The new PCD policy paper on migration and development highlighted the incoherencies between current European policies on migration and the objectives of sustainable development and protection of Human Rights. The launch event was a timely moment to start an open discussion with a wide range of stakeholders from the European institutions, the Civil Society sector and the UN agencies.

In Europe today, no policy-makers can shy away from the question of how to deal with the increasing number of migrants reaching the EU’s territory. Addressing this situation requires both short-term and longer-term approaches. One thing is to look at the conditions in which we receive these women, children and men and which status to grants them; another is to address the factors that forced these people to take life-threatening journeys and the decisions and acts that European States and the European Union can take (and could have taken) to prevent this, so that people use their (human) right to leave their country as a choice, instead of a survival condition.

In this context, the old debate on the relationship between migration and development has come back as an urgent topic on the political agenda. Representing development and relief NGOs across Europe, CONCORD wanted to contribute to the debate by shedding a light on the incoherencies between current European policies on migration and objectives of sustainable development and protection of human rights, as upheld in the EU’s Treaties.  Thus, CONCORD recently published a Policy Paper entitled ‘Coherence for migration and security – and what about development?’, as the part of the series of well-focused papers “Spotlight on Policy Coherence for Development”. CONCORD’s finding is that the EU external migration policy is still far away from complying with the legal obligation of Policy Coherence for Development (PCD), and clearly focuses on security and economic interests, at the expense of sustainable development and human rights.

The official launch of this Migration Policy Paper on 20 January 2016 was a timely moment to open a discussion with a wide range of stakeholders. The audience gathered more than 80 persons from a variety of civil society organisations in the development, relief, human rights, migration and social sectors, as well as individuals working in the European Commission, the European Parliament and UN agencies. Amongst the panellists, the Dutch EU-Presidency, the European Commission –from both the Directorate Generals in charge of International Development (DEVCO) and of Migration (HOME) – and the United Nations were represented and offered their views, guided by Conny Reuter, Director of SOLIDAR, who moderated the debate.

The debate honestly reflected the divergences of views that dominate this complex debate.

Carmen Hagenaars, representing the Dutch EU-Presidency, encouragingly emphasised that migration and development is a priority topic on the agenda of the Dutch Presidency. At the same time, she disapproved of many aspects of the CONCORD Policy Paper. In Ms Hagenaars’ view, no reason to proclaim that security interests prevail in European policies. Evidence of this lies in the fact that the majority of development aid still goes to infrastructure and basic social issues such as education and health, and not to strengthening migration management and border controls.

No reason either to criticize the EU Mobility Partnerships for being mainly used as an instrument to fight irregular migration towards the EU, instead of a development tool. Ms Hagenaars considers that the Mobility Partnerships are a good steps forward to more liberal mobility and improved the mobility between the EU and partner countries.

The European Commission representatives expressed equally critical reviews of CONCORD’s assessment and conclusions about the lack of attention to development and human rights in current policies.  Stefano Signore from DG DEVCO saw no deviation in what the Commission does from its original objective of eradicating poverty in the long term, and rejected the idea that there is conditionality to aid relating to migration control. On the other hand, DG Migration and Home Affairs would like to see increased mainstreaming of migration into development policies and financing, with the view to help countries with their migration management capacities, as explained by Pawel Busiakiewicz from DG HOME. Mr. Busiakiewicz also emphasised the need to address return and border protection as part of a comprehensive approach to migration. Thus, economic migrants should be discouraged to come to Europe; while people in need of international protection should be welcome.

On her hand, Cécile Riallant, representing the UNDP Joint Migration and Development Initiative, sees a need for approaching migration from an entirely different perspective. The relation between migration and development is complex, and often this relation lacks consensus from both a political and operational views. However, we know that human mobility can contribute to development. In this globalised world, migration and mobility will increasingly become a defining factor in the creation of our societies and economies. Therefore, tackling a new reality of diversity is needed and our policy-making focus should shift to the good governance of human mobility. Ms. Riallant emphasised that the protection of migrants’ rights is a prerequisite to any good migration policy.

Clearly, migration is not an easy debate. With different interests at stake, migration is a highly political issue, and political solutions are needed. But all of this should never legitimise to set aside the global recognition of the positive contribution of migration to sustainable development, and our European values of solidarity. As Conny Reuter said, migration is an issue for the reputation of the EU, and some citizens are already convinced that there is nothing to expect from the EU any longer – which is a dangerous slope for the European project.

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the commitment of all States, including EU Member States to ‘facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies’ will be an opportunity for EU policymaking to reemphasize a rights-based approach to EU external migration policies and to promote coherence with longer-term development objectives. Because development can only be sustainable if you do not leave no one behind.

Article written by Linde-Kee van Stokkum (Consultant) and Blandine Bouniol (Policy and Advocacy Coordinator at CONCORD).


–> Link to the Policy Paper ‘Coherence for migration and security – and what about development?

–> Link to the livestreaming of the launch event

–> Link to the event’s pictures