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SAMP Special Reports

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Balsillie School of International Affairs


Before the turn of the century, international migration had an extremely low profile on the global development agenda. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), for example, make no mention at all of international migration. Although a number of studies have attempted to “mainstream” migration into the MDGs after the fact, it is still largely ignored in official assessments of progress made towards them (Usher, 2005; Crush and Frayne 2007; Skeldon, 2008). According to the United Nations (UN), the silence surrounding migration in the MDGs was because it was too divisive and sensitive an issue between developed and developing countries (United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA], 2005). At the time, cooperation between North and South on the governance of migration more broadly seemed highly unlikely. Nation states in the North increasingly believed that their territorial sovereignty was under threat from irregular migration from the South, and states in the South saw their development prospects undermined by a crippling “brain drain” to the North. Repeated efforts by the UN to convene an international conference on migration in the late 1990s were unsuccessful.

Since 2000, however, international migration has moved to the top of the global governance agenda and a whole range of bilateral and multilateral partnerships have taken shape (Koser, 2010; Newland, 2010; Betts, 2011; Hansen, Koehler and Money, 2011; Koslowski, 2011; Kunz, Lavenex and Pannizon, 2011). This process began with various initiatives within the UN, notably the 2003 Doyle Report to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his appointment of a special rapporteur on migration and development. Outside the UN, discussions about international migration gathered momentum with the appointment of the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM) and the first UN High Level Dialogue (HLD) on International Migration and Development in 2006 (GCIM, 2005; UN, 2006). In 2007, the first meeting of the new Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) was convened in Brussels. This was followed by annual meetings in the Philippines in 2008; Greece in 2009; Mexico in 2010; Switzerland in 2011; and Mauritius in 2012.

The GFMD is a state‐led, voluntary, non‐binding consultative process open to all member states and observer states of the UN (Omelianuk, 2008; 2012; Newland, 2012). In 2009, the major UN agencies, plus the International Organization for Migration (IOM), combined to form the Global Migration Group (GMG) with a brief to “promote the wider application of all relevant international and regional instruments and norms relating to migration, and to encourage the adoption of more coherent, comprehensive and better coordinated approaches to the issue of international migration” (GMG, 2012). In 2010, the GMG issued a handbook for states with recommendations on how to mainstream migration into their development planning and vice-versa (GMG, 2010).

Another notable feature of the “new optimism” around international migration is the growth of cooperation on the issue within and between regional blocs of states. Regional consultative processes (RCPs) on migration, for example, now exist in many parts of the globe (Thouez and Channac, 2006; Hansen, 2010). While the original focus of many RCPs was migration management, issues of migration and development grew increasingly on their agendas. In Southern Africa, for example, the Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA) was founded by IOM and SAMP as a non-binding consultative forum for Southern African Development Community (SADC) states in 2002 and meets on an annual basis. Originally focussed on regional cooperation in managed migration, the MIDSA agenda has been increasingly shaped by migration and development issues. In addition to the RCPs, geographically dispersed blocs of states also moved migration and development higher on their lists of priorities: these include the Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the African Union (AU) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States (AU, 2006a; AU, 2006b; ACP, 2010; Gagnon and Khoudour- Castéras, 2011; de Boeck, 2012; Melde, 2012; OECD, 2012; Ramphal Institute, 2012).

The most recent trend is the emergence of increased dialogue and cooperation on international migration between blocs of states. The European Union (EU) has been a central player in many of these initiatives. Following the adoption of its Global Approach to Migration (GAM) in 2005, the EU pursued “mobility partnerships” with major migrant-sending regions and countries (Parkes, 2009; Devisscher, 2011; Reslow, 2012). In relation to Africa, the Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development, held in Rabat, Morocco in July 2006, was followed by the Joint EU-AU Declaration on Migration and Development in Tripoli, Libya in November that year (see: One of the outcomes of the declaration is the recent Africa-EU Partnership on Migration, Mobility and Employment (MME). The MME partnership commits the parties to dialogue on a broad range of issues, including diasporas; remittances; brain drain; migrant rights; the social consequences of migration; regular, circular and irregular migration; visa issues; smuggling and trafficking of migrants; readmission and return; refugee protection; the mobility of students; and harmonization processes. The partnership’s current 12-point action plan includes the establishment of an African Institute for Remittances in Addis Ababa, the implementation of the Ouagadougou Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings and the Diaspora Outreach Initiative.

In the space of a decade, how and why has migration shifted from being an issue that was of marginal interest on the international development agenda to one that is increasingly at its centre? How has one of the most contentious North-South issues of the 1990s become the focus of so much bilateral and multilateral dialogue and cooperation between them? The first section of this paper provides a possible answer to these questions, which provides a context for understanding the nature of cooperation between the EU and ACP Group of States on international migration governance.


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