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«June 2006 Hein de Haas International Migration Institute James Martin 21st Century School University of Oxford A study for Oxfam ...»

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Engaging Diasporas

How governments and development agencies

can support diaspora involvement in

the development of origin countries

June 2006

Hein de Haas

International Migration Institute

James Martin 21st Century School

University of Oxford


A study for Oxfam Novib

© Hein de Haas

This study was made possible by support provided by Oxfam Novib. However, the

views, interpretations, recommendations and conclusions expressed in this paper are

those of the author and not necessarily those of Oxfam Novib.

Acknowledgements The author would like to thank everyone who has kindly provided him with the valuable information that enabled him to write this report. Particular gratitude is owed to Leila Rispens Noel, Simona Vezzoli, Hanneke van der Aalst, Ronald Lucardie, Thomas Lacroix, Tom De Bruyn, Oscar Marleyn, Petra Mezzetti and Rinus Penninx.

Responsibility for the views expressed remains with the author.

Table of contents Executive summary

1. Introduction

1.1. Background

1.2. Aims and research questions

1.3. Scope, limitations and concepts

1.4. Methodology

1.5. Structure of report

2. The international framework

2.1. The need for more awareness

2.2. Multilateral financial agencies

2.3. UNDP and TOKTEN

2.4. IOM and MIDA

2.5. ILO and UNHCR

2.6. Global Commission on International Migration

2.7. UN high level dialogue meeting on migration and development

2.8. European Union

2.9. Conclusion

3. The Netherlands

3.1. National policies

3.2. Oxfam Novib

3.3. Cordaid

3.4. Hivos

3.5. NCDO

3.6. IntEnt

3.7. Other development agencies

3.8. Conclusion

4. United Kingdom

4.1. National policies

4.2. Beyond remittances: Connections for development

4.3. The AFFORD case

4.4. Conclusion

5. France

5.1. The evolution of French policies: beyond return?

5.2. Co-development

5.3. CCFD

5.4. Institut Panos

5.5. Ps-Eau

5.6. Migrations et Développement

5.7. Conclusion

6. Other national experiences

6.1. Belgium

6.2. Germany

6.3. Italy

6.4. Spain

7. Conclusions and recommendations


Some key readings on diasporas, migration and development

Main recent events on migration and development

Individuals and organisations consulted

Executive summary There is increasing recognition of the potential of migration in stimulating development in countries of origin. This acknowledgment accompanies a call to engage migrants and diaspora organisations in development cooperation. The present study analyses how multilateral organisations as well as European governments and development agencies have implemented such ‘migrants and development’ policies over the past three decades. It focuses specifically on the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and France, but also considers Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The extent to which the stated priority for this issue has been turned into concrete action has been limited up to now, with the exception of remittance policies.

However, valuable lessons can be drawn from past and current experiences with the implementation of policies to support and to strengthen the engagement of diasporas and their members in the development of countries of origin. The study identifies a

number of points of departure for implementing successful policies in this field:

• Recognising that migrants are already mobilised for development on their own initiative. Rather than ‘mobilising diasporas’, development actors themselves should be ‘mobilised’ to engage with and to learn from diasporas in development cooperation so as to establish a genuine two-way working relationship;

• Setting realistic expectations through increasing awareness of past experiences and studies that show migration is no panacea for development. Expectations must be set more realistically so as to avoid disappointment and the subsequent abandonment of the migration and development agenda;

• Successful alliance building also implies that established development actors should recognise the added value of diaspora organisations and show a serious and long-term commitment through giving them a real say in policy formulation and access to substantial funding;

• Increasing coherence between development cooperation and migration policies cannot be achieved by subordinating the first policy area to the second. Paradoxically, restrictive immigration policies force migrants into permanent settlement and impede circular movement, with negative consequences for the transnational engagement of diaspora groups;

• Avoiding double agendas. Diaspora organisations are unlikely to cooperate with development policies whose hidden agenda is to curb migration through development. This is not only an unrealistic aim but it will also almost certainly lead diaspora organisations to shun cooperation with development actors.

This study identifies four broad areas in which development agencies and governments can support and strengthen the engagement of diasporas and their

members in the development of countries of origin:


1. Facilitating and reducing costs of remittances. This is the most tangible and therefore least problematic area of policy intervention. However, the only feasible way to serve the interests of migrants is to improve the banking system rather than to clamp down on the informal system without creating viable alternatives. Policies that try to channel remittances into productive investments are not only patronising and neglectful of the potentially positive impacts of consumption and ‘non-productive’ investments but they are also bound to fail as long as general investment conditions do not improve;

2. Supporting migrants to set up small enterprises in countries of origin and facilitating ‘brain circulation’. Repeated experiences haves shown that such programmes are unlikely to succeed if they focus on or are conditional upon return. More promising results have been achieved by the Dutch IntEnt projects for migrant entrepreneurs and by UNDP’s long-standing TOKTEN programme to facilitate ‘brain circulation’. Both programmes avoid imposing a return conditionality.

