7 March 2013

Africa: Global Governance of Migration - an Opportunity for the Euro-African Region

Migration is an abiding feature of human history, with a major potential for transforming society. Historically, migratory flows have varied greatly in terms of nature, size, causes and consequences. But over time, their significance (or at least the attention paid to them) and the way they are managed have also changed. We can confidently state that international migration, i.e. the movement of people across recognised international borders, have never gained the level of attention they are currently receiving from political leaders.

The United Nations estimates that some 200 million people worldwide can currently be characterised as international migrants. This number points to the migrants' diversity and geographic dispersion, making them the world's fifth "nationality", with a population approximating Brazil's. Even though international migrants make up only 3% of the global population, a figure proportionally lower and relatively less dynamic compared to previous flows, it is also true that current flows are more complex due to a growing number of countries of origin, transit and destination, which has transformed these migratory movements into a global phenomenon.

Globalisation has been accompanied by the emergence of global governance structures. A comprehensive and consistent global governance system for migration has, however, not yet been developed. Strictly speaking, the United Nations has no organisation dedicated to managing migration, which is comparable in function to the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on refugee issues. Governments have preferred to maintain control over core components that make up a State which are the population and territory, thus explaining the relatively small number of states that have ratified multilateral treaties in the field of migration. Moreover, becoming a citizen of a country and gaining access to its territory are two key issues of immigration policies.

It is obvious that States remain the main players in developing and implementing migration policies. In addition, States are aware that migration management is a challenge that must be addressed in conjunction with neighbouring countries. This explains why various regional institutions and bilateral agreements and instruments, both formal and informal, are currently moving forward for the joint management of migratory flows.

Despite this progress, the global governance of migration is still in its infancy. Migration has become a highly politicised issue. States' generally concur that they cannot address all aspects of global migration management and require international institutions and systems to contribute to this process. It is therefore necessary to discuss the types of international institutions that are needed for this process and the cooperation framework required to manage it. Until now, discussions on the development of global migration governance lacked a clear analytical framework, which highlights the opportunities present in the shared management of international migratory flows.

From this perspective, it seems important to expand knowledge of the migratory phenomenon as a whole, its impact on labour markets in the countries of origin, transit and destination, as well as its consequences for human capital mobility in the various regions. This analysis is a key factor in discussions on issues, such as admission (border control, visa facilitation agreements, etc.), integration and return. But it is just as essential to develop systems that enable both skilled and unskilled workers to gain access to labour markets in countries of origin and destination. With regard to skilled workers, it is imperative for countries and regions to avoid "brain drain" by allowing knowledge dissemination to have a positive impact on both the country of origin and destination.

Similarly, it is vital to link immigration policies with economic development policies. We must therefore step up our efforts to define the shared values and set the shared standards that will empower the development of a governance framework for international migration, based on the principle that cooperation, dialogue, solidarity and joint responsibility should form the foundation of this global system. In short, we need to establish more transparent migratory policies in the international arena, as well as a shared vision of global cooperation on migration issues.

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