Taking Stock of the 2015 Valletta Summit on Migration: Accomplishments and Remaining Challenges

So far in 2016, over 300,000 migrants have reached the European coast and more than 3,500 have lost their lives in transit or remain missing. This week marks the first anniversary of the Valletta Summit on Migration that brought together the European Union, its Member States and over 30 African countries to strengthen cooperation and to address the challenges alongside the opportunities for migration. The organization of Euro-African summits on migration is not new. The first Euro-African conference was held in 2006 in Rabat, Morocco. Three sequential conferences followed while the overarching process which comprised these conferences was named the ‘Rabat Process’. The Valetta Summit can be viewed as an extension of this process. With over ten years of experience in Euro-African cooperation on migration and only three months until the end of 2016, it is time to take stock of the outputs and impact of the Valletta Summit.

The action plan that resulted from the summit named five priority domains, which include addressing the root causes of irregular migration, the prevention of migrant smuggling, and the protection of refugees and other displaced people. These domains are concretized into 16 initiatives that are to be launched before the end of 2016, at the latest. The Emergency Trust Fund, worth almost €1.9 billion, was one of the most significant results of the summit and serves to finance the envisaged initiatives. The aforementioned Rabat Process was, together with the Khartoum Process and the Joint EU-Africa Strategy, mandated with the task of monitoring the proceedings of the Valletta Action Plan. Unfortunately, none of the three mechanisms have released any publications so far regarding the progress made in executing the envisaged initiatives. According to a speech by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, a stocktaking meeting on the Valletta summit was held in Brussels on June 21 and 22 of this year. However, no official outcome report regarding this event is publicly available.

The Emergency Trust Fund is considerably more transparent than the stocktaking meeting of last June. The projects of the Emergency Trust Fund are listed and categorized per sub-region. There is, for example, a program in Mauritania to protect migrant children against trafficking and a program to increase the resilience of people in departure areas by improving the access to basic services and more specifically food supply. The total amount of funds that has been budgeted for 59 projects is €924.5 million. A recent report from the European Commission states that “[b]y the end of 2016, more than 90% of the funds made available so far will have been contracted.”  However, the scale of the Trust Fund has been criticized. The president of Senegal, for instance, claims that “African governments would have no need of aid if they could collect the nearly $56 billion lost through tax avoidance by western multinationals”. The resources in the Emergency Trust Fund are also minimal when compared to the €30 billion of diaspora remittances that flowed to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015.

In sum, the lack of reports on the stocktaking meeting last June and the lack of information from the monitoring mechanisms such as the Rabat process indicate a serious lack of transparency regarding the progress of the Valletta Action Plan. Nonetheless, the information available about the financed projects from the Emergency Trust Fund enable relative optimism, although the significance of the scale of the Emergency Trust Fund is debatable. The participants in the Valletta Summit have less than two months to show that the progress that was promised in the action plan has indeed been achieved. Another meeting to assess progress in terms of implementation is scheduled to take place in January 2017. It is to be hoped that the commitments made during President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees last September will result in more transparent monitoring and, hopefully, more progress in tackling  the challenges related to today’s refugee crisis.

The international workshop that will be held in The Hague on December 8 and 9, 2016 as part of The Hague Institute’s Global Governance Reform Initiative aims to discuss among others the next steps forward in the implementation of action plans coming out of international migration summits like the Valletta Action Plan and to provide policy-relevant recommendations on how to enhance the effectiveness of the outcomes of multilateral deliberations on migration.

Read another commentary on the protection of the most vulnerable migrants – unaccompanied minors.

Learn more about the Global Governance Reform Initiative.

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