3. Supporting collective development projects initiated or implemented by diaspora organisations and their members. It has proven difficult to put this idea into practice, due to differences in size, organisational culture and objectives of official development actors and diaspora organisations. For projects to succeed, it seems important that development actors do not stipulate the kind of projects to be funded but rather link up with existing initiatives of diaspora organisations. Co-funded projects that have been selected through an open tendering system – such as have been implemented in the Netherlands – have generally been more successful than ‘co-opted’ projects based on 100 percent funding. The French-Moroccan example of Migrations et Développement demonstrates that a successful implementation of projects should evolve from a long learning process and from a thorough knowledge of local contexts and cultural sensitivities;

4. Supporting diaspora networks and capacity building of diaspora organisations along with creating durable alliances with established development actors. Government or agency-led efforts to ‘engineer’ consultative bodies or migrant platforms do not seem to be the way forward to create such alliances. A more fruitful strategy seems to support existing, spontaneously created diaspora organisations or networks, such as Afford in the UK, which have already gained legitimacy through their role in development and advocacy of migrant rights and interests. However, there is a delicate balance between strengthening and patronising diaspora organisations.

In general, it would be a mistake to assume that diaspora groups and their members should be taught how to ‘do’ development or how best to spend their remittances.

Diaspora organisations have survived independently for many years; any attempt to patronise or to state ‘what is best for them’ would appear to be a recipe for failure.

The challenge for development actors is not to make diaspora organisations more like them, but to build on their unique strengths.

iii Introduction

1.1. Background Over the past five years, the issue of ‘migration and development’ has regained substantial attention among multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF, national governments and development agencies. Presumably urged by the spectacular surge in remittances – which now amount to well over two times the amount of official development assistance and to tenfold the amount of net private capital transfers to developing countries1 – an increasing need is felt to integrate migration into development policies. However, this coincides with a one-sided focus on the macro-economic impact of migration, such as the importance of remittances for national accounts and their potential role in enabling business investments.

Consequently, policy measures discussed at conferences and implemented in practice tend to focus on measures to facilitate and channel remittances into formal channels as well as to enhance their macro-economic impact.

This goes along with a comparative neglect of the important micro-level contribution of remittances to development in migrant sending societies. Firstly, the at least US$ 126 billion in remittances that are now sent yearly from North to South are primarily sent between individuals and families. These transfers have significant direct povertyreducing and welfare-increasing effects2. Secondly, even consumption and ‘nonproductive investments’ – which tend to receive a bad press – can have significant positive multiplier impacts on economic growth and employment3.

Furthermore, migrants might contribute to development in countries of origin in many ways other than by sending remittances alone. These contributions are less tangible than remittances but not necessarily less relevant. For instance, they might contribute to economic growth through setting up enterprises themselves or helping relatives to do so. This is not only a function of remittances, but it also potentially implies a beneficial transfer of know-how and competencies: what is called ‘brain gain’.

Besides contributing to economic development, migrants can also play an important role in the stimulation of political debate, the strengthening of civil society, the enabling and encouraging of education for non-migrants, and the emancipation of women and minority groups in countries of origin 4.

Kapur and McHale 2003.

See Adams and Page 2005.

See de Haas 2005; Taylor 1999.

See Massey et al. 1998.

Yet it is important to emphasise that, depending on specific circumstances, migration and remittances can also have negative effects on origin-country development: for instance, through increasing inequality, dependency or even support for warring parties5. As both negative and positive effects on development are found to varying degrees, the relevant question is under what conditions are migration and social and economic development more positively correlated than under others. It is difficult to generalise, since migration does not have some kind of predetermined impact. What seems essential is that, depending on the specific context at the sending end, migration enables people to disengage from, just as much as to engage in the social, economic and political development of countries of origin6.

Traditionally, it has been assumed by both sending and receiving countries that the positive contributions of migration to origin-country development normally coincide with the return of migrants. However, it has become increasingly clear that migrants have become progressively more transnational in their orientations and can thus be simultaneously involved in two or more societies at the same time7.

The radically improved technical possibilities allow migrants to foster links with their societies of origin through the (mobile) telephone, fax, (satellite) television, the internet and by remitting money through globalised banking systems or informal channels. This increasingly enables migrants to foster double loyalties, to travel back and forth, to foster relationships, to work and to do business simultaneously in distant places. The implication is that clear-cut dichotomies of ‘origin’ or ‘destination’ and categories such as ‘permanent’, ‘temporary’ and ‘return’ migration seem more and more difficult to sustain in a world in which the lives of migrants seem increasingly characterised by circulation and simultaneous commitment to two or more societies8.

In contrast to classical conceptions of migrant integration, the integration of migrants in receiving countries can not only coincide with but also even tends to amplify their involvement in the development of countries of origin. After all, successful and ‘integrated’ migrants generally also possess the attitudes, know-how, rights and financial capacity for setting up enterprises, participating in public debates and establishing development projects in their regions and countries of origin. Hence, transnationally operating migrant communities are emerging as independent and potentially powerful factors of development. The potential strength of migrants is their simultaneous knowledge of and involvement in two or more societies, which make them a potentially effective link between wealthy and poor countries.

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