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Migration and development

Challenges series 2016 - Commissioner Neven Mimica

09-12-2015

Mimica, N. 2015. Migration and development. ECDPM Talking Points blog, 9 December 2015.

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In the second of our series of blogs ahead of the 2016 Challenges Paper – released on January 4th 2016 – Commissioner Neven Mimica shares his perspectives on the challenges for sustainable development in 2016 and beyond.


In 2015, the European Year for Development, we have seen major steps forward on development cooperation at the international level. The decisions taken in Addis Ababa in July on financing for development, in New York in September on the 2030 sustainable development agenda and in Paris in December on climate change together constitute a real paradigm shift for the future of the world.

At the same time, this year has also been one in which more questions have been asked about the scope and reach of the development assistance that is provided by the European Union and other major donors. Political and media attention in Europe has focused on the migration and refugee crisis and the response to terrorist outrages, most notably those in France.

We need to be extremely careful, however, not to conflate a number of issues. We also need to challenge misconceptions, superficial analysis and conclusions that are simply wrong.

Some of the main reasons for our ongoing development assistance to our partner countries are to foster stability, to promote the respect of human rights and to support sustainable economic growth. It is therefore understandable that people are interested in the impact of our assistance to date.

More importantly, we need to be innovative in the ways in which assistance can be channelled in the future to respond to the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement in a targeted manner. Migration has to come from aspiration and not from desperation.

We should be under no illusion that development assistance alone can provide all of the solutions to migratory issues, especially those stemming from conflict situations or related to countries with deficient human rights records.

It is part of a wider discussion that encompasses security, stability, democratisation and societal development. It is also a reflection of how the European Union sees itself as a global actor, engaging with other international organisations and partner countries, including its near neighbours.

I should make it clear that we have already addressed migration under the EU’s development cooperation for a number of years. However, in view of rapidly increasing numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, we cannot keep doing business as usual.

It is clear that we have to step up our efforts, especially now that migration has been firmly embedded in the new sustainable development goals. These rightly recognise that regular migration can be a powerful, positive force for development.

Development cooperation is essential for addressing root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement, but also in building the capacities of our partner countries to improve management of migration and refugee movements, and reintegration of returnees.

In line with the European Agenda on Migration and with the overall objective of maximising the development impact of migration, the Commission is currently preparing a number of new initiatives. For example, we will present a new development-oriented strategy on forced displacement in spring 2016. We are also preparing concrete guidelines for effective mainstreaming of migration into development policy and programming.

Already, at the recent EU-Africa summit in Valletta, we have established a new EU-Africa emergency trust fund on migration, showing that the European Union is capable of responding flexibly to new demands. So far, the Commission has pledged EUR 1.8 billion to the trust fund. 25 Member States, Norway and Switzerland have committed to contribute.

Effective support also depends on the engagement and shared responsibility of our partner countries. Only by demonstrating the positive development outcomes of addressing migration, including its drivers, will we be able to convince our partner countries of the importance of strengthening cooperation in this area.


Neven Mimica serves as European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM.

Photo courtesy of UNICEF Ethiopia via Flickr.


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Read more about ECDPM’s annual ‘Challenges’ series here.

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European external affairsEU Development Policy and PracticePolicy Coherence for DevelopmentPost-2015 Global Development AgendaMigrationEurope

External authors

Commissioner Neven Mimica