Official launch of mdplatform.ch

Official Launch of the Swiss Civil Society Platform on Migration and Development (mdplatform.ch)

Pascal Fendrich & Aeberhard PeterCoordinators, Swiss Civil Society on Migration and Development

The Swiss Civil Society Platform on Migration and Development (mdplatform.ch) was officially presented and launched on the 2nd of November in Bern (1) . This new initiative is designed to foster exchanges between Swiss CSOs working on Migration and Development (M&D) and interested to invest in knowledge sharing, joint learning and coordination for a more structured dialogue with the Swiss government and civil society at international level.
This kick-off meeting gathered about 20 organisations, including migrants’ associations, human rights organisations, development NGOs, trade unions, academic institutions and also the Global Program on Migration and Development of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. In this sense, participation already reflected the diversity of civil society actors that mdplatform.ch aims to gather. This launching event allowed presentation and discussion of the objectives, key features and principles of collaboration of this new platform, as outlined in the platform Charter (see: http://mdplatform.ch/wordpress/about/charter)


Increased international dialogue on M&D:
The potential of migration to serve as a means of development and modalities to support this link have been given increased attention in international development debates and policy dialogue in the last decade. The organisation of High Level Dialogues (HLD) on Migration and Development at the UN level in 2006 and 2013 and the establishment of an annual Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in 2007, illustrate a new dynamism on the topic. The UN-2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development further anchors “the positive contribution of migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development,” and includes migration as a dimension to be considered transversally and through specific targets (for more on the 2030 Agenda and migration, please read the article of Pietro Mona, Migration and the 2030 Agenda: How a pipe-dream turned into reality).

Regular and more structured international dialogue allows civil society organisations to more effectively channel and communicate their positions on the M&D nexus. Civil society today plays an active role in influencing the agenda and monitoring the situation on the ground. International events such as the UNHLD and the GFMD are, in this respect, used as an opportunity for exchange between governments and international civil society. (For more information on the Civil Society Days of the GFMD 2015, please see the platform’s report at: http://mdplatform.ch/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/mdp-report-GFMD-CSD-2015.pdf)

Connecting and empowering a diverse Swiss civil society:
Swiss civil society actors have also gradually increased their participation in international discussions on M&D. The organisation of the 2011 GFMD in Switzerland was certainly pivotal in this respect. Since then, a relatively stable number of Swiss CSOs (8-10) regular participate in the Civil Society Days (CSD) of the GFMD.
While the idea of coordination is not new and there have been regular discussions between Swiss CSOs, exchanges have often remained “event-oriented” with a focus on international conferences such as the GFMD which involved a limited number of organisations. This further demonstrates that the working field of migration and development is multi-dimensional, with a diverse landscape of organisations both in terms of thematic foci and capacities. It thereby links diverse actors which may not otherwise collaborate on a durable basis.    
One of the platform’s premises is that there is much to be learned from a diversity of perspectives and expertise. The newly created platform will therefore support Swiss CSOs to regularly exchange on and learn from their day-to-day experience of M&D. Its resources will allow CSO’s to invest in deepening our understanding of particular dimensions of M&D and to link with Swiss or international actors and experts for joint learning.
The preliminary findings of the “Assessment Study of Swiss Civil Society Actors on M&D”, which was conducted to identify the needs and potential contributions of platform members confirmed the interest of Swiss CSOs for increased coordination, joint learning and possibly shared advocacy on M&D. While showing that many Swiss actors already work on the interface between migration and development, this result further confirmed the diversity of actors and expertise that are available.
Increased coordination and joint learning should also allow increased participation in policy dialogue on M&D. For this purpose, the platform will ensure bridges are created between the realities and projects of Swiss CSOs and policy dialogue at the international and national level. This means first supporting a greater understanding of the implications of the international dialogue for our daily work while in parallel working and developing strategies for our experiences to be valued and to inform international discussions on M&D, but also to feed into a structured dialogue with the Swiss government.

Next steps:
These first exchanges both confirmed the interest and potential of a permanent platform on the M&D nexus. Consultations on priority activities for next year will continue and be discussed on the occasion of the first formal General Assembly Meeting of the platform scheduled for the 10th of March 2016, with an eye already on the possible contribution of its members to the discussions of the GFMD 2016 in Bangladesh.

(1) mdplatform.ch is implemented by a consortium of Caritas Switzerland and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, in partnership with Terres des Hommes (TdH) and the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies of the University of Neuchâtel (SFM).  The project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

​mdplatform.ch looks forward to sharing its upcoming work and progress through the network. For more information on mdplatform.ch, the kick-off meeting and recent activities, please visit our website: http://mdplatform.ch/