The Arduous Search for Dignity Through Integration and a Pay Check

Migrants on a street in Casablanca, Morocco. Courtesy: Alié Dior Ndour

By Sejjari Mehdi
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

One of the most common words used by speakers during the Global Compact on Migration was “dignity”—granting migrants the dignity they deserve. As with any advocacy, there is a danger a word can lose meaning through overuse. But on the streets of Morocco the same word means a lot to migrants looking for work. And when they find it—both work and dignity—it can alter the entire migration equation. 

“Despite the difficulties I encountered at first, being in an irregular situation, I am working today in a private communications company after an operation launched by the Moroccan authorities to give residency permits to tens of thousands of immigrants living in the country illegally,” says Ahmadou, a Nigerian migrant, who has been living in Morocco for five years.

At first, he was all set on reaching that supposed El Dorado for so many migrants: Europe. But now the situation is different. Ahmadou says professional integration is the key. If you have no job, he says, then the ambition to reach Europe will never disappear.

“I am able to provide the necessities of life, especially housing,” Ahmadou says. “Of course, there are immigrants who suffer because they have inappropriate skills, or because of the fact some companies give priority to local citizens.”

Amid increasing international bickering—with a lengthening list of countries abstaining from the Compact—eventually 164 countries signed the non-binding Compact for “safe, orderly and regular migration.”

The Compact seeks to ensure migrants enjoy rights within a global vision based on joint management of migration between countries of origin, transit and hosting. Maintaining dignity underpins this effort—both for migrants and countries at large—by establishing a set of principles fostering integration of migrants within societies, while giving states full sovereignty in the enactment of national migration policies.

Indeed, the Compact is not binding, rather it invites countries to “develop national short, medium and long-term policy goals regarding the inclusion of migrants in societies, including on labor market integration, family reunification, education, non-discrimination and health, including by fostering partnerships with relevant stakeholders.”

The process of integration lately has proved arduous in many countries—Germany becoming a poster child for such frictions after welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees from strife-torn countries—especially when it comes to employment for migrants, resulting in high unemployment levels.

Even if jobs are found, migrants in European countries are more likely to work on temporary contracts. Over time, though, the employment gap between migrants and native born does narrow in most countries, and even vanishes in a third, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED).

Morocco is in a similar position to European countries having shifted from being a country of origins and transit to also one of destination for migrants.

Hence Morocco’s authorities have launched a program through its Agence nationale de promotion de l’emploi et des compétences (ANAPEC)—which translates as the national agency for employment and skills—to facilitate access to job search assistance, provide employment assistance and promote work equity within companies.

Its ultimate objective is to is to guarantee an honourable and dignified life for regularised migrants by ensuring equitable access to the labor market.

But despite such measures, the number of migrants and refugees inserted into Morocco’s labor market remains limited. On any given day, young men from various countries in West Africa endlessly pace the streets around Marrakech’s iconic Jemaa el-Fnaa square and market place in the Medina quarter, amiably trying to hawk the likes of iPhones, watches, sunglasses and bright decorative shirts to passers-by.

Hence calls to increase the ANAPEC services and benefits available to migrants, to mobilise and stimulate micro-credit institutions to finance income-generating activities and enterprises by migrants, and to improve communications to incentivise the private sector about the importance of recruiting migrants.

“Parlais vous Francais?” one migrant, sits by his trinkets laid out on the street, says hopefully to a potential foreign customer walking by, asking if he speaks English. But a shake of the head and a school-boy French apology are all that follow.

The migrant smiles and keeps waiting for another potential customer.

“Continuing to improve the conditions of migrants’ access to public services and rights, including the right to decent work, will push lots of migrants to realise their dreams here without the need to ride the waves of death across the Mediterranean,” Ahmadou says.

On International Migrants Day a Call for Dignity, Respect for Migrant Choices

António Vitorino is Director General of International Organization for Migration (IOM)

By António Vitorino
GENEVA, Dec 18 2018 (IOM)

Migration is the great issue of our era. Migration With Dignity (#WithDignity) is the theme of 2018’s International Migrants Day, which we observe on Tuesday (18 December).

