01/2012: Laurent de Boeck


Laurent de Boeck
Director of the African, Caribbean and
Pacific (ACP) Observatory on Migration


“Developing the migration research and policy capacity in the ACP region”


Ü Eurasylum: The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Observatory on Migration is an initiative of the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States, which is implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and a Consortium of 15 partners and 3 associates, and which is funded by the European Union, with additional support from Switzerland, UNFPA and IOM, so far. Its goal is to establish a network of research institutions and governmental entities dealing with migration in the six regions of the ACP Group of States, namely West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Can you guide us through the key aims and activities of the Observatory?

Ü Laurent de Boeck: The main objective of the ACP Observatory on Migration is to provide policy-makers, the civil society and the public at large with relevant data and information on South-South migration, through the establishment of a large research network which is able to advise governments and related partners on migration trends and policy needs. As the ACP Committee of Ambassadors in Brussels noted, most of the research and policy-making to date had only focused on South-North migration. As a result, ACP countries often lacked appropriate policies related to South-South migration, while interregional migration is becoming more and more predominant in many ACP regions.

In order to achieve better availability and analysis of data, as well as improve research capacities in ACP countries, the ACP Observatory on Migration, working in a Consortium of 18 partners under the leadership of the International Organization for Migration, is conducting a series of research and capacity-building activities with a variety of actors. National committees have been established in the 12 ACP pilot countries of the Observatory in order to define research priorities and policy development capacity building needs. The Observatory has launched research studies in close cooperation with its Consortium partners to obtain relevant and up-to-date data on these issues. The initial studies include, for example, an investigation of the impact of South-South migration on human development in Tanzania, an analysis of the remittances framework in Lesotho, Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Haiti, Migration and the Environment in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as labour migration in Papua-New-Guinea, and the diasporas in the South from Nigeria. All 12 pilot countries and the six pilot regions of the ACP Observatory will be targeted by these activities.

In parallel, the ACP Observatory on Migration also works with target governments and regional organisations to improve their migration data collection and analysis capacities. Three interregional workshops have been organized in 2011 in Senegal, Timor-Leste and Trinidad and Tobago, on data related to various migration flows. National follow-up trainings will be held in 2012 to spread the knowledge among national partners in line with national priorities and statistics strategies.

The ACP Observatory is one of three components of a wider Intra-ACP Migration Facility, funded by the European Union, IOM and other financial partners. The other components of this Facility focus on improving the capacities of governments and civil society to work on migration and development policies in the ACP regions. The findings highlighted by the ACP Observatory will be translated into policy-development by the Facility and will be disseminated to the general population.

Ü Eurasylum: One of the key research outputs of the Observatory is a series of Background Notes on various issues relating to South-South migration. The objective of these documents is to provide reliable information as well as recommendations and good practices to harness the positive impact of South-South migration for Development. Can you highlight some of the key findings and recommendations emerging from this series to date?

Ü Laurent de Boeck: The Background Notes of the ACP Observatory on Migration were first drafted at the request of the ACP Group of States Secretariat for the meetings of the ACP/EU Dialogue on Migration, within the framework of Article 13 of the Cotonou Agreement.

However, we have now noticed that the Background Notes have also become very useful for different kinds of stakeholders who need clear and precise information on ACP migration. Taking account of major trends and patterns of South-South migration, the ACP Observatory on Migration has published to date four Background Notes on the following topics: Trafficking in Persons; Remittances in ACP Countries; Migration, Development and Remittances in African Lusophone Countries; and Migration, Environment and Climate Change in ACP Countries. The Observatory has also just completed a new Background Note on Transnational Families, Migration and the Impact on Children and the Elderly in ACP Countries.

The first Background Note on Trafficking in Persons highlights the initiatives that have already been implemented in ACP countries. This shows that more than 80% of the ACP countries fully comply or have shown efforts to comply with trafficking in persons legislative standards. Regions such as West and Central Africa have established innovative initiatives of inter-regional cooperation and countries such as Papua-New-Guinea, Timor-Leste and Trinidad-and-Tobago have recently drafted counter-trafficking legislation. The recommendations of the Background Note call for an improvement in data collection mechanisms on human trafficking, as well as for the mainstreaming of human rights-based approaches to this issue, and the implementation of existing legislative frameworks.

