Cairo, Egypt – Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, migrants–who make up 3.4 percent of the world’s population–contributed to nearly 10 percent of global GDP. In Africa, most migrations begin and end on the continent. The Sahel and Sahara region hosts 70% of Sub-Saharan migrants, and is also generously sheltering more than three million forcibly displaced persons.
Terrorist groups, organized crime and others are taking advantage of weak governance to move across borders and terrorize local populations. The region is also experiencing specific developmental challenges related to low-income economies, high poverty rates, and large informal sectors, as well as growing competition over natural resources and prevalent food insecurity and water scarcity. These challenges are compounded by climate change, land degradation, as well as health emergencies.
The outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown measures have also further affected the socio-economic conditions of migrants in the region, and reinforced the root causes of irregular migration, leaving many forcibly displaced without access to adequate protection and humanitarian assistance.
Against this background, and acting in its capacity as the Secretariat of the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development, the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding (CCCPA)--in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM)--hosted a two-hour virtual expert workshop, titled:
Mainstreaming Migration in National Development Policies in the Sahel and Sahara Region
The workshop aimed to take stock of the implementation of relevant international and regional frameworks on the migration-development nexus in Africa, most notably the Global Compact for Migration and the 2030 Agenda. It brought together African government officials from relevant ministries in the Sahel and Sahara region, the African Union Commission, and regional organizations together with international migration and development actors.
The webinar shed light on the socio-economic, political and security challenges faced by African Union (AU) member states in mainstreaming migration into national development planning. Specifically, it highlighted the structural challenges of effective migration management for sustainable development in the Sahel and Sahara region as well as good practices and lessons learned, and the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable communities. It also sought to inform the planning, implementation, as well as evaluation of innovative and sustainable programs and strategies in order to enhance the role of migrants in achieving sustainable development and tackle the distress-related drivers to promote safe, orderly and humane migration.
The workshop produced actionable policy recommendations for policymakers and practitioners aiming to strengthen the implementation of relevant migration and development international and continental frameworks in Africa (specifically in the Sahel and Sahara region) and enhance regional and international cooperation.
In her opening remarks, Leena Azzam, Programme Officer for Transnational Threats at CCCPA, stated that migration and development are mutually reinforcing: “Beyond the ways in which migration contributes to the development of countries, societies, and economies, migration is also affected by development.”
Sabelo Mbokazi, Head of Labour, Employment and Migration at the Social Affairs Department in the AU, noted that despite the existence of a Migration Policy Framework on the continental level, it is yet to be operationalized. In this regard, coordination and harmonization of efforts are key for effective operationalization, and accordingly, the AU has developed a technical assistance platform for member states.
Joanne Irvine, Mainstreaming Migration Knowledge Expert at the International Organization for Migration, highlighted that effective operationalization of the migration-development nexus requires a shift in the approach from dealing with migration as a separate policy issue to a multi-dimensional reality or a ‘whole-of-government approach’: “We are basically risking leaving a lot of people behind if we do not consider their needs across the different sectors, policies, and planning that we do and include them in the socio-economic response to COVID-19 and the general development actions.”
Kouldjim Guidio, Resilience and Human Development Expert at the G5 Sahel Secretariat, emphasized the urgent need for a regional approach to harness the development potential of migration in the Sahel and Sahara region: “The question of migration cannot be addressed in a single country alone; we must develop a regional approach that aims to perceive migrants beyond groups waiting for humanitarian aid but rather as populations to be integrated into developmental actions.”
For his part, Damien Jusselme, Data and Research Coordinator at the International Organization for Migration shed light on the significance of strengthening data collection methods as a means of evidence-based interventions in migration management for development: “Sahel and Sahara countries do not have such data or when they are available, they are often incomplete, out-dated or difficult to compare from one country to another. We are also lacking another type of information on migrants and migration, such as the profile of the migrants, namely, who is basically migrating and sometimes even information on the presence of migrants in one specific area.”
Finally, Hind Bennani, Migration, Environment and Climate Change Specialist at the International Organization for Migration, put to the fore trends on the migration-development nexus, climate change and the environment in the African context. In 2017, 80 million migrant workers in Africa were attracted to natural resources dependent sectors such as agriculture, mining and fishery: “This figure is interesting because it shows that environment is not only a push factor or a driver of out-migration but attracts a lot of migrants too. This is important to take into account when we design a policy to address environmental migration.”
She went on to explain how diaspora communities in Sub-Saharan Africa play a crucial role in strengthening climate change resilience countries of origin: “They are also key actors when it comes to post-disaster recovery, and potentially, diaspora can be mobilized as a strong actor in more sustainable development based on green economy and facilitating green job creations.”
This event was made possible in part by the generous support of the Government of Switzerland, the United Nations Development Programme and the African Development Bank Group.