Root causes and large scale forced migration

What do we know about root causes of migration? Can we do something differently?

The root causes of large scale forced migration

Director Finn Tarp made a contribution on international migration in a policy seminar hosted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The Heads of Finnish Missions abroad convened for their annual meeting in the ‘Little Parliament’ building in Helsinki on 22-25 August 2016. The meeting focused on issues including the security situation in the Baltic Sea Region, terrorist attacks in Europe, the impacts of Brexit, new emerging markets, international migration, and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Professor Finn Tarp joined the meeting on 24 August to discuss the issue of international migration and the role economics plays in causing it.

As migration is likely to increase in the coming years, Professor Tarp shared his concern over the lack of an international regime that establishes standards and principles for national migration policies, other than in the case of refugees.

Professor Tarp argued there is a need to distinguish between forced versus voluntary (or economic) migration, and between internal versus external migration. This is important to highlight since the majority of international migrants are not forcibly displaced—and out of the 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, most, that is 40.8 million, are displaced internally. In this regard, policy recommendations have to vary based on context.

On what to do differently in international migration, Professor Tarp suggested that in development work a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be successful, particularly in fragile states and conflict situations. This is a point that has been repeatedly emphasized in UNU-WIDER research; such as the ReCom Aid, Governance and Fragility position paper, and the Building State Capability through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) project.

Migration—voluntary and forced—is one of the big issues of our time, and calm sensible research and policy debate to guide realistic action is essential.

About the position paper on Aid, Governance and Fragility

The position paper on Aid, Governance, and Fragility was prepared by UNU-WIDER under the Research and Communication on Foreign Aid (ReCom) programme.

The position paper provides an up-to-date overview and guide on two topics of central importance to international development: governance and fragility. The paper is grounded in the central questions of the ReCom programme: What works? What could work? What is scalable? What is transferable in foreign aid?

Governance and fragility are sometimes treated as entirely separate topics for donors, but the position paper argues that they are closely related and that considering them together makes good sense.

About the Building State Capability through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) project

As a sub-component of the Research and Communication on Foreign Aid (ReCom) programme, the PDIA project feeds into work on governance and fragility and the social sectors. An integral part of development is the expansion of capability of the state to carry out its responsibilities and effectively both impose obligations (e.g. collect taxes, enforce the law) and provide services (education, infrastructure, health). 

A great deal of the development debate is currently about what should be done rather than how the state will do it. This needs to change if development is to more be successful going forward.

Download Finn Tarp's speaking notes