Migration, Development and Global Justice

A forthright rejection of nationalism – and the dangers it augurs – marked Peter Sutherland’s lecture as part of The Hague Institute’s Distinguished Speaker Series. Sutherland, the UN’s Special Representative for Migration and Development, delivered remarks on the topic of ‘migration, development and global justice’, noting progress towards international recognition of migrant rights, as well as policy prescriptions to improve state practice.

The work of the Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD), a ‘safe harbor’ for states to discuss the challenges of migration without finger pointing, was commended by Sutherland, who observed that while states did not require another international organization, they do value an annual forum which brings northern and southern states together in debate.

Partly as a result of such debate, evidence has mounted of the economic contributions of migration, both in sending and receiving countries. The developmental contribution of migration is underlined by the volume of remittances, $414bn worth of which are expected to be sent in 2013, a multiple of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) combined. Moreover, while both ODA and FDI are affected by economic shocks, remittances remain remarkably stable: as FDI plunged by 89% during the recent financial crisis; remittances declined by only 5%.

The prevailing ‘patchwork system’ of global governance effectively serves neither the rights of migrants, nor of states, Sutherland contended, but rather empowers those who exploit migrants who are forced to live outside the protection of the law. As a result, Sutherland called for the contribution of a ‘mobility system fit for the 21st century’. To do so, he suggested 10 concrete steps:

  1. Reduce remittances transaction costs to under 5% (from their current average rate of 9%);
  2. Ratify the Domestic Workers Convention;
  3. Crack down on exploitative recruiters;
  4. Ensure migrants keep what they earn (by enabling mobility of social security benefits, for example);
  5. Ban the detention of young migrants;
  6. Give migrants equal labor rights;
  7. Remove the protectionism of the professions to combat ‘brain waste’;
  8. Accelerate residency and citizenship rights, including by permitting dual citizenship;
  9. Delegate responsibility to local authorities and the private sector;
  10. Engage diaspora groups;

Such policies would reap economic dividends for both sending and receiving countries, Sutherland argued, but must be pursued alongside a concerted effort to combat the base appeal of nationalism, which rejects evidence in favor of populism. The taming of nationalism, Sutherland remarked, necessarily involves sharing sovereignty, which makes international coordination, whether through the European Union or other fora, indispensable.



Further Reading


Irregular Migration and Global Justice

At a roundtable on the subject in December 2013, The Hague Institute convened a group of director-level officials from government, international organizations, and civil…

Completed: Global Governance Reform Initiative

The Global Governance Reform Initiative (GGRI), a collaboration between  The Hague Institute for Global Justice, The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Observer Research Foundation…