Migration and Development: lead author of this year’s Human Development Report responds to my review

November 10, 2009

     By Duncan Green     

Jeni Klugman responds to my fairly critical review of this year’s HDR: Jeni Klugman

‘It is good to see interest from Oxfam GB’s head of research in the migration and development debate — however, this blog about the 2009 Human Development Report (HDR) misses basic and important aspects of the report’s analysis and policy recommendations. In particular, this critique appears to have missed the discussion about political feasibility in chapters IV and V of the report (see e.g. pp 89-92; 108-112). Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development can be accessed here.

HDR_2009_coverOur proposals to liberalise unskilled migration, with pathways to permanence, are both essential and feasible. If adopted, our proposals would do much for the world’s poorest and bring benefits to both source and destination countries. We also have a series of very strong recommendations that would significantly benefit migrants with irregular status – who are about one in four of the total number of international migrants and likely number about 50 million worldwide at present.

As a counter-proposal, this blog endorses a kind of World Migration Organisation (WMO). Yet countries cannot even agree to have any ongoing discussion about migration under the auspices of the United Nations. Hence, for example, the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) remains explicitly outside the UN despite repeated calls by civil society to the contrary. So the suggestion that the HDR should have instead recommended that the primary route forward be via a new international / UN organization seems quite ironic in light of stated concerns about political feasibility.

Our core package aims to overcome the barriers to movement and improve local, national and regional policies in ways that would especially benefit the people with low formal skills and few assets – and takes account of the large political and institutional constraints which exist.

In contrast to the foregoing blog, I am happy to say that we have had an enormously positive reaction to the report’s analysis and recommendations, from the media, governments, civil society and leading migration scholars. And downloads of the HDR09 are up more than 50 percent relative to the 07/8 report, with relatively much larger interest from developing countries.

The HDR09’s broad reach and reception, both online and in the press, often highlighting the policy implications suggests that we are indeed making important and constructive contributions to this important debate.

Jeni Klugman
Director of the Human Development Report Office, UNDP’

I’ve been back over the pages Jeni cites and there’s some useful material, eg ‘attitudes to migration appear to be more positive in countries where the migrant population share in 1995 was large and where rates of increase over the past decade have been high’.

The HDR acknowledges the political minefield and has four suggestions: link migration to job vacancy levels in recipient countries; be more transparent about how migrants can gain permanent status; public information campaigns to correct misperceptions of the ‘they take our jobs and houses’ variety and multi-stakeholder debates in recipient countries.

Fine as far as it goes. The suggestion for multi-stakeholder debates is good, but restricted to national level, when international debate is also essential (and indeed the HDR itself is a good contribution to it). Jeni’s right that calling for big new international institutions can be a waste of time, but the paper I reviewed (and preferred on the institutions side) did not actually advocate some vast new World Migration Organization, but a more modest and voluntary arrangement like a scaled up version of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which has proved a rather good forum for learning and exchanging ideas on how to strengthen labour rights in international supply chains. That to me sounds realistic, rather than naive or utopian.

I know it’s customary for the blogger to get the last word, but I think on this occasion I’ll defer to the comments. Over to you.

November 10, 2009
Duncan Green