On 4 July 2019, the Baha’i International Community and the EU Policy Lab of the Joint Research Center, which is the European Commission’s science and knowledge service providing advice and support to EU policy, hosted a discussion among experts from the European Commission’s agriculture, development and trade departments, academia and civil society to consider the links between European agricultural policy and the drivers of migration and displacement in Africa. It followed a similar discussion in November 2018, which aimed to capture some initial insights into how the European Commission can mobilize non-migration policies to support the implementation of the objectives outlined in the adopted Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
Objective 2 of the Global Compact is to minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin. One of the conclusions of that meeting was the need to develop a long-term vision and a global perspective shaping policy responses to migration and displacement, considering global well-being as a framework for future strategies. To date, policy responses have largely taken the form of humanitarian or development aid and migration management. However, the drivers of migration and displacement extend far beyond the purview of migration or development policy per se. Participants expressed a desire to consider how broader policy areas within EU external engagement—trade, investment, agriculture, the environment, among others—relate to the drivers of migration and displacement. Due to expressed interest and demand, this meeting focused in particular on how European agricultural policy can contribute to fulfilling the objectives of the Global Compact.
The meeting started by one participant highlighting that “the reality of our interdependent world is that policies have implications beyond their intended thematic and geographical scope and therefore need to be checked against each other and against the effects they have on other continents. This is particularly notable in the agricultural sector. As the largest exporter and importer of agricultural food products, the EU’s agricultural policies inevitably have global consequences. There is no doubt that tracing the consequences, positive or negative, of these policies on local economies elsewhere and hence drivers of migration is a very complex endeavour and that many other elements are at play. It is however essential that the sense of defeat that tends to emerge in front of such an overwhelming task does not prevent the gradual identification of those questions that allow for increased coherence and allow agricultural policies to contribute to Objective 2 of the Global Compact”.
In this light, the discussions raised the point that there are other powerful actors on the world-stage who significantly influence local livelihoods, markets, and economic development in Africa. “This has to be dealt with at the global level,” one participant expressed. “How we designed policies ten to fifteen years ago will not work ten to fifteen years from now. We have to have this conversation at a global level because everyone is involved.” Given the global interconnectedness of economic systems, new forms of global governance are needed that consider multiple interests and powers and cater to new complexities.
Moreover, as all policies are connected, policy makers need to be “experts on everything”, more deeply understanding the connections between agriculture, trade and climate change for instance. This requires that spaces are created where such expertise is exchanged between policymakers from different fields, but also from different continents. This is especially the case when considering complex social phenomena like migration, the drivers of which span the political, economic, demographic and cultural domains.
Participants also noted the need to learn more about what European-African partnerships can look like in this context. Policy-development should take into consideration the experience and knowledge of African partners. So far, significant attention has been given to knowledge-sharing based on Europe’s experience to help increase agricultural productivity across Africa. One participant commented that one of the essential questions is about “requirements to ensure that migration is a choice for rural populations – that there is the real opportunity to stay and pursue agricultural or other livelihoods for those who wish to do so. To answer this question, we have to go beyond the European experience. There is a real need to go beyond knowledge-sharing from Europe to Africa to knowledge-generation about new visions of rural development and agricultural transformation”. Another participant noted the need to focus on strategies that help local communities decide their own innovations and development trajectories and make that “home grown models of development” emerge.
Finally, participants also highlighted the importance of recognizing that migration can also be a driver of sustainable development, and across Africa, migration is one way in which people improve their livelihoods and prospects. Substantial internal and international migration will undoubtedly occur in the coming decades, and policies that make the most of this migration for the migrants themselves as well as origin and destination communities are needed.
The meeting concluded with the aspiration to have a subsequent meeting that presents a selection of case studies that illustrate how different models of development can lead to variations in internal and international migration outcomes.
This post was co-authored with the Baha’i International Community Brussels Office