3 top highlights from ICMPD’s Vienna Migration Conference 2017

Mr Genetzke, MIEUX Programme Director, moderated the panel “Sustainable Partnerships – Towards Long-Term Cooperation”
Mr Genetzke, MIEUX Programme Director, moderated the panel “Sustainable Partnerships – Towards Long-Term Cooperation”

ICMPD gathered over 300 ministers, senior-level policymakers, diplomatic missions, and influential migration experts for the second annual edition of the Vienna Migration Conference (VMC) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences on 23 and 24 October 2017.

Following Monday evening’s Opening Ceremony and High-Level Political Panel, on Tuesday two panels discussed this year’s theme “Migration Partnerships - frameworks for safe, orderly and regular migration". The theme reflects the conclusions of last year’s event as well as the global political developments of the last two years.

Why is ICMPD discussing partnerships?

In fact, since 2015, a variety of new instruments that promise ‘partnership’ as the underlying principle behind various modalities of approaches, programmes and measures have been launched. At EU level, the EU Trust Fund for Africa and the Migration Partnership Framework, building on the ongoing work around Mobility Patnerships, are the prime examples of this new approach.

In parallel, the international community is setting the scene for the September 2018 intergovernmental conference where the two new Global Compacts for Refugees and for Migrants will be unveiled. Albeit non-binding, it is expected these will improve migration governance at an international level.

In spite of these developments, all across Europe, the ‘phantom of populism’ is rising. Against a backdrop of growing nationalism and xenophobia, how can migration partnerships deliver the premises and promises needed to bring about fundamental changes for successful migration management?

What conclusions were drawn at the VMC 2017?

Split into two panels, representatives from EU institutions, EU Member States and Switzerland, as well as delegates from partner countries in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, discussed features, modalities, and potential of partnerships both under a context of crisis and on a long-term basis.

After the day’s discussions concluded, three highlights stood out among the rest in relation to MIEUX’s work:

1. There is no “holy grail”

Migration is complex and therefore needs complex solutions. No single approach will prove to be the right one for every single occasion. As the EU and its partners are moving towards a shared commitment to managing migration flows, a range of partnership modalities, involving an ever-growing range of actors, will need to be spearheaded, monitored and evaluated, keeping in mind that rigid, tried-and-tested formulas will not always apply.

2. From donor perspective to partner perspective

Partnerships are built on trust and a shared sense of commitment. To be sustainable, they should reflect the interests, and priorities, of all parties involved. In the context of migration, this means agreements between the EU and its partner countries should incorporate the perspectives of the countries of origin and transit and reflect their ongoing needs into the full range of cooperation mechanisms available.

3. On the long-term: tailor-made, holistic approach needed

Current partnership models are based to a large extent on the “more for more” principle. Panellists suggested moving from this to a “complex for complex” principle, adapting responses and approaches to the trends, needs and developments of the partnership.

This would entail a whole new framework model involving countries of origin, transit, and destination, based on migratory routes and not on national borders.

These migration partnerships should be embedded within both a wider package of economic cooperation and a clear regional strategy.

In turn, to be truly sustainable and meaningful for migrants, this approach will need to bear in mind strategies that promote circular migration, reintegration in countries of origin, as well as social, ‘psychological’ and labour integration in countries of destination.

How does this relate to MIEUX?

As a demand-driven mechanism specialised in providing short-term, technical assistance through tailored activities, MIEUX’s structure responds well to the need for flexible and demand-driven mechanisms mentioned by all parties during the VMC 2017.

MIEUX’s relevance is proven by its numbers: since 2009, close to 100 states in Asia, Africa, Latin American and Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood have requested MIEUX’s assistance, several of them on an ongoing basis. The range of topics and areas covered has greatly expanded, reflecting the current trends around migration policy debates and adapting to the needs of partner countries.

By deploying mixed teams of migration experts from EU and South administrations, MIEUX is facilitating the exchange of knowledge among migration practitioners, enabling the EU and partner countries to support each other in managing the common challenges and opportunities that migration presents/holds.

In spite of its short-term nature, MIEUX helps to put in place the foundations for long-term sustainable cooperation between interested actors in partner countries. Anchored in the ‘public policy cycle’ methodology, each MIEUX Action is carefully crafted to ensure ownership, collaboration and durability.

Partnerships- an ongoing exploration

This year’s VMC is over but ICMPD will keep on exploring the concept of partnerships. The top highlights from the conference are in line with the main conclusions of a September event convened by MIEUX where a group of seasoned migration and development practitioners discussed how capacity development plays a role in forging migration partnerships.

ICMPD and MIEUX will continue exploring this important topic as part of its ongoing efforts to strengthen national and regional capacities in order to deal with the current challenges in all areas of migration.

The ‘Vienna Migration Conference’ (VMC) is ICMPD’s annual flagship event for discussing the most burning issues in the field of migration together with political decision-makers, government experts, and representatives from the academic world, the media and the civil society. The VMC discusses these issues from a European perspective but also from the perspective of our many partners from outside Europe. It wants to identify areas where progress has been made but also tries to see where gaps persist and questions are still open.

For more information about the 2017 event and a full list of participants, visit the ICMPD website.