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Managing displacement with development solutions

Submitted by on 30 Nov 2016 – 14:12

It’s a sad fact that the current global security crisis and the associated migration crisis is leading to the militarisation of our borders. Magdy Martinez-Soliman, Assistant Secretary General, United Nations and Assistant Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, reviews the United Nation’s recent work on migration and explains how human mobility can be better managed with development solutions

This September, the world’s governments came together at the United Nations General Assembly to adopt the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The declaration highlights the need of the international community to save lives, protect rights, share responsibility, and promote international cooperation, in particular cooperation among countries of origin or nationality, transit and destination of these displaced populations. The declaration and the discussion at the UN General Assembly also stresses the need to address the “root causes.” It boils down to the fears and threats people are running away from, leaving behind their homes and countries, their jobs and businesses, their land and villages.
Conflict, climate shocks, the lack of opportunity, repression, violation of rights, extremism and widespread poverty top the list of development and governance failures that produce forced displacements. Successful development and inclusive societies appear as two of the clearest solutions.

Development policies need to adequately integrate and consider migration and displacement. A year and one day after the international community adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world’s political leaders have acknowledged the important links between development and people’s rights to stay where they are.

Responding quickly and effectively to sudden population movements is key in keeping migrations and other forms of human mobility safe and in order to protect those on the move. The prism of crisis and emergency caters to the most urgent needs, including saving lives. But it cannot provide solutions to protracted situations of fear and need.

Human mobility has to be included more comprehensively into long-term policy planning. National development strategies that aim at economic, social and rural development, the consolidation of the rule of law, climate action and peace and security, need to factor in migration and migrants, displacements and refugees.

In recent months, borders and walls have been a topic of discussion in several countries. Walls to keep some people out, walls to keep other people safe, it is said. The New York Declaration recognises that states have rights and responsibilities to manage and control their borders. Border management has to conform to obligations under international law, including international refugee law.

The smartest policies today consider and absorb the impact of large inflows into municipalities in border areas – and beyond. A recent UNDP report highlights that local governments are at the forefront of receiving people crossing international borders, and host communities are responding with generosity and without walls, when given a chance.

Knowing what is happening is the first step to avoid panic reactions, populist demagoguery or simply ill-informed decision-making. UNDP and the OECD have developed a comprehensive set of indicators measuring human development of migrants and their families, in the communities of origin, transit and destination. This includes indicators on countries allowing asylum-seekers safe access to their territories.

Good policies enhance the capabilities of people, promote integration and take advantage of diversity, enabling migrants and refugees to become proactive agents of development. This includes giving the right to work, with the necessary precautions to avoid shocks to and deregulation of national labour markets.

A broad range of rights and freedoms are universal and independent from any residence status – we have the right to enjoy them regardless of where we are, and the authorities of the soil where we have landed have the obligation to protect these rights of ours. Only in this way can displaced persons eventually become productive parts of the host societies and redo their lives, with a view to returning to their countries of origin or integrating for good. This is the only way to make human mobility work for sustainable and long-term development.

The future will see human mobility increase – internally and internationally. The question is whether we will respect the right to stay where we are and make the most of it, or listen to those who want to spend taxpayers’ money in kilometers of walls, barbed wire and watch towers.