For the benefit of all? A reflection on global policies and local realities in a mixed migration context

For the benefit of all? A reflection on global policies and local realities in a mixed migration context


Sarah Schlaeger, Project Coordinator, International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), Amman, Jordan

How can we make sure that global policies filter down to local realities? How, in turn, can we ensure that local voices are channelled upwards and reflected in international policy processes and donor pledges? In other words, how can we help translate policy poetry into efficient and realistic practices on the ground? These and other related questions dominated the three-day Regional Meeting on Protection and Decent Work in a Mixed Migration Context hosted by SDC in Amman. And they have resonated with me ever since. 

In recent years, Jordan has been in the spotlight of attempts to find adequate regional and local solutions to managing large numbers of refugees. Policy makers, not only from the Global North, have acknowledged the necessity to support such efforts. On the basis of the Jordan Compact, adopted in February 2016, targets and support systems have been envisaged that aim to be practicable, thus benefitting refugees and host communities alike. Results of discussions, presented at the regional meeting, highlighted that mere target figures of work permits provided for Syrians might miss the mark. With a view to decent work, the international community should also seize the opportunity for supporting host communities in their efforts to establish benchmarks for enhancing standardised terms of employment, a measure which would strengthen the protection of all workers, including migrants and refugees. 

In the same line, concerns were voiced regarding the ability of the international community to keep its focus on the individual. Policy processes can be complex and lengthy. Therefore, the focus on the plight of the person on the move, whether migrant or refugee, is in danger of getting lost, although it should remain a prominent goal of the negotiators participating in the development of the global compacts stipulated in the New York Declaration. NGOs, IGOs and governments represented at the meeting acknowledged the responsibility that comes with the development of the two compacts on refugee response and safe, orderly and regular migration respectively. An intense agenda of conferences, consultations and enhanced cooperation is scheduled to ensure the adoption of both compacts in 2018. But does this fast tracking do justice to the importance of the compacts’ intentions and will it positively influence the specific definitions of goals? Or will the lowest common denominator be sought with adverse effects on the human rights agenda? Can all relevant voices, particularly those of the targeted populations, be heard and mechanisms be crafted that can really address present problems and challenges the future holds? At the end of the conference these questions remained unanswered but the commitment of the participants to contribute to the best possible outcome seemed undiminished.

To ensure that global policies reflect and target local realities, existing initiatives need to be assessed for their potential to reach the policy and implementation goals intended. For that reason, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development’s (ICMPD) Mediterranean City-to-City Migration (MC2CM) project, which is funded by the EU and co-funded by SDC, is involving local communities in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, including Amman and Beirut, in a dialogue on migration governance at city level. It thereby addresses the opportunities and challenges migration can pose for urban centres such as social cohesion, intercultural dialogue, employment and provision of basic services to migrants. In this way, initiatives such as the MC2CM project can help provide the necessary information for successfully translating general policies into local realities.

Furthermore, intergovernmental dialogues on migration can play an important role in supporting host communities in their efforts to provide decent living and working conditions for all residents. Dialogues such as the Colombo and the Abu Dhabi Processes which bring together countries of origin and destination respectively, are able to spearhead the development of better work standards. The EU-funded EUROMED Migration programme, implemented by ICMPD, focuses on peer-to-peer exchanges between countries in North Africa, the Middle East and the EU, and supports countries in developing and implementing evidence-based and coherent migration and international protection policies and activities. On government level, in many places, the failure to bring in local voices is often exacerbated by the absence of a comprehensive migration policy framework which could channel information from local to regional to global and vice versa. Against this background EUROMED’s migration governance process aims to support partner countries in establishing national inter-institutional cooperation and coordination on migration and encourages national stakeholders to engage in a dialogue with all relevant civil society actors.

What do I take home from the meeting? First of all, a re-confirmation: Debating key questions within a group of critical experts in a multi-stakeholder setting does not produce ‘one size fits all’-solutions. In the matter of migration, dedication to a cause invariably involves striving for ever more effective answers to constantly changing global and local challenges; Second, the awareness that greater efforts need to be made to find practical ways of implementing the adopted global or local policy agenda; And third, a deeper understanding of the overarching protection relevance of decent work as it benefits all and leaves aside common categorisation into refugee, migrant and local population.

Related resources


Participants of the Regional Meeting "Protection and Decent Work in a Mixed Migration Content".  

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