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CGD provides rigorous research and innovative policy approaches that enable migrants, refugees, and hosts communities to prosper.
Forced displacement is at historic levels as a result of global conflict and crises. Meanwhile economic migration—a known driver of development—has been demonized as part of the backlash against globalization. As nations work toward the Global Compacts on Migration and on Refugees, governments and international agencies are struggling to respond to the scale of need and the polarization of attitudes.
First and foremost, the impact of migration is a policy choice: With the right policies, migrants and refugees can fuel economic growth in both the countries they live in and leave behind. CGD brings rigorous research and evidence to these contentious political issues and designs policy approaches that enable migrants, refugees, and their hosts to prosper.
The Commitment to Development Index ranks 27 of the richest countries on their dedication to policies that benefit poorer nations. Denmark takes first in 2015. The UK is tied for sixth while the United States is 21st. Japan takes last of 27.
At next week’s global climate summit in Paris the mood is likely to be somber in the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks. Spirits won’t be raised by the fact that the national emissions reduction plans submitted so far are only half of what’s needed to keep global temperature increases within the agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius. Also discouraging are the large gaps that remain between how much climate finance developing countries need to cover the costs of mitigation and adaptation and the commitments put forward by developed countries.
The gaps are especially acute for adaptation finance to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries cope with sea-level rise, drought, disease spread, more intense hurricanes, and other features of a warming planet. Part of the difficulty with negotiating adaptation finance comes from debates about who pays and how much and from concerns about the ability of recipients, often weak states, to effectively manage the finance. In a 2012 paper, Nancy Birdsall and I proposed principles for reaching such decisions, namely that rich countries should be obligated to pay on the basis of their historical emissions, that recipients should be guaranteed finance on the basis of their vulnerability, and that transfers should be made regardless of the recipients’ institutional strength (since there are ways to manage or work around that). It’s time to revisit those principles.
Who Pays for Adaptation and How Much
At the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, a group of advanced economies promised to mobilize $100 billion per year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020. The $100 billion was meant to cover investments in both mitigation and adaptation. However, the cost of adaptation alone is thought to be at least a $150 billion per year. And a recent OECD study reported that in 2014 only $62 billion in climate finance had been mobilized for developing countries.
How much funding is likely to be available to poor and vulnerable countries with limited capability to withstand the impacts of climate change? Not enough — and it may not reach the most vulnerable people. Low-income developing countries have not been the source of historical emissions but are most likely to suffer severe damages from climate change. The OECD report estimates that 77 percent of the 2014 climate finance is allocated toward climate change mitigation objectives, 16 percent toward climate change adaptation (less than $10 billion) and 7 percent to activities that target both. The Green Climate Fund has committed to provide half of its funding for adaptation and to prioritize the most vulnerable countries. This is good. But the GCF so far only has $10 billion in total capital, and not all of this has been paid in (the shortfall is mainly from the United States). The UN Adaptation Fund has committed $331 million since 2010. The Pilot Program for Climate Resilience of the Climate Investment Funds has $1.2 billion for investment in adaptation and resilience. Sure, it’s complicated, and some mitigation is adaptation and some adaptation is just good development investment, but the bottom line is that the poorest countries that are most vulnerable to climate change are once again the last in line.
Negotiators are debating principles for providing financing for poor countries to adapt to climate impacts, based on the polluter-pays principle: that the countries that are most responsible for the bulk of historical greenhouse gas emissions, mainly rich countries, should pay to compensate countries for the damages inflicted by the pollution, mainly poor countries.
In our 2012 paper, Nancy Birdsall and I suggested that (primarily) rich countries that have been the source of the largest share of historical emissions should have an obligation to provide funding for poor countries most vulnerable to climate impacts. This principle is reflected in the discussion of “loss and damage” in the negotiations. Unfortunately, the loss and damage debate is among the most contentious issues in the negotiations.
The second principle we suggested was that countries vulnerable to climate impacts should be guaranteed anallocation of adaptation finance based on the extent of their physical vulnerability and their economic and institutional vulnerability. A number of vulnerability indices provide an assessment of physical vulnerability, including an index developed by CGD’s David Wheeler. For economic and institutional vulnerability we proposed income per capita as the indicator. So far only the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund earmark funding specifically for adaptation.