Dignity is at the core of our mission. Treating all migrants with dignity is the fundamental requirement we face before anything else we attempt on migration—a troubling issue coming at a troubling time for the world community—because our future depends on it. So, too, does our present.

António Vitorino

I am newly arrived at the International Organization for Migration, recently chosen to lead one of the international community’s oldest and most effective organizations. Yet migration is as old as humankind. Which means that IOM, at a mere 67 years of age, is a relative newcomer.

We are today a species on the move; hundreds of millions of us are, in the broadest sense, migrants. There remains much to do. And learn. But dignity comes first. Foremost, the dignity to choose.

Migration is a force for dignity because it allows people to choose to save themselves, protect themselves, educate themselves, or free themselves. It lets millions choose participation over isolation, action over idleness, hope over fear and prosperity over poverty.

We must dignify those choices by paying them respect. We respect them by treating those who make such choices with dignity.

We also have the choice. To answer migrants’ hopes with our acceptance; to answer their ambition with opportunities. To welcome rather than repudiate their arrival.

We must also respect and listen to those who have become frightened of the changes that migration brings to their lives. Whether their fears are warranted or not, they are authentic and deserve to be addressed with dignity.

Unless we give all citizens the assurance their choices, too, are respected, we risk losing a real opportunity for progress. Migration embodies choices we make together—either by responding to our new neighbours (or potential new neighbours) with a sense of community, or not.

The adoption earlier this month (10 December) in Marrakech of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) by an overwhelming majority of UN Member States takes us one step towards dignity for all, and towards a more balanced discourse and widespread cooperation on migration.

The GCM strikes a delicate balance between the sovereignty of nations and the security, and dignity, we demand for every individual.

As we turn now to celebrate the United Nations’ annual International Migrants Day we’ll do well to remind ourselves of that balance, and how the two sides do not compete with each other. They complement.

The Compact stresses all states need well-managed migration, and that no one state can achieve this on its own. Cooperation at all levels is fundamental to addressing migration.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 18 December as International Migrants Day in 2000. That same year, in its annual World Migration Report, IOM stated that more than 150 million international migrants celebrated the turn of the millennium outside their countries of birth.

Eighteen years on, the trend of men, women and children on the move has continued upward. Eighteen years on, we’ve seen the number of international migrants grow to an estimated 258 million people. Another 40 million people are currently internally displaced by conflict, and every year millions of others (18.8 million in 2017) are forced from their homes by climate-related disasters and natural hazards.

For many people, the mere act of migration exposes them to great dangers.

IOM’s data show that close to 3,400 migrants and refugees have already lost their lives worldwide in 2018. Most died trying to reach Europe by sea; many others perished attempting to cross deserts or pass through dense forests seeking safety far from official border crossings. These numbers, compiled daily by IOM staff, shame us.

IOM reaffirms that migration is a driving force for progress and development not just for those on the move, but also for transit countries and especially, receiving communities in destination countries.

We renew our call to save lives by ensuring migration is safe, regular and dignified for all.

Promotion of Arabic language and culture is key to harnessing unity in diversity, says Chairman of the Geneva Centre

By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Dec 18 2018 (Geneva Centre)

On the occasion of the 2018 World Arabic Language Day, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Dr. Hanif Al Qassim stated that the increased use of Arabic language worldwide will enhance intercultural understanding between Arabs and non-Arabs.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Dr. Al Qassim noted that the Arabic language is spoken in more than 25 countries and is the mother tongue of approximately 400 million people in different regions of the world. It is also recognised as one of the six official languages of the United Nations thus belonging to the common heritage of humankind.

In this connection, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman highlighted that Arabic literary scripts during the Islamic medieval age contributed greatly to the social, cultural and civic evolution of today’s modern societies. It established – he noted – “bridges of communications among nations and cultures along the Silk Road and greatly contributed to enrich human civilization.”

Although the Geneva Centre’s Chairman emphasized the important role of Arabic as a transmitter of knowledge and science, he noted that the rise of anti-Arab sentiments in some societies contribute to the stigmatization of people of Arab origin. The spread of the Arabic language could thus serve as a basis to address the worrying trend of a toxic discourse against the Other that is gaining ground in some societies. Dr. Al Qassim said:

The promotion of the Arabic language and culture is key to enhancing cultural diversity and uniting spirits and minds in calling forth a more peaceful world. It could serve as a timely opportunity to reverse and roll-back the spread of hatred, bigotry, racism and the fear of the Other that often target people of Arabic origin.”

