Director of `The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration Foundation
Co-Chair of the Club of The Hague on Refugees and Migration
The role, activities and added value of
The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration
Ü Eurasylum Ltd: The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration (THP) is a global initiative to develop concrete proposals for sustainable refugee and migration policies that brings together a diverse range of stakeholders from the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Its activities are inspired by the Declaration of The Hague on the Future of Refugee and Migration Policy, which was issued in 2002 and was endorsed by leading international figures, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Can you guide us through the origins of the THP initiative, its vision, activities, resources and implementation mechanisms?
Ü Frans Bouwen and Philip Rudge: Like many good initiatives, THP started out as a project of a few energetic and committed individuals. Working in the refugee and migration field, they got together in an attempt to thrash out a progressive agenda for the future of refugee and migration policy. They were concerned, on the one hand, with the inadequacy of the current international migration and refugee regime, and on the other, with the enormous potential afforded by globalisation and the growing international commitment to human rights. They took soundings among a wide range of people in governmental, NGO, IGO, the private sector and academic circles in the North and the South, some of whom were active in organisations dedicated to this issue, and others who had a moral or political or faith-based commitment.
Once this community of interest was established, the idea of an independent and multi-disciplinary platform gradually took shape. This started in the year 2000 with the launching of a three-year project on the Future of Asylum and Migration by the Netherlands Chapter of the Society for International Development. A series of four working seminars was organised in the Hague which attempted to map the key policy issues and form as wide a consensus as possible around the refugee and migration challenge. These workshops particularly sought to address numerous connections to some of the major global socio-economic challenges of our present time, notably human security, sustainable development, migration management, and refugee protection. Of particular concern were the challenges that refugee movements and migration pose to policies of multiculturalism and social cohesion in increasingly diverse and urbanised societies throughout the world.
This first phase of the work led the participants to draft The Declaration of The Hague on the Future of Refugee and Migration Policy (2002). Its Preamble succinctly expresses the approach: We believe that now is the time for a major change of focus. The patterns of migration are changing; the potential for international cooperation is increasing; demographic realities in the world are shifting; globalisation offers possibilities to manage migration more productively; the advance of human rights and democratic governance open us new perspectives.
This Declaration itself identifies 21 key Principles constituting a comprehensive approach to the issues and some ideas for innovative ways forward. To give as wide a sense of ownership as possible this document was widely consulted by over 500 global experts from governments, migrant and refugee organisations, NGOs, international organisations, faith groups, academia and business. These are all now affiliated to a global THP network of about 2000 members (more information can be found on the website of the Foundation: www.thehagueprocess.org).
To build upon this solid consensus around an agenda for action, The Club of The Hague was established in 2003 as a high-level think tank and advisory body. In 2005, a growing public profile and the receipt of funds from supporting agencies and foundations meant that the Hague Process required a stronger institutional and legal footing. This need was met by the formal establishment under Dutch law of the Foundation `The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration. The Hague Process has a very small Secretariat and staff under its Director, Frans Bouwen.
Given an active, worldwide community of interest and a clear agenda expressed in the Declaration, the task before the Hague Process is to pursue the 21 Principles of the Declaration. Within its financial and administrative constraints, the annual meeting of the Club of the Hague advises on priorities and areas where real political impact is possible, focussing, where possible, on new approaches while avoiding duplication with other valuable initiatives. Initiatives are at present clustered in four main work streams:
The Business Initiative was set up to explore the nexus between the business sector, migration and development. It aims to engage business leaders in working through the challenges to commercial and public policy of migration. The private sector is one where migration issues are still relatively new, and the evolving agenda of corporate social responsibility suggests a potential for new forms of cooperation. This Business Initiative started off with a seminar organised with CEOs from the finance sector in the summer of 2004. The outcome position paper shares recommendations and proposals and appeals specifically to the international finance sector and policy makers to seize existing opportunities in the field of remittances.
The Big Cities Initiative came about as a response to the recommendations of the Final Report of the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM), and seeks to take up the issue of migration, mobility and integration in major urban areas across the globe. Early in 2007, Mayors delegations from selected cities (including business, migrants, policymakers, education and healthcare professionals) will be given an opportunity to share policy approaches and meet together with representatives of diaspora, migrant and refugee communities, development organisations, and policymakers. The project will also look to set up structures to further the capacity of cities to inform national and international debates and policies on migration. Preparatory workshops have taken place on the role of migrant communities and on the rural-urban dimension of migration: their output will go forward to the Mayors Conference in early 2007. (See www.thehagueprocess.org for online reports).