The Background Note on remittances points to the fact that ACP countries only receive 8.35% of remittances sent to developing countries. Nevertheless, it is important to note that a complete aggregation and comparison of data on remittances is not possible. Data on remittances vary from country to country. Furthermore, statistics only show formal remittances flows; informal flows are often not accounted for, while they are estimated to be predominant in many ACP countries. Existing data reveals that Nigeria is the only ACP country among the top-10 remittance-receiving countries worldwide. Four ACP countries, namely Tonga, Lesotho, Samoa and Guyana, are among the top-10 remittances-receiving countries as a percentage of GDP. High transfer costs, in particular intra-regionally, remain an obstacle for migrants to send money through official channels.

The third Background Note on the African lusophone countries highlights the trends and patterns of migration between these countries, namely Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São-Tomé and Príncipe. These African lusophone countries form a highly heterogeneous group even if they share commonalities resulting from history. It can thus be argued that these countries are integrated into a lusophone migration system. Discussions should therefore focus on harmonizing information mechanisms, sharing experiences, coordinating policies and improving social, economic and political environment.

The fourth document concerns migration and the environment. This topic has become a priority for many ACP countries. The objective is to show the complex interrelations between migration, the environment and climate change. The relationships between natural disasters, gradual changes in the environment and migration are not direct, but rather a dynamic interaction of a variety of factors. Migration should thus be viewed as an adaptation strategy in national planning, and not as a mere consequence of environmental degradation and disasters.

The fifth Background Note on transnational families highlights the social impact of South-South migration in ACP countries. This is an emerging research topic and there are hardly any studies on transnational families in the South, and the related consequences for children and the elderly. Important migration trends, such as the feminization of migration flows and families residing in more than one country, need to be researched further. Evidence is needed to shape adequate policies with regard to the social consequences of these flows.

Ü Eurasylum: The ACP Observatory on Migration also collects training material and capacity building methodologies relating to different aspects of migration in the ACP region. Can you comment on the state of migration research and policy implementation capacity in the region, and the way(s) in which the ACP Observatory contributes to enhancing such capacity?

Ü Laurent de Boeck: An initial review by the ACP Observatory on Migration has shown that many initiatives related to migration research have been implemented in the ACP countries. These overviews, published in the ACP Observatory website (www.acpmigration-obs.org), also highlight the differences between target countries. Data is sometimes quickly outdated or not sufficiently shared among partners. The harmonization of sources for carrying out research is also often problematic.

The ACP Observatory on Migration has recognised the existence of reliable ACP research institutes and government agencies and has fostered the establishment of a research network for data sharing. The Observatory also works with EU research institutes and partners who have expressed interest in working closely with ACP partners, and in joining efforts to increase capacities of their colleagues in the South. Capacity-building activities led by the ACP Observatory on Migration focus on specific weaknesses identified by the ACP counterparts themselves. The organization of intraregional and national workshops aims at the harmonization of data collection and analysis mechanisms. This also reinforces the possibilities for data exchanges between ACP stakeholders.

To date, I believe that one of the major achievements of the ACP Observatory on Migration has been the ability to gather representatives from twelve countries and six regions in three continents, to discuss migration data collection and analysis mechanisms. Training activities will further look at the improvement of data availability for policy development. At the same time, trained stakeholders will be able to monitor the implementation of new migration policies to improve their impact on migrants and local populations.

Several ACP countries have asked the Observatory to provide technical support for migration data collection and policy development. ACP countries are aware of the paramount importance of migration for their development and the Observatory is looking forward to accompanying countries to improve local capacities and shape relevant migration policies.

Finally, a good tool which has also been produced by the Observatory is its Research Guide, which highlights migration and development concepts and definitions, as well as research methodologies which can be used for studies on South-South migration and development. The Guide is available on the Observatory website.