human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Our migration and development training

CSO and Caritas network inspire each other

As part of a European advocacy project on migration and development, Caritas Europa organised a training on this important topic at its office in Brussels on September 10-11, which brought together participants from a variety of EU and non-EU countries to share experiences and learn from each other.

This activity was part of MIND (Migration, Interconnectedness, Development), a three-year Caritas project in eleven EU member states. The aim of the project is to improve public awareness and political decision-making on the relation between sustainable development and migration and the EU’s role in migration and development cooperation.

It was inspiring to meet colleagues of various Caritas organisations and other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to jointly learn from, and share experiences. The objectives of the training were:

  1. to interact with external experts to enhance our understanding of the complexities of M&D;
  2. to share understanding of M&D and compare work experiences;
  3. to brainstorm about (EU level) advocacy opportunities across the network by making use of the participants’ knowledge and expertise of M&D advocacy; and
  4. to present and discuss Caritas Europa Common Home publication, and its recommendations, identifying specific priorities for the network. The national Common Home reports have been produced in the framework of the MIND project, published by each of the eleven European partners. In November 2019, the European Common Home publication is to be launched with recommendations at the EU-level.

The first part of the training started with a session on the ‘complexities of M&D’ by Mr. Jean-Michel Lafleur, Research Professor at the University of Liège and Ms. Camilla Hagström, Deputy Head of Unit B3 Migration and Employment at DG DEVCO of the European Commission (EC).

Mr. Jean-Michel Lafleur co-wrote the Belgian Common Home Report. In terms of the contributions of migrants to their home countries, he argued that remittances are three times higher than global public development aid. However, he emphasized we should not only focus on the economic side of development, but instead, also take into account social remittances (which is the circulation of norms, ideas, values, practices, skills and networks) and the political role of diaspora organisations.

Ms. Camilla Hagström argued that many migration flows actually take place outside of Europe, which is why the EU works on ensuring that migration can take place in a more humane manner for migrants, whilst benefitting countries of origin, transit and destination (all of which are often located in the ‘developing’ world). The EU also works to promote legal migration routes, but is struggling to arrive at a joint approach among member states on this topic.

The second part of the first day of the training focused on 4 thematic issues, during four world-café type simultaneous sessions. These were led by external experts:

  • Jeroen Kwakkenbos of Oxfam spoke about Official Development Aid (ODA) and the quality of aid,
  • Fanni Bihari of ACT Alliance on the development cooperation partnership negotiations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations and the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES),
  • Michele Levoy of Picum on the Global Compact on Migration (GMC) and
  • Jonathan Beger of World Vision on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021 – 2027.

The session on Official Development Assistance (ODA) showed the complexities around the UN target for ‘developed’ countries to spend 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) on ODA. In terms of refugees and migrants, we currently see that many countries report financial expenditure on the first year of refugee reception within their country as ODA. This results in lower budgets for poverty reduction in developing countries. A joint advocacy action was discussed to write a joint letter on the quality and quantity of aid in relation to the way ODA is being spent in many of our countries.

During the session on the negotiations between the EU and ACP regions, it was argued that diaspora engagement is important. In the 2030 Agenda and SDGs, migrants and diaspora communities are recognised as development actors and contributors to sustainable development. Cordaid has a long track-record in diaspora engagement, by co-funding their projects in countries of origin and supporting their institutional and network development.

The third ‘world-café’ session discussed good practices from Belgium, concerning the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) negotiations. Ms. Michele Levoy stressed that although the GCM is a non-binding framework, references can be made to already existing binding laws to give the compact more visibility. Finally, the fourth session discussed the MFF, including programs and priorities that are currently being negotiated for the next 7 years. We learned about advocacy efforts to cap migration spending at 10% of development aid in the new funding instrument.

During the second day, only for participants from Caritas organisations, the concept of Integral Human Development (IHD) was discussed, with an introduction by Ms. Maryana Hnyp of Caritas Europa. IHD refers to a human oriented, bottom-up approach, taking into account the full potential and development of the human person (not just their social or economic development, as persons, groups or communities). In doing so, the human person is then seen in all his or her complexities, relationships, surrounding environments and concrete historical context. Although the term of IHD seemed new to many participants, the concept itself was very familiar. Cordaid also applies such a human-centered, holistic perspective to its work.

Caritas Portugal showed its work on IHD and migration and reported that Portuguese society is relatively open to migrants and refugees. In the Netherlands, this is a challenge, and we struggle with the ambition to not only ‘preach to the converted’, but also reach those who disagree. Does this mean we need to go beyond our ‘bubble’ of people that already share our ideas? How do we best do that? We believe that the personal interaction between migrants and receiving communities can bring about wondrous results. Promoting personal encounters also helps counter myths and stereotypes. This could be part of a pro-active agenda-setting strategy, to be developed in multi-sector alliances – enabling a strong common voice. With this encouraging message, we left an interesting meeting and group of colleagues to return to The Hague.