Participants in the conference, which was held in Brussels on 12 February, urged governments to develop more coherent migration policies that take account of the needs of both origin and receiving countries. Almost 300 participants from Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the Asia/Pacific region stressed that the financial and economic crisis only reinforces the urgency of comprehensive migration policies with a global approach.
Linking development and migration policies is particularly important at a time when both developed and developing countries are grappling with the economic and financial crisis and the rapid rise of unemployment. Coherence for development is difficult even in good times, so doubled efforts are needed to manage it well in bad times. The OECD is doing its part to help governments address the crisis and build a stronger, cleaner and fairer world economy.
Well-managed labour migration can be advantageous for destination countries and also bring significant benefits to origin countries. Remittances significantly improve the welfare of those who receive them and can be used for investment in education and health. Returns to origin countries also include transfers of knowledge and technology and investment in business activities.
Past experience shows that immigrants are among those hardest hit in the labour market during a downturn. But although the economic crisis has reduced the need for migrant labour, OECD countries still face the challenge of population ageing. With labour needs likely to reassert themselves with the recovery, coherent long-term migration policies need to be developed.
OECD Deputy Secretary-General Mario Amano noted that the impact of the crisis in developing countries will also affect economic recovery in the OECD area, warning that advances in reducing poverty may unravel. OECD has called on the world’s main aid donors to stand by their development pledges despite the economic slowdown, and public discourse on migration by politicians has to be exemplary, he said. This does not mean censoring bad news, but transmitting to the general population messages about the positive contributions of immigrants to economic and social life. Neglecting the development dimension is short-sighted and will in time undermine the pursuit of other objectives, such as long-term security or environmental goals.
Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament, stressed the responsibility of parliamentarians to seek synergies between migration and development policies and their ability to influence governments to “speak with one voice” in international fora. Margot Wallström, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Institutional Relations and Communication, highlighted the gender dimension of migration, noting that remittances benefit families in the countries of origin and that migrant women seem to send more remittances and over longer periods. A similar point was made by Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jamaica.
Jacques Barrot, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Justice, Freedom and Security, said that migration is not only about security or protectionism or labour market policies, but also about taking into account the needs of the origin countries to find “win-win” solutions. Eckhard Deutscher, Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, warned of the risk that developing countries will end up as the worst-hit victims of the current crisis. He urged donors to meet aid commitments and to work in partnership with developing countries.
David Arkless, President, Corporate & Government Affairs, Manpower, emphasised the need for more global and flexible labour markets to respond to the realities of the global economy. Michael Danby, a member of the Australian Parliament, stressed the importance of successful integration of migrants into the society, with an emphasis on long-term immigration rather than circular migration. The ability to retain citizenship and the acceptance of cultural pluralism are key in this respect.
The Conference was organised jointly by the European Parliament, the European Commission and the OECD to foster closer co-operation between these bodies and promote dialogue with parliamentarians on global issues. Mobilising a wider range of actors in support of coherent policies for development is an important step forward on an issue that basically depends on political will.
Please note that a more comprehensive summary record will be available shortly.