Workshop 5: Root causes of migration in the Global South and reconfiguration of development cooperation

This workshop deals with gender dimensions of root causes of voluntary and forced migration, with the intersections between European migration and development politics, and the reconfiguration of development cooperation. Feminist approaches and demands towards migration and development will be highlighted.

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Cristina Reyna, after a long career with women’s rights NGOs, she is currently an independent Gender and Knowledge management consultant (moderator)
Hibaaq Osman, founder and CEO of El-Karama and among others, founder of “ThinkTank for Arab Women and Dignity Fund” (speaker)
Céline Mias, EU representative at CARE International (speaker)


 Celine Mias

Where are EU-Development-Policies going? With the adoption of SDGs, safe and regular migration was recognized as an “enabler” of development.  Agenda 2030 –→ Management of migration, commitment to respect human rights of migrants. But att EU level, migration has been increasingly framed around the discourse of security, and not around the discourse of human rights. There is a public backlash, people feel threatened by migrants; at the same time, the EU agenda has been dominated by migration management.

EU-Africa Valetta summit last november 2015, talks have been taking place about migration “partnerships” and a trust fund was set up. This june, the EU migration partnership communication has formalized these talks. Development aid is thus subsumed under a migration management agenda. EU is not only trying to return as many persons to their countries of origin, but also to countries they have traveled through. This undermines the EU’s ability of being a moral leader, which has an impact on how other countries shape their migration & refugee policies.

Very little or no consultation with people who are directly concerned by this new policies has taken place.

So there has been a shift in the development sphere; migration is viewed as a problem to be solved, a threat to be managed.

Although there are positive approaches regarding integration of migrants and refugees, there are strong indicators that lead to believe that the funding is mainly used for migration management. A lot of money is channeled from “classical” development cooperation focusing on poverty towards migration management programs. The EU Gender Action Plan runs danger to be undermined by the migration & security oriented development focus. Overall official development assistance (ODA) is increasing in numbers, because of the inclusion of refugee and migration management costs in the reporting. The EU has to ensure that poverty reduction is in the center of development cooperation.

Hibaaq Osman

Points out that it’s dangerous to let countries “manage” refugees that themselves have government troubles or are in any other way not respecting refugees’ human rights, and especially woman’s rights are not respected. For women who have experienced violence it is specifically difficult, and camp managers are always men.

Migration discourse in the EU is dominated by security and defense, not about human rights. In the context of migration, crisis and wars, it is important to tackle root causes of conflict and to bring women on the table of negotiations. When war happens, all the women´s rights gains get lost. You cannot promote any rights like actions against FGM or child marriage, when war is going on. War also means cultural destruction, rebuilding of societies takes many years. SDGs:  Can you talk about this in Yemen, Syria, Iraq? The EU approach is: Let´s keep Europe safe, but there is no humanity. War comes out of human rights violations and dictatorships, often supported by the US. Right wing extremism in Europe directly feeds into ISIS recruitment.

In the current situation, women cannot remain a-political. We need to hold our governments accountable. European citizens are the ones who can influence their governments e.g. regarding a ban of arms exports. This is where we can start a movement: NO to sell weapons. We have the democratic chance to kick out politicians out who sell weapons. 4 out of 5 Security Council members are Europeans. Bring peace, and refugees will stop to come.

The new head of the UN has formerly been head of UNHCR; we can expect more sensibility. To freeze money has failed miserably. We should ban the militia leaders, and need to have women on the peace negotiation tables.

Main discussion points:

  • It is not easy to influence leaders/presidents/elections in Europe. Though agreed that Europe’s influence (via weapon exports, etc) is strong, tax payers have only limited means to influence the use of their taxes.
  • Another difficult point is that some of the NPO’s are funded by government money, it can be difficult to know how far you go in opposing your government’s policies and actions. Most importantly no letting donors influence the policy / direction of your NGO.
  • Have a closer look at accountability, roots and causes of migration (i.e. “war on terror”, who profits from wars/crisis).
  • Is it a refugee crisis? Is it a EU institutional crisis? Is it an economic crisis? There is austerity politics causing a crisis. We have to name all the crisis’ (plural!) and the linkages in between them in order to understand what’s happening.
  • Extend advocacy to actors beyond: Home offices for example are key target for advocacy about gender topics.
  • November: consensus for development will come out → links migration and development.
  • Budget discussions (2017) are crucial, though dry & complicated. Advocacy around EU budgets is really important, cause that’s where a lot of impact is to be had.
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