Integration in action: New report highlights the potential of partnerships between local authorities in making migration work for development

Brussels, 24th November 2010A new report entitled “From Migration to Development: Lessons drawn from the experience of local authorities” highlights how regional and local governments in Europe have become active players in a recent field of international cooperation: Partnering with migrants and diaspora associations, they help support development efforts in migrants’ places of origin – often leading to sustained city-to-city or region-to-region partnerships, as well as better integration of migrants in the host community.

The report, published by the EC-UN Joint Migration & Development Initiative (EC-UN JMDI) and produced by the Valencian Federation of Regions and Municipalities in cooperation with Nomisma, draws on interviews with local and regional governments and migrant organizations in Europe and takes a close look at what works and why when migrants and their communities in the global North and South join forces to address development challenges.
Established in 2008 as a strategic partnership between the European Union and the United Nations, the EC-UN JMDI provides 10 million Euros in financial support to over 50 migration and development projects in almost 30 countries. Each project is implemented through a partnership linking diaspora organizations, civil society groups and local authorities in the European Union with partners in the 16 target countries of the Initiative in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern and Central Europe.
Local authorities play an active role in these partnerships.  In Georgia, for example, local governments are undertaking a joint project with Latvian local authorities, aimed at connecting their communities with Georgian migrants abroad to foster local economic development. The project is gathering knowledge about the capacities of Georgian migrants; assessing local business conditions and needs; providing community level training on small-business start ups; and equipping Georgian communities with dedicated offices for migrant affairs. Meanwhile in Morocco, another project has set up a network among local village associations, linking them with migrant associations in France. Through the network, 18 rural villages, all of them experiencing high emigration rates, are exchanging their experiences and lessons learnt when it comes to local development projects.
The report provides more concrete examples of innovative ways in which local authorities become engaged in migration and development, thereby testifying to the enormous potential that lies in the cooperation between migrant and diaspora organizations, and local levels of government. Indeed, before showing impacts at a national level, migration links and transforms communities, cities and regions.  On a daily basis, the integration of migrants requires responses and takes place first and foremost at the local level.  Migrants and their children stay connected to particular places and localities and make varied contributions to their communities of origin.  This local-to-local dimension therefore has a unique development potential.
Given these opportunities, Antonio Vigilante, Director of the United Nations office in Brussels called for additional support for local authorities pointing to the current fiscal crisis that strikes sub-national governments and local communities across Europe. “Local authorities are the first “gatekeepers” addressing the rising tide of xenophobia that all too often characterizes crisis situations and against which no country is immune. Local communities can make all the difference in ensuring successful migrant integration. And, in doing so, they can help to empower migrants to become active agents for development in their communities of origin. Joint initiatives between migrants and local authorities, such as those set up under the EC-UN JMDI, are the perfect vehicle to further both of these aims”.

Local authorities are already active players at the European level, with numerous networks linking regions, cities and communities across the EU. As, such they are a critical voice in shaping the EU’s policies and approaches in the field of migration and development. Stefano Manservisi, European Commission Director General for Home Affairs, emphasized the need for enhanced coherence between the EU’s growth strategy and its external development goals. Furthermore, he recognized the critical role that local authorities play in the context of migration and development stating that “a global approach to migration is needed that requires close cooperation between the European Union and third countries, and between central and local authorities. This report is one step towards achieving that.”

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