On a global scale, activities to inform the international migration and development debate are being carried out by THP and its network, with a clear intent to support efforts by the United Nations and its Secretary General to highlight the cause for just and orderly migration. While THP advocates a global approach to refugee and migration issues, there is great value in regional initiatives which promote partnerships and a shared analysis of best practice between neighboring countries. In that perspective, two conferences have so far been held, one in Bangkok on Integration and Social Inclusion from a Southern Perspective (2004) in cooperation with UNHCR Thailand and Chulalongkhorn University; and one in Amman on Advancing the Refugee and Migration Agenda in the Middle East (2005) in cooperation with the Arab Thought Forum.
The THP foundation is still young, but collectively these initiatives serve its main objectives: to advance the global agenda on migration and development, to encourage innovative ideas for migration and refugee policies worldwide, to engage with established actors and involve new actors and organisations at the local, national, regional and international levels; and to become a global stakeholder platform. How far THP succeeds in these aims will be the subject of a large-scale stock-taking conference to be organised in 2008, which will review how effective and innovative the programme will have been.
It is very gratifying that the THP Foundation has received ongoing support from the Netherlands Chapter of the Society for International Development, the City of the Hague as well as the Danish Institute for Human Rights. Last year, several donors under whom the Netherlands Ministry of Justice, development organisations like Oxfam Novib Netherlands, ICCO and NCDO, the Dutch Refugee Council, the Swiss Foreigners Commission, the Roling Foundation, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ford Foundation further contributed to building up THP’s organisational capabilities and activities. This financial support further symbolises an important moral and political endorsement of the process.
Ü Eurasylum Ltd: One of the on-going initiatives promoted by THP aims to involve the business sector in the policy debate relating to managed and orderly migration. This initiative is based on the premise that there are numerous benefits for companies to promote a more transparent migration regime, and in managing integration processes. These include improved access to both highly trained and unskilled labour, but also a better managed tax regime through a reduction in the high costs of unsuccessful integration, particularly unemployment. Can you describe the types of activity that are currently being implemented in this area, the companies involved, any major outputs already achieved, and the way in which these might feed into the on-going EU policy reform debate on economic migration, particularly after adoption in December 2005 of the EU Policy Plan on Legal Migration?
Ü Frans Bouwen and Philip Rudge: In October 2006, in London, businesses from various sectors (including Shell, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Ikea, BBC, Sved Bank, National grid, JP Morgan) took part in a Roundtable organised by the THP. This event was chaired by HRH Prince Constantijn, chairman of the Board of THP and Mary Robinson, member of the Club of the Hague. The special guest of honour was Peter Sutherland, Chairman of British Petroleum and Goldman Sachs and the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Migration.
Similar roundtables in Johannesburg (March 2006) and Los Angeles (early 2007) are part of a three-year project aiming to engage the business sector in addressing the issues of migration and development. Through a dialogue with CEOs and senior staff of large multinational companies, the aim is to map the challenges and opportunities they face with regard to the international mobility of their workforce. This process focuses on seven business sectors (energy, finance, health, hotel and catering, IT, media and transport) and ten urban locations around the world. It is based on a partnership between The Hague Process Foundation and The Ethical Globalisation Initiative, and is supported by local authorities, business associations and local research bodies in each of the selected cities. The local focus allows for the inclusion of a significant number of migrant men and women in the work, as well as Small and Medium business Enterprises (SMEs), in addition to the larger multinational companies. The project should eventually provide a platform for advocacy, giving business and finance sectors a more prominent voice in the international migration and development debate. As the project develops, THP will bring together municipal/city authorities with the business and migrant communities in a structured and long-term dialogue.
The first two years of the programme (2006-2007) will document the range of business cases for migration and formulate the policy recommendations attempting to meet the common interests of the stakeholders. The final year (2008) will bring the most innovative of these findings to national, regional and international policy-makers working on migration. Yet significant outputs have already emerged, for example the comprehensive position statement for the finance sector issued in 2005.
The THP’s perspective is global although, unsurprisingly, much of this early work relates directly to the European debate on legal migration and integration. There is significant convergence of views with the approach of the European Commission and particularly the content of its Policy Plan on Legal Migration adopted in 2005. THP also shares the vision, rightly stressed by the European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, M. Frattini, that legal migration and integration are inseparable and should mutually reinforce each other.
The Green Paper of the Commission (an EU approach to managing economic migration January 2005) had already brought attention to the decisive input of legal migration into the advancement of economic development and the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy. The THP Business Initiative will substantiate this emphasis with concrete evidence and insights into the growing relationship between business and migration. The number of sector-specific studies is still limited as many businesses are not fully aware of the nature and scale of human mobility that they must confront. One of the priorities most recently set out by the Commission is a substantial improvement in access to and exchange and coordination of information on migration. THP will contribute to this need from its reporting of the studies conducted across the ten following cities: Amman, Bangkok, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Marseilles, Moscow, Sao Paolo, Guangzhou, and The Hague.
