic foundations necessary to build national industries and self-supporting national economies.
Migration and official development assistance. The basic reasoning when relating migration to official development assistance, as Lacomba and Boni (2012) have noted, is that greater ODA would result to economic and social ‘development’, thus addressing the causes for migration. According to them, “ODA is a suitable tool to increase development levels and so reduce migrant exits from developing countries,”9 especially since a number of developed countries would not want to accept more immigrants.
However, the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (1993) as cited by Lacomba and Boni, has already “recognised aid initiatives related to migration have generally been disappointing, both as regards rural development programs to prevent depopulation of the countryside and industrial development programs, which had not achieved a geographically equitable distribution of income, but rather had accelerated the migration of the people who were living in those areas.”
Another observation on the failure of ODA is that of Arango (1995), who states that “the addressees of international aid rarely coincide with migration candidates, because the aggregated benefits of the former are hardly effective in deterring the latter. In addition, if cooperation programs generate, as is usually the case, regular connections with donor countries, they may play the role of migratory networks and, thereby, increase the possibilities of migration.”
The 2009 report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shows that countries with medium levels of development, migrants’ remittances exceed developmental aid, while for countries with lower levels of development, the opposite is happening.Lacomba and Boni argues that the attempts to ‘promote one in order to reduce the other [remittances v. aid]’ have not translated into the ‘expectations’. They have argued that “[t]he agendas of the most developed states in their bilateral relationships with migrant issuing countries have established the terms of the debate and have largely distorted the nature of the link. Regardless of whether a direct relationship between migration and aid may be established, bilateral policies have tended to take aid as a tool to exert pressure on the countries of origin, so that they have greater control on the exit of their citizens. The connection between development aid and policy strategies for regulating migration promote the risk to turn aid into a hostage of migratory policies, inverting the terms of the relationship.
Nevertheless, development aid should be solely based on the needs of developing countries, and not on the migration policy of donor countries.”
The CPDE recognizes the need to provide spaces for Diasporas to advance their rights, interests and aspirations. It is important to strengthen their ranks, as well as their reach in all levels to continue advocating for social justice and human rights. They need to influence important policy arenas at the global and national levels, as well as mobilize communities in support of their calls.