How should the international community respond to migration and refugees?

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In our previous blog, we looked at some of the key facts about international migration and identified a few areas that, from an economist's perspective, need attention. However, the question still stands: how should the international community respond to migration and refugees?

There are no perfect or 046easy answers to the challenges related to migration and refugees (see Sachs, 2016); responses must vary depending on circumstances. When the causes are structural, long-term development is called for. In acute crises, other initiatives--often of a more political and military nature--are needed. This is often easier said than done and requires political will.

Responses to the root causes of forced migration must differ for different groups of people--even in conflict situations. This point has been emphasized repeatedly in UNU-WIDER research--such as the ReCom Governance and Fragility position paper and the PDIA project. Take, for example, disadvantaged minorities versus dominant groups, young working-age people versus older folk or children. Policy recommendations and responses must vary to address the issues most relevant to the groups most likely to migrate.

It is important to keep in mind that a one-size-fits-all response to development work is, in general, unlikely to be successful. This applies, in particular, for development in fragile states and conflict situations.

What is the role of development aid in addressing these crises?

Angenendt et al. (2016) point out three concerns when formulating responses:

First, it is problematic if development funds are not primarily used in compliance with their actual purpose (to achieve sustainable improvement of the living conditions in recipient countries), but are used to try and prevent undesired migration to donor states. It is very unlikely that aid geared in this way will achieve its goal (i.e. payments to governments to try and stop their nationals moving, as such controls are often easily circumvented). It would be better to focus aid on achieving inclusive growth (and therefore higher living standard at home) and help war-to-peace transition.

Second, a focus on addressing root causes of displacement may raise unrealistic expectations about what development cooperation can actually achieve in situations of mass displacement (funds will be just too small to have major impact).

Third, a debate that focuses solely on tackling the structural root causes of displacement --important as that...

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