As stated in the 2002 Declaration of the Hague business can actively ensure the inclusion into the labour force of refugees and migrants in host countries and thereby reinforce the integration process. (Principle 18- Role of the Corporate Sector). Accordingly THP wishes to contribute to the debate on ways to further the integration of economic migrants and their dependents in receiving countries. This fundamental agenda for European members was discussed by the Commission in its Communication on A Common Agenda for Integration – Framework for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals in the European Union (September 2005). In a more global perspective, we hope that specific exploration of key themes such as the brain drain in a number of economic sectors or the structural impact of remittances will cast light on both the role and responsibilities European businesses can take on. Furthermore, the THP Foundation will seek to raise awareness about the essential contribution of migrants to the competitiveness of the European companies.
Ü Eurasylum Ltd: One of the overarching objectives of THP is to disseminate and amplify key messages through the high-profile membership of the Club of The Hague, whose members have ready access to policy makers and other relevant actors. In particular, THP aims to draw upon the work of existing organizations and networks in order to assemble information and present it in forms accessible to important constituencies. In practical terms, and possibly through selected examples, how would you best define the particular added value of THP to the migration and refugee policy agenda, e.g. what are the particular activities or approaches that can best be supported by THP rather than through existing, well-established national, regional and international agencies, and what are the mechanisms in place for the THP’s activities and policy outputs to be relayed/mainstreamed by institutional policy-makers?
Ü Frans Bouwen and Philip Rudge: THP is first of all meant to act as a catalyst for the debate on the future of refugee and migration policy. Many of the policy questions involved raise highly contentious issues which THP believes are best addressed openly and on the basis of good information and constructive argument. The independent and non-partisan nature of our Foundation may allow us to advocate where others cannot, and demythologise the international and national debates on migration and refugees which are often formulated in defensive, prejudiced and even hostile terms. The quality and tone of our advocacy is strongly influenced by the level of social and geographic diversity among the THP participants, be they persons carrying heavy responsibilities in the policy and operational fields, academics with a specialised research contribution to make, private sector business people getting to grips for the first time with human mobility within the framework of corporate social responsibility, civil society representatives driven by concerns for human rights and good governance, and government and municipal officials confronting the challenges of integration and multiculturalism.
The Foundation’s impact so far has been to demonstrate that there exists a broad community of interest concerned to establish a common ground for a fresh approach to refugee and migration policy. The THP founding document, The Declaration of The Hague, clarifies the essential elements for a comprehensive long term approach. It has been forwarded to more than 25,000 contacts and made accessible into the six working languages of the UN (See www.thehagueprocess.org or the official UN website – http://documents.un.org – for online versions). The establishment of The Club of The Hague means that the THP has at its disposal a powerful group of individuals prepared to contribute to the debate and to identify the political space and opportunity where policy input is needed and welcomed and will have the greatest impact; increasingly THP will issue policy statements such as that which outlined the potential for the involvement of the finance institutions.
With the diffusion of its own findings and recommendations, THP is committed to developing its capacity to act as a catalyst and bridge-builder. This requires liaison and cooperation with others and the avoidance of duplication and competition with other international fora and organisations. By way of illustration, THP made inputs to the preparation of the UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (HLD) (September 2006); a working session for representatives of multinationals was jointly organised with the World Economic Forum to support the work of the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM). THP is explicitly mentioned as a significant international initiative in the Commission’s Final Report (p 72, 37) and appears in various studies, notably issued by the UNDP (Book on Discrimination in Argentina Towards a National Plan against Discrimination) and UNESCO (study on `Women and Mobility (2004)). THP contributed to the Acquis Handbooks on Asylum, Migration and Health and issued, with IOM Geneva, a booklet entitled ‘Myths, Rhetoric and Realities – Migrants Remittances and Development – Harnessing the Development Potential of Migrants Remittances , which was written by Club of The Hague member Bimal Ghosh.
Looking forward, the THP 2007 Mayors Conference will build on an event recently co-organised by the city of Rotterdam, the European Commission and the Eurocities network (Integrating Cities: European policies, local practices) and will bring its own findings to the UN Habitat Conference next year.
We are committed to offering an open space for exchange, thereby helping to transform existing policies. We interpret growing support to the THP Foundation as a further encouragement to allow new forces to stake their interests and break through barriers that keep us from finding effective responses to the refugee and migration challenge.