RT 1.1 Harnessing the capital of migrants to realise their potential

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Mr. Neville Dubash
RT 1.1 Harnessing the capital of migrants to realise their potential

RoundTable 1 - From vulnerability to resilience: recognising migrants as agents of development

RT 1.1 Harnessing the capital of migrants to realise their potential

The expected outcome of this roundtable is to establish how best to maximise migrants’ resilience and minimise their vulnerability by optimising mechanisms to harness their skills and capitals (e.g. human, social, economic, cultural and otherwise). On the one hand, migrants can find themselves in situations that make them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. On the other hand, migrants are – almost by definition – resourceful people, with the drive and initiative to change their lives and, in so doing, to change the lives of others for the better. Many migrants also possess significant capitals which, when effectively harnessed, supported by enabling policies, regulations and partners can protect them against threats to their and their families’ well-being. This roundtable seeks to identify good practices through which migrants’ vulnerabilities have been mitigated or prevented and their potential as development actors fulfilled. It will also highlight those forms of support which migrants themselves are best placed to offer one another.

While the principal responsibility of States is to ensure the protection of migrants, the State and other stakeholders could also focus on the means to maximize the capacity and resilience of migrants while acknowledging their possible vulnerability.

However, categorizing individual migrants as “vulnerable” or a particular group of migrants as “vulnerable” in a simplistic or potentially discriminatory way downplays the agency and resilience of individuals and their capacity to overcome vulnerabilities, particularly with the support of other public and private actors. It is essential to analyse the risks and related factors that may lead to vulnerabilities while being able to promote understanding of migrants as potential contributors to local and national development. To realise this aspiration, public systems and services need to be designed and equipped to empower all people, including migrants, to exercise their agency. This way, the perception of migrants as a burden may gradually be changed, so that they are considered as a driving force for development and socio-economic inclusion.

The duality of migrants’ vulnerability vs their resilience is also captured in the SDGs, as it is recognized that migrants may find themselves in vulnerable situations, or at risk of exploitation and abuse (targets 5.2, 8.7, 16.2 and paragraph 23 of the New York Declaration). The Declaration also refers to the vulnerabilities of migrants to exploitation and abuse and highlights States’ commitments to “protecting the safety, dignity and human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migratory status, at all times.” It is important to note that vulnerabilities are not confined to cases of exploitation, abuse or emergencies but can occur within broader structural or political contexts. For example, an irregular migrant may be vulnerable to poor health outcomes if he or she is afraid to report an infection to health services, whilst a refugee may be vulnerable to gang crime in his or her country of refuge played out along clan or caste lines exported from his or her country of origin. Given the complex nature and manifestation of these vulnerabilities across all sectors, contexts and societal structures, an integrated approach to turning vulnerabilities into opportunities for resilience is key. This means considering migration across all governance areas from a multi-sectoral approach in order to ensure policies are coherent with and facilitate migration and development efforts.

Going beyond this multi-sectoral approach, and building on what has been discussed in Roundtable 2.1 of GFMD 2017 on the key role of local authorities and host societies in fostering migrants’ resilience, this theme will also address the need for a multi-level approach. While the role of local and regional authorities as first responders to migration is clear, their ability to ensure migrants’ agency and integration within their respective communities necessitates support, transfer of competencies and human and financial resources generally provided by the State. At the same time, national authorities depend upon local and provincial authorities to implement their policies and programmes locally. However, a lack of coordination between these two levels result in national and local actions or policies being incoherent and working at cross-purposes.

Such multi-sectoral and multi-level approaches also go hand in hand with the multi-stakeholder approach. This is particularly relevant at the local level where civil society, private sector and other local actors all play a crucial role in supporting local and regional authorities to empower and integrate migrants. The theme will therefore also consider this dimension, building on last year’s round tables 3.1 and 3.2 on strengthening cooperation with the private sector and the civil society.

  • How should we define resilience in a migration context?
  • What types of capitals do migrants possess which could be leveraged to enhance their resilience? (e.g. social, economic, cultural, human, etc.)
  • How can these capitals be harnessed to prevent migrants from becoming vulnerable? (including through the overseas recruitment processes)
  • What is the role of employers in enhancing migrants’ resilience?
  • What are the good practices in ethical recruitment, migrants’ employability and community participation?
  • What systemic changes need to take place in some countries of origin to foster ethical recruitment?
  • How can migrants contribute to the wellbeing of the broader community in which they live?
  • How can the health and wellbeing of migrants, including psychosocially, be taken into consideration as an essential asset to enhance migrants’ community participation, employability and contributions to development?
  • What types of support for migrants are most effective if offered on a peer-to-peer basis, rather than by host communities? (e.g. cultural sensitization)
  • What early warning mechanisms can be put in place to identify migrants’ vulnerabilities and facilitate appropriate intervention?
  • How could local and regional authorities be empowered as key actors in achieving SDG 11 and other migration related aspects of all SDGs?
  • What role does the civil society play in supporting local and regional authorities to enhance migrants’ agency, particularly the role of migrant’ and diaspora associations?

We invite you to submit comments / suggestions below

Please note that the Chair reserves the right to consider and decide which comments are relevant. The GFMD prefers that all comments are correctly identified.

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