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman concluded his statement by appealing for increased cross-cultural dialogue between societies and peoples worldwide:

At time when the fear of the stranger has become the norm in some societies, rejoicing in the Other and celebrating diversity are needed more than ever to address the root-causes of intolerance worldwide. We therefore need to intensify dialogue between and within societies, civilizations and cultures. We need to learn more about one another so as to break down the walls of ignorance and prejudice that have insulated societies. The promotion of the Arabic language and culture is key to harnessing unity in diversity.”

Global Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition

Child labourers rescued in Delhi waiting to be sent back to their villages. Credit: Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

By Vladimir Bozovic
BELGRADE, Serbia, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Entire human history is one great struggle for freedom. To many, slavery is a synonym for something in the past, for transatlantic slave trade, but, unfortunately, slavery still exists in many different forms.

Records show that over twenty seven million men, women and children still live today in conditions that characterized social form of the slave ownership. They are trapped in forced labor and debt bondage, in domicile work and forced marriages, or they are being exploited by the human traffickers. We can easily speak of slavery as of great tragedy, and the fact that in this day and age still exists, is a downfall of human kind.

Modern slavery is a challenge for every democratic country. Suffering is the same as in the past, but methods are more sophisticated and perfidious, and most of those who suffer are the ones that should be protected the most – poor and socially excluded groups, who often live on the margins of our society, and young women and children. This is not an imaginary problem, it does not happen only to someone else and somewhere else; rather, it is a real threat and anyone can fall victim to.

The very first challenge in fight against slavery must be a cognizance: we must confess a bitter truth that slavery has been weakened, but still exists. Human trafficking is one of the growing forms of transnational crime, characterized by high profit and low risk, and it is followed by a grave statistics. It is crime of economic nature, and most efficiently organized, and we are currently fighting it on inconsistent and fragmented way. That is the dark side of globalization.

The issue of modern slavery is globally recognized by the UN in its millennium goals. Goal 8 is dedicated to increasing labor productivity, reducing the unemployment rate, especially for young people, improving access to financial services and benefits, fight against modern slavery and child labor. So many activities around this particular global goal prove that we don’t live anymore in a selfish world where we don’t consider other nations and their problems. No, the world of todays opens up to the misery of others, and everybody everywhere has to be good, for us to feel good. Employed, productive populations, sustainable economic growth, decent jobs with equal opportunities for fair salaries, safe working environments, social protection, these are all values that will ensure the progress of the entire world, and the whole world will benefit from the creativity, business and innovation of the free people.

Plenty has been done in delivering the Goal 8. UN reports that the average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita worldwide increased, the number of children from 5 to 17 years of age who are working has declined, access to financial services through automated teller machines increased… Plenty has been done, but also plenty has to be done. Child labor remains a serious concern with more than half of child laborers participate in dangerous work and 59% of them work in the agricultural sector; labor productivity has slowed down, the global unemployment rate hasn’t changed from 2016, with women more likely to be unemployed than men across all age groups. Youth were almost three times as likely as adults to be unemployed… It is clear that efforts provide results, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

There was a time we thought that the slavery is forever beaten, only to come back to us in new forms and shapes. That is why the solution must be fresh and brave. The only final answer to this problem is for every country, every government, every agency to work together, to unite and create an Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition that will engage entire society in fight against this crime, and combine all our efforts in protecting our citizens. It should be understood that eradicating the human trafficking is not solely a mission for the police or law enforcement agencies, this is a fight at all levels of society. We should campaign through media with the message that will define the problem, and develop the clear strategy that will unite countries and governments, churches and religious organizations, NGOs, youth, academic communities, media and all other important representatives of the society in one efficient and effective action with clear mechanisms of measuring the results. Everything should be designed in the way that those results are realistic and visible to the present victims, and to provide prevention and protection for potential victims. Time has clearly shown us, that this is one thing we can’t beat alone, nationally, rather, it’s a nick of time to do it globally.