Managing Adaptation Finance in Weak States
Our third principle was that vulnerable countries and people should receive their adaptation finance allocation regardless of their past performance in managing development projects and regardless of their fiduciary competence. This may sound counterintuitive. Although adaptation investments will look a lot like development investments, adaptation finance is not development assistance, which is a form of charity. Nevertheless, since most adaptation funding comes from development assistance budgets, funders — polluting countries — follow aid practices and prefer to allocate their funds where they are expected to be most effectively implemented. However, the countries with the weakest institutions and the most dubious governance ratings are often the most vulnerable to climate change. In principle their citizens ought to have access to support because of their vulnerability, independent of their government’s capability to manage support.
How should this quandary be managed? Countries that need adaptation transfers most are often least able to manage them. In our 2012 paper we proposed that governments with inadequate fiduciary capabilities should have the option to choose a third party to manage adaptation funds and to implement adaptation investments. The third party could be a national NGO such as the ones that are accredited for “direct access” by the Green Climate Fund. Or the country could choose an international NGO, a consulting firm, a multilateral development bank, a bilateral donor, a local or external policy research institute, or any other third party that had been accredited via the GCF, the UNFCCC or some other agreed accreditor.
A simpler and possibly more equitable and efficient solution would be to provide simple cash transfers directly to people in vulnerable countries with weak governments. This is now being done in several low-income countries through mobile phones. In Niger, for example, households in targeted villages received monthly cash transfers as part of a social protection program in response to a devastating drought. Cash transfer programs could also make use of biometric identification, as Pakistan did after severe floods.
Whatever the transfer mechanism is, it will be important for negotiators to ensure that adequate adaptation finance can be raised (for new ideas on how to raise adaptation finance, see a recent proposal by Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty), that poor countries hard-hit by climate change receive the support they need and that it actually reaches the vulnerable people that need it most, even in weak or poorly governed countries.
In times of fear, men and women of reason have a responsibility to speak about facts.
I understand fear. I narrowly escaped a terrorist bomb in Colombia as a young man. Fear can make you do things you regret when you learn the facts. And in the United States now, fact-checking has been replaced by fear-mongering, hard evidence by hysteria.
The US House of Representatives yesterday voted to effectively block the United States from taking in refugees from Iraq and Syria. A US senator is pushing a bill to ban refugees from 34 countries, from Indonesia to Turkey. Most US state governors have promised to reject all Syrian refugees, including women, orphaned children, and the gravely wounded. They rationalize these acts by referring to unconnected events in Paris last Friday.
Not one of these politicians has any evidence that the Paris attacks were connected to any refugee. A Syrian passport that was placed near one of the attacks is now known to be fake, purchased from a counterfeiter. It is hypothetically possible that one of the attackers may later turn out to have been a refugee, but no politician now rushing to retaliate against refugees has evidence of that.
And even if a refugee were somehow connected to the Paris attacks, that would not justify trapping tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children in a horrific war zone. That is the moral and logical equivalent of locking up all white American men due to the actions of white American terrorist Dylann Roof. As a white American male, I have the same connection to Dylann Roof as essentially all refugees have to the actions of the twisted murderers in Paris: no connection at all.
People of reason must remember three facts.
Scholars have studied immigrants for decades and have found no statistical connection between immigration and crime in general, or violent crime in particular. There is no evidence that refugees are any different. You are at least as much at risk from your current neighbor as you are from any resettled refugee. The United States already extensively vets asylum applicants for links to terrorism, as it should.
Of the 859,629 refugees that the United States has welcomed since 2001, three have been convicted for planning terror attacks overseas. Zero have been convicted for involvement in terror attacks within the United States. Zero have been convicted for actually carrying out a terror attack anywhere. Attacks in the United States by home-grown terrorists like Michael Page are responsible for five times as many deaths as attacks by American Muslims, according to Professor Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina.
