Turning Migration Policy from Failure to Opportunity

January 28th, 2014

Koser KhalidBy Dr Khalid Koser, GCSP Deputy Director and Academic Dean, and Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Migration. This article was originally published on the World Economic Forum Blog.

The challenges of managing international migration have been consistently underestimated. It is by definition a transnational phenomenon that states still try to manage at a national level. It is a truly global issue that affects every country in the world and almost every person in the world, either directly or indirectly.

International migration is part and parcel of globalization, driven by disparities in development, demography and democracy. Yet, governments still insist that it can be controlled in time to win the next election. It impacts every aspect of the economy and society – from employment and education, to integration and identity – yet all too often is approached exclusively from a border management and security perspective.

Perhaps it is no wonder that international migration is characterized by inconsistencies and contradictions. Migrants’ rights are abused while their remittances lift people out of poverty; migration drives enterprise and innovation, but migrants face a rising tide of anti-immigration sentiment and xenophobia; migrants consistently do not find jobs commensurate with their skill levels and education; and advanced economies increasingly rely on the work of irregular migrants.

This week’s second UN High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development in New York represents a very significant step in the right direction for better managed migration. It signifies real understanding that multilateral approaches are required even to achieve national goals, and represents a global commitment to find the best approaches by discussing, sharing experiences and promoting the contributions of migration to development. It is of particular note that migrants’ rights are the focus for one of the four roundtables at the meeting, a topic seven years ago at the First High-Level Dialogue that was considered too controversial to confront directly.

But overcoming divisions and forging closer cooperation between states is not enough. The effective management of migration also requires the inclusion in the policy process of other stakeholders, including migrants themselves, civil society and the private sector. To exclude the people targeted by policy, to ignore those who try to assess its impact and not to engage those who drive the entire process, are ingredients for policy failure.

The Council’s recent publication, The Business Case for Migration, has been distributed at the UN High-Level Dialogue, and we have co-hosted a side event bringing together government, private sector and civil society to discuss the role of migration in the global competition for skills.

Migration represents one of the great global opportunities. Governments have begun to overcome their differences and are talking to each other. The next step is to achieve deeper confidence and harmony between governments and other critical actors, such as companies and civil society.

This article was originally published on the World Economic Forum Blog. Dr Koser will be speaking at the Cities of Migration conference in Berlin.

Dr Khalid Koser is Deputy Director and Academic Dean at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. Dr Koser is chair of the UK’s Independent Advisory Group on Country Information, chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Migration, and editor of the Journal of Refugee Studies. 

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