Taking Away the Ladder

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR & SYDNEY, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

The notion of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and later, South Africa) was concocted by Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill. His 2001 acronym was initially seen as a timely, if not belated acknowledgement of the rise of the South.

But if one takes China out of the BRICS, one is left with little more than RIBS. While the RIBS have undoubtedly grown in recent decades, their expansion has been quite uneven and much more modest than China’s, while the post-Soviet Russian economy contracted by half during Boris Yeltsin’s first three years of ‘shock therapy’ during 1992-1994.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Unsurprisingly, Goldman Sachs quietly shut down its BRICS investment fund in October 2015 after years of losses, marking “the end of an era”, according to Bloomberg.

Growth spurts in South America’s southern cone and sub-Saharan Africa lasted over a decade until the Saudi-induced commodity price collapse from 2014. But the recently celebrated rise of the South and developing country convergence with the OECD has largely remained an East Asian story.

Preventing emulation
Increasingly, that has involved China’s and South Korea’s continued ascendance after Japan’s financial ‘big bang’ and ensuing stagnation three decades ago. They have progressed and grown rapidly for extended periods precisely because they have not followed rules set by the advanced economies.

Industrial policy — involving state owned enterprises (SOEs), technology transfer agreements, government procurement, strict terms for foreign direct investment and other developmental interventions — was condemned by the Washington Consensus, promoting liberalization, privatization and deregulation favouring large transnational corporations.

Anis Chowdhury

Well-managed SOEs, government procurement practices and effective protection conditional on export promotion accelerated structural transformation. When foreign corporations were allowed to invest, they were typically required to transfer technology to the host economy.

Countries have only progressed by using industrial policy judiciously when sufficient policy space was available, as was the norm in most developed countries. But such successful development practices have been denied to most developing countries in recent decades. Instead, the North now emphasizes the dangers of industrial policy, subsidies, SOEs and technology transfer agreements, to justify precluding their use by others.

Blocking the alternative
Instead, corporate-led globalization continues to be sold as the way to develop and progress.
Some advocates insist that global value chain participation will provide handsome opportunities for sustained economic development despite the evidence to the contrary.

Major OECD economies appear intent on tightening international rules to further reduce developing countries’ policy space under the pretext of reforming the multilateral trading system in order to save it.

Trump and other challenges to this neoliberal narrative do not offer any better options for the South. Nevertheless, their nationalist and chauvinist rhetoric has undermined the pious claims and very legitimacy of their neoliberal ‘globalist’ rivals on the Right.

Infrastructure finance
UNCTAD’s 2018 Trade and Development Report emphasizes the link between infrastructure and industrialization. It argues that successful industrialization since 19th century England has crucially depended on public infrastructure. Infrastructure investment is thus considered crucial for economic growth and structural transformation.

The ascendance of the neoliberal Washington Consensus agenda has not only undermined public interventions generally, but also state revenue and spending in particular, especially in the developing world. But even the World Bank now admits that it had wrongly discouraged infrastructure financing, which it now advocates.

Most Western controlled international financial institutions have recently advocated public-private partnerships to finance, manage and implement infrastructure projects. The presumption is that only the private sector has the expertise and capacity to be efficient and profitable. In practice, states borrowed and bore most of the risk, e.g., of contingent liabilities, while private partners reaped much profit, often with state guaranteed revenues.

Unexpected policy space
Infrastructure, including both its construction and financing, has been central, not only to China’s own progress, but also to its international development cooperation. China’s financial redeployment of its massive current account surplus has created an alternative to traditional sources of investment finance, both private and public.

The availability of Chinese infrastructure finance on preferential or concessionary terms has been enthusiastically taken up, not least by countries long starved of investible resources. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in over-investments in some infrastructure, resulting in underutilization and poor returns to investment.

The resulting debt burdens and related problems have been well publicized, if not exaggerated by critics with different motivations. Now threatened by China’s rise, Western governments and Japan have suddenly found additional resources to offer similar concessionary financing for their own infrastructure firms.

Thus, not unlike the US-Soviet Cold War, the perceived new threat from China has created a new bipolar rivalry. That has inadvertently created policy space and concessions reminiscent of the post-Second World War ‘Golden Age’ for Keynesian and development economics.