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The European Migrant Crisis: Can Development Agencies Do Better?


A volunteer life-guard helps a young girl out of the sea after the boat she used along with her family and other Afghan refugees to cross part of the Aegean from the coast of Turkey to Lesbos crashed on a rock off the island's coast.
A volunteer lifeguard helps a girl out of the sea after the boat she and her family and other Afghan refugees rode in to cross the Aegean from Turkey to Lesbos, Greece, crashed on a rock off the island’s coast. ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS/UNHCR

The unprecedented influx of refugees and migrants to Europe has increased the visibility of the longstanding nexus of migration, development and security. The emphasis on terrorism and national security is understandable but myopic if the essential benefits of migration and development are to be realized. The United Nations will host three key meetings on migration in 2016, an opportunity to rethink how development agencies can contribute.

Over the last 15 years, the UN and the European Union have spearheaded new practices that link development and migration. Preoccupations with national security and terrorism — including the threat to the 20-year-old Schengen area — should be tempered in order not to forfeit the crucial benefits of migration and development.

Migration and development projects can have a crucial impact if insulated from an obsession with national security. The migration and development (M&D) nexus emphasizes the potentially reinforcing connections among root causes, remittances, state capacity and migration. These synergies may be compromised, however, if the European Union — or the UN or nongovernment organizations — makes development assistance conditional on securing external borders to the detriment of wider objectives.

To continue reading the briefing paper, published by the Future United Nations Development System, or FUNDS, click here.

Nicholas Micinski is research and editorial associate for the FUNDS Project at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies and a Ph.D. student in political science at the CUNY Graduate Center. Previously, he worked in the nongovernment organization sector in London for five years on refugee and social enterprise issues.

Thomas G. Weiss is the Presidential Professor of Political Science and Director Emeritus of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center; he also is co-director of the FUNDS Project and of the Wartime History and the Future UN Project. In addition, he is a former president of the International Studies Association (2009-10) and chairman of the Academic Council on the UN System (2006-9). His most recent single-authored books include “Governing the World? Addressing ‘Problems without Passports’ ” (2014); “Global Governance: Why? What? Whither?” (2013); “Humanitarian Business” (2013); “What’ss Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It” (2012); and “Humanitarian Intervention: Ideas in Action” (2012).

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The European Migrant Crisis: Can Development Agencies Do Better?
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