07/2010: Cécile Riallant


Cécile Riallant
Head of the European Commission-United Nations
Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI)


“The contribution of local authorities and civil society organisations to
the strengthening of linkages between migration and development”


Ü Eurasylum: The EC-UN Joint Migration and Development Initiative was established in 2008, for a period of three years, with a view to supporting civil society organizations and local authorities seeking to contribute to projects and networks linking migration and development. The programme is implemented by the UNDP Brussels Office in partnership with the EC, and also benefits from the cooperation of UNHCR, UNFPA, ILO and IOM. Can you guide us through the policy rationale, means and core activities of this Initiative?

Ü Cécile Riallant: Across the world, migrants, their home communities and the grassroots organisations they set up highlight the development impact of migration on a daily basis. As interest in the links between migration and development grows at the international level, so do the number of international organisations, civil society organisations and academics implementing concrete initiatives and/or undertaking research on the subject. In order to ensure that migration becomes a truly effective tool for development, the EC-UN JMDI aims to:

– provide financial and technical support for the implementation of these concrete initiatives;
– identify and link the actors working on these issues across the world; and
– formulate new policy tools to deal with the links between migration and development, both in migrant sending and receiving countries.

We are achieving these aims in a variety of ways. Firstly, the programme has disbursed 10 million Euros to fund 54 concrete M&D projects linking actors from the diaspora, local authorities, academia and development NGOs based in countries of origin and destination of migration. In total 135 organisations are benefiting from the programme’s funds in 16 target countries and 13 EU Member States. We support these projects throughout their lifecycles – capacity building is at the very heart of what we do.

Furthermore, we have also launched an online global Community of Practice (www.migration4development.org) which brings individuals and groups (including our grantees) from around the world together to exchange information and ideas on migration and development, develop skills and provide each other with mutual support. This has become firmly established as the go-to website for migration and development, with over 1,500 members in over 80 countries – we would strongly encourage all your readers to become members and join the Community!

Finally, lessons learnt and good practices arising from the EC-UN JMDI funded projects, and from discussions among the members of the Community of Practice, will feed into a set of policy recommendations geared at stakeholders in both migrant sending and receiving countries.

Ü Eurasylum: The Joint Initiative is currently supporting 54 projects, which are being implemented by consortia of non-state actors in host, transit and sending countries, in four priority areas: migrant remittances; migrant communities; migrant capacities; and migrant rights. Can you highlight some of the preliminary outputs of these projects, and discuss any emerging good practice and innovatory interventions in the field of Migration and Development?

Ü Cécile Riallant: The projects are still very much in the implementation phase and lessons learnt and best practices will continue to be analysed. However, we can already see that the most successful projects are those which involve multi-stakeholder partnerships, mostly between local authorities and civil society organisations, particularly migrant associations.

The involvement of the local authorities is key. The drivers and impacts of migration are often most strongly felt at the local level, be it in terms of effects on the local labour market, the size and demographics of the local population, or the need for public service provision. In some cases, provincial or state governments may have jurisdiction on a number of migration-related policies, making consultations and agreement with sub-national levels of government inevitable. Local authorities in the receiving countries are uniquely positioned, on the one hand to recognise the value of their migrant community, and on the other hand to communicate this value to the national government. The local authority is also central in facilitating migrants’ access to a range of local services including healthcare, education and housing. Therefore, where local authorities are at the frontline of providing these services to migrants and their families – especially in the context of rural to urban migration – national governments should ensure that revenues are being shared so as to enable local authorities to cope with that task. Access to such services is not only important from a migrant rights point of view (and this is one of the four priority areas of the EC-UN JMDI) but it is also material in ensuring the capacities of migrants are fully realised, thus increasing their potential to be agents of development.

In this context, building trust should be a key policy objective. Successful diaspora initiatives identified by the EC-UN JMDI have shown the positive link between the existence of rights for diasporas (such as the existence of a specific fiscal regime, non bureaucratic processes to set up businesses, the right to buy land and property, dual citizenship, the right to vote, the portability of social security rights etc.) and the impact of their initiatives. Furthermore, the diasporas’ contributions are more effective when left to their own initiatives, whether they are motivated by altruistic or commercial motives. Policies that are too strongly driven by governments can act as a deterrent for diaspora engagement.

