RT 1.2 Migrants’ engagement with public services: from basic access to co-production

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Mr. Neville Dubash
RT 1.2 Migrants’ engagement with public services: from basic access to co-production

RoundTable 1 - From vulnerability to resilience: recognising migrants as agents of development

RT 1.2 Migrants’ engagement with public services: from basic access to co-production

The expected outcome of this roundtable is to establish how migrants’ full engagement with public services can be secured, from basic access as users to active involvement in service delivery. It will address a range of issues: from irregular migrants’ damaging exclusion from access to public services; through making the most of migrants’ own role in supporting service delivery in some instances; to the potential for migrants’ closer inclusion in the design of those services. The roundtable will particularly consider practical measures being taken to break down barriers which currently obstruct migrants’ access to public services and their ability to have a voice and a role in those services, with a focus on the local level. Evidence shows that migrants’ contributions to local development depends, to a large extent, on the relationship they establish with local actors and overall on the governance system existing at the local level. Thus, potential shortcomings of their local institutional environment can severely hamper their development potential. It is therefore essential that local and regional authorities create a conducive and inclusive environment by providing migrants with a space for their opinions to be heard, establishing transparent frameworks that enhance trust between local stakeholders and migrant associations. The close proximity of local and regional authorities to their constituencies and their ability and openness to initiate multi-stakeholder dialogue and participatory decision-making is a great asset in this process.

While the principal responsibility of States is to ensure the protection of migrants, the State and other stakeholders could also focus on the means to maximize the capacity and resilience of migrants while acknowledging their possible vulnerability.

However, categorizing individual migrants as “vulnerable” or a particular group of migrants as “vulnerable” in a simplistic or potentially discriminatory way downplays the agency and resilience of individuals and their capacity to overcome vulnerabilities, particularly with the support of other public and private actors. It is essential to analyse the risks and related factors that may lead to vulnerabilities while being able to promote understanding of migrants as potential contributors to local and national development. To realise this aspiration, public systems and services need to be designed and equipped to empower all people, including migrants, to exercise their agency. This way, the perception of migrants as a burden may gradually be changed, so that they are considered as a driving force for development and socio-economic inclusion.

The duality of migrants’ vulnerability vs their resilience is also captured in the SDGs, as it is recognized that migrants may find themselves in vulnerable situations, or at risk of exploitation and abuse (targets 5.2, 8.7, 16.2 and paragraph 23 of the New York Declaration). The Declaration also refers to the vulnerabilities of migrants to exploitation and abuse and highlights States’ commitments to “protecting the safety, dignity and human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migratory status, at all times.” It is important to note that vulnerabilities are not confined to cases of exploitation, abuse or emergencies but can occur within broader structural or political contexts. For example, an irregular migrant may be vulnerable to poor health outcomes if he or she is afraid to report an infection to health services, whilst a refugee may be vulnerable to gang crime in his or her country of refuge played out along clan or caste lines exported from his or her country of origin. Given the complex nature and manifestation of these vulnerabilities across all sectors, contexts and societal structures, an integrated approach to turning vulnerabilities into opportunities for resilience is key. This means considering migration across all governance areas from a multi-sectoral approach in order to ensure policies are coherent with and facilitate migration and development efforts.

Going beyond this multi-sectoral approach, and building on what has been discussed in Roundtable 2.1 of GFMD 2017 on the key role of local authorities and host societies in fostering migrants’ resilience, this theme will also address the need for a multi-level approach. While the role of local and regional authorities as first responders to migration is clear, their ability to ensure migrants’ agency and integration within their respective communities necessitates support, transfer of competencies and human and financial resources generally provided by the State. At the same time, national authorities depend upon local and provincial authorities to implement their policies and programmes locally. However, a lack of coordination between these two levels result in national and local actions or policies being incoherent and working at cross-purposes.

Such multi-sectoral and multi-level approaches also go hand in hand with the multi-stakeholder approach. This is particularly relevant at the local level where civil society, private sector and other local actors all play a crucial role in supporting local and regional authorities to empower and integrate migrants. The theme will therefore also consider this dimension, building on last year’s round tables 3.1 and 3.2 on strengthening cooperation with the private sector and the civil society.

  • What steps can be taken to ensure basic access to public services for all migrants, irrespective of legal status and in a non-discriminatory manner?
  • Which practices best promote migrants’ civic engagement and social mobilization while integrating human rights and enhancing migrant access to basic services (health, education, housing, labour markets, etc.)?
  • What are the respective advantages and disadvantages of making mainstream social services sensitive to migrant needs as opposed to the provision of special services for migrants?
  • To what extent can the presence of migrants as staff and managers in public services be used to enhance the quality and satisfaction levels of migrants as the users of those services?
  • How can public services best accommodate cultural differences equitably and consistently?
  • What are the potential benefits, limits and drawbacks of host communities co-producing public service together with migrant communities?
  • How can migrants be involved in the design and delivery of public services in host countries, including through skills recognition and integration of their qualifications and experience within public service workforce/labour markets?
  • How could some of the private employment service practices (e.g. skills development) add value to the work of public employment services?

We invite you to submit comments / suggestions below

Please note that the Chair reserves the right to consider and decide which comments are relevant. The GFMD prefers that all comments are correctly identified.

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