Refugees directly benefit the United States, including economically. Typical refugees work more, earn more, and speak better English than non-refugee immigrants, as Professor Kalena Cortes of Texas A&M University has shown. This is why refugees, despite the assistance they receive on arrival, make a net positive contribution to public coffers in the long run. A refugee co-founded Intel Corporation; another refugee served as US Secretary of State; another refugee is one of America’s most successful businessmen of all time; another refugee shot Easy Rider and Ghostbusters. Refugees are generally a gift; admitting them is an act of shared interest.
Standing against terrorists means standing strongly for rational thought and for the common dignity of humanity. It does not mean surrendering to low instincts of hypothetical fears and hatred. America’s great institutions of tolerance and welcome survived terrorists’ attempt to poison them on September 11, 2001. That magnificent tradition can and must survive the difficult months to come.
On Thursday, the leaders of 30 African countries signed a European Commission action plan tasking them–in exchange for a $2 billion “emergency trust fund”–to take back economic migrants looking to settle in Europe. If this sum is meant as a bribe, it is a bad deal. With remittances dwarfing foreign aid worldwide ($580 billion versus $135 billion in 2014), migration is a better deal for Africa than aid.
If the agreement is intended to truly foster development in Africa, it will also fail. The amount offered is miniscule; even if EU member countries match the fund to $4 billion as intended, it will only equal 0.2 percent of one year’s GDP of the developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. This cannot in principle have transformative economic effects.
Further, there is no evidence whatsoever that economic growth actually reduces migration. In fact, development in the very poorest countries has the opposite effect. As the economies of countries like Eritrea and Mali (GDP per capita of approximately $1,500) grow towards the level of Algeria and Albania ($10,000 to $12,000 per capita), migration rates will not typically fall. In fact, on average, they are likely to triple.
The EU should instead put this $2 billion into a cooperative mechanism where relevant actors share responsibility for managing this crisis. Increasing legal migration channels for students and seasonal labor, as rumored, is a basic but vital starting point. European leaders must remember that helping migrants to flee crisis is not just an act of generosity, but also in their own self-interest.
At last, a glimmer of hope in Europe’s refugee crisis: on Sunday 25 October, the European Commission released a 17-point plan to manage refugee flows along the Western Balkans route. The agreement is a welcome sign of political progress. However, the policy prescriptions fall far short of the wide-ranging, creative, long-term plan necessary. An effective refugee strategy requires a more holistic approach on three dimensions: space, institutions and time.
The EC’s new plan focuses only on the Balkans, with the aim of putting out fires in the region garnering most recent media attention. However, this focus is much too narrow. Through September, Frontex detected 204,630 illegal border crossings on this route, compared to 359,171 for the Eastern Mediterranean route and 128,619 for the Central Mediterranean. Over the past 6 months, this sort of piecemeal approach has allowed the crisis to spiral. We need a broader plan to address the people and governments affected across the rest of the continent.
Worse, the EU is simultaneously negotiating a separate deal outside its borders – with Turkey. The purported $3.3 billion agreement offers a renewal of Turkey’s EU candidacy in exchange for Turkish efforts to keep refugees within its own borders (and therefore out of Europe). Using EU candidacy as a bargaining chip is not in the spirit of genuine cooperation and undermines the credibility of the bloc’s humanitarian commitment. Not to mention that it probably won’t work – these sorts of schemes only divert migrants and refugees to other routes (as we have recently seen in the Arctic).
Individual European citizens, NGOs, and the private sector have shown far more heart and creativity in facing this crisis than have sovereign governments or the European Community. This is especially glaring when there are potentially huge benefits to the well-managed settlement of refugees in the context of an aging European population with below-replacement fertility. Refugees are not a burden unless they are made to be. If handled well, the recent influx of people could be a triple win for the major parties involved: refugees, sending countries, and receiving countries.
For example, a new non-profit, Talent Beyond Boundaries, is building an employment service to match skilled refugees with international employers. Leveraging this "hidden talent pool" will add to host country economies and let refugees rebuild their lives with dignity. War-torn home countries will benefit, too: remittances from workers oversees already trump foreign aid by more than three times. The insistence on managing flows of people solely at the national government level is both paralyzing and obstructive. The EU must take advantage of these private initiatives, not stifle them.
Perhaps most crucially, the EC has