Existing successful government interventions are the result of years of continuous, open engagement. The good practices identified by the EC-UN JMDI also show the importance of inclusiveness: successful government interventions have engaged diasporas in the joint design, implementation and evaluation of policy interventions. This process should start by identifying where diasporas add value to development priorities. Diaspora representatives should be invited to contribute to existing development strategies. As much as possible, this should follow a sector-based approach to fine-tune policies. It is essential that the link between diasporas and development is adequately defined to avoid unrealistic and unfulfilled expectations which have the potential to undermine the overall process.

The EC-UN JMDI has also shown the importance of supporting, developing and reinforcing capacities of civil society organisations and local authorities to design and implement migration and development initiatives. As I have already indicated, diasporas can play a key role in impelmenting migration and development initiatives provided they have adequate resources to implement their conrete initiatives and that they participate in policy making. Obstacles to their engagement should be removed: diaspora organisations continue to face major capacity challenges when having to demonstrate credibility to those governments and donors who are keen to work with them. When assisted in their ways of operating, diaspora organisations become more self-sufficient and effective actors for development. In order to have maximum impact, this effort should be sustatined over time. The needs of diasporas are constantly evolving, therefore this should be recognised and support should be provided on an on-going basis.

Ü Eurasylum: One of the three core objectives of the Joint Initiative is also to “feed into policy-making on migration and development”. Can you comment on the ways and areas in which the Joint Initiative is implementing such an objective, including through any cooperative arrangements and synergies with existing policy initiatives such as the UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and other Regional Consultative Processes?

Ü Cécile Riallant: A key activity of the EC-UN JMDI is the codification of best practices and lessons learnt using a ‘bottom-up’ approach. The programme is learning directly from the experiences developed and implemented by civil society organizations to feed into policy making. The programme seeks to contribute to close the existing knowledge gap about how civil society initiatives can impact concretely on development. We have a strong monitoring framework in place, which allows us to support the 54 EC-UN JMDI funded projects on a day-to-day basis. Crucially, this monitoring framework enables us to draw on the experiences of our grantees and see both the successes and challenges in implementing a migration and development project. We are also tracking the experiences of other migration and development projects to feed into this codification process, as well as identifying best practices and lessons learnt from discussions among members of the Migration 4 Development (M4D) online community. The results of this codification process will be published in a handbook geared at stakeholders in both migrant-sending and receiving countries.

The EC-UN JMDI has put in place a unique delivery platform linking the main actors in this field within the international system through the partnership established between the European Commission, the United Nations and civil society. The fact that it is implemented by the UNDP together with four other partner agencies – IOM, UNHCR, UNFPA and ILO – means that the EC-UN JMDI can draw on the expertise of each of these agencies in reaching out to, and developing the capacity of, civil society organisations. The programme is able to benefit from the specific mandates of each of its partner agencies and ensure that this expertise is utilised specifically in the migration and development context. The very nature of the UN, which links civil society actors with government, means that the EC-UN JMDI is perfectly positioned to act as a convenor between these two stakeholders. Furthermore, because all the partner agencies are anchored within the UN multi-lateral system, the synergies among, and expertise of the agencies can offer a unique added value to the programme. This feature of the programme brings numerous results by contributing to aid effectiveness, aid delivery and policy coherence. It also facilitates the establishment of fruitful and constructive dialogues with governments at country level and ensures ownership by governments of activities funded by the programme. This is a key aspect which enables to better link initiatives from the civil society with government development agendas, and to maximize impact and sustainability.

As the largest migration and development programme on a global level, the EC-UN JMDI regularly contributes to international events. In particular, we enjoy a close partnership with the organisers of the Global Fora on Migration, ensuring that there is relevant civil society input into government deliberations. This has been achieved in numerous ways, including an innovative Virtual Fair in 2009 via the M4D website (www.migration4development.org), where 4,500 people participated online over the course of a week. Users could visit an online exhibition of civil society projects, and watch interviews with, and post questions for, key players from international organisations, civil society and governments. The M4D Community of Practice will also be used in the run up to the 2010 GFMD with a series of online discussions relevant to the theme for this years’ GFMD, ‘building partnership’. The EC-UN JMDI is assisting the organisers of the 2010 GFMD by providing concrete experiences and appropriate examples of civil society projects which could feed into the round table discussions to be held at the 2010 GFMD.