Migration and Development – A Hot Debate!
▲ Carol Barton at the Civil Society Days of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, Athens, Greece. Photo by Carol Barton.
by CAROL BARTON*
This is the third in a series of articles by Carol Barton reflecting on global migration, in
the context of United Methodist Women's participation in the Global Forum on
Migration and Development, Athens, Greece, November 1-4, 2009. Go to
Article 1 and Article 2 for previous articles.
United Methodist Women attended civil society events related to the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Athens, Greece, November 1-4, 2009. Migration, development and their connection are all hotly contested concepts. Both rich and poor nations look to poor migrant workers as a key source for “development” of poor nations. This is a reminder that United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Church have been involved in development debates, through our work at the United Nations, for decades. See full article (PDF, 143K) for a primer on United Methodist Women’s history of engagement in these issues and the current debates.
Thirty years of corporate globalization and structural adjustment policies, built on unequal North/South relations, have devastated the global South. By the 21st century the impacts of unjust trade, investment and finance policies had resulted in massive unemployment, indebtedness and food crisis that led to massive migration from the countryside to cities, and then from the South to the North. The movement of peoples is the direct outcome of unequal historic relations and of recent policies by the world’s wealthy nations that have sucked resources from the world’s poorest nations like a giant vacuum.
The United Methodist Church Resolution No. 6028, “Global Migration and the Quest for Justice,” sums up: Virtually all groups of today’s migrants and refugees are battered by the divide between the rich and the poor, a divide rooted in nineteenth and twentieth century colonialism and directly caused by rapid corporate globalization in agriculture, industry and commerce. … Yet, while money and products easily flow across borders, the movement of people is increasingly restricted, leading to concentrations of the poor along borders and, often, to the building of literal and figurative walls of exclusion, notably around the rich nations of the northern hemisphere and the affluent enclaves in Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific. While the legal and physical walls seek to exclude flows of undocumented migrants, in fact, there is growing demand in wealthier nations for cheap labor. … Ironically, and horribly, with regard to economic migrants, the rich say, “Come in, do our dirty work at low wages, and then go away.”
A history of global “development debates” and United Methodist Women engagement includes:
- 1960s into the 1980s: Predecessor organizations and United Methodist Women played a role in creating space for “petitioners” to advocate at the United Nations for de-colonization.
- 1960s and early 1970s: Predecessor organizations and United Methodist Women create “World Understanding Teams” and promote development education.
- 1972: Predecessor organization to United Methodist Women supports a “New International Economic Order” that sought to create a more equal economic playing field for newly independent poor nations.
- 1980s: United Methodist Women works on the global debt crisis, challenges structural adjustment policies of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank, and calls for “Jubilee” to cancel debts of poor nations. It is estimated that through the 1980s, the annual net outflow of resources from South to North was between $33 and $45 billion, meaning that poor nations were massively subsidizing wealthy nations, not the reverse.
- 1990s: United Methodist Women challenges the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other free trade agreements that undermined human rights, and rights of women, workers and the environment. We also have a presence at the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle in 1999. NAFTA pushed thousands of Mexican farmers off the land, increasing migration flows to the United States.
- 1990s: United Methodist Women leadership participates in a series of World Conferences addressing key areas of development in the framework of human rights. These included conferences on environment (Rio de Janeiro), social development (Copenhagen), human rights (Vienna), women (Beijing), habitat (Istanbul), population and development (Cairo), racism (Durban) and financing for development (Monterrey). They set standards for the fulfillment of rights. United Methodist Women sent delegations to each of these conferences except Vienna, and has continued to monitor their implementation.
- 2000: United Methodist Women has a presence at the United Nations Millennium Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders in history, which set goals to end extreme poverty, address environmental concerns and seek debt relief and special trade rules for the world’s poorest nations. Building on the summit, the U.N. Secretariat created eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women has adopted implementation of the MDGs as its priority. (For a list of the MDGs, see http://www.undp.org/mdg/basics.shtml)
- 2001: United Methodist Women raised concerns about wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and curtailed civil liberties and racial profiling. Sept. 11 brought a shift from a global focus on human rights to that of national security, affecting both immigration and development policy.
Ironically, the conversations in Athens did not address commitments made by governments to human rights treaties or U.N. conferences, and did not acknowledge the legacy of colonialism and globalization in intensifying global inequality. Instead there was a focus on remittances, the sums migrants send home to their families. Poor nations have become increasingly dependent on these flows of remittances to sustain their economies. Rich nations have effectively been let off the hook in terms of responsibility for a greater sharing of resources through development aid.
Along with nongovernmental organization partners, United Methodist Women advocated for the following in Athens:
· Consider human development (all aspects of a full life) rather than only economic development;
· Incorporate migrant voices in framing migration and development policy;
· Put migration and development in a human rights framework that holds governments accountable to universally recognized minimum standards in the human rights conventions as well as International Labor Organization core labor standards;
· Lift up gender, child rights and racial justice lenses in formulating migration and development policy;
· In the context of Goal No. 8 of the MDGs, recognize that macro-economic and trade policies must be considered in addressing migration and development, and that developed countries of the north bear significant responsibility in a partnership to finance development in the global south.
United Methodist Women have been and continue to be present in key arenas for decision-making regarding a just and equitable human development. Global migration is one manifestation of the failure to achieve such development. To address migration, we will need to address the global distribution of the world’s resources. In a time of economic crisis in the United States and globally, we are aware that many in the United States are also facing poverty, unemployment and foreclosures. This reflects a growing wealth gap within the United States as well. In recent years there has been a hollowing out of the U.S. middle class with more very rich and very poor. While the United States continues to be a very rich nation relative to poor nations around the world, not everyone in the United States benefits from that reality. We have our work cut out for us. As the United Methodist Social Principles state, “ways must be found to share more equitably the resources of the world” both in the United States and globally.
For more information about the Global Forum on Migration and Development Civil Society Days 2009, see http://www.gfmd2009.org/
*Carol Barton is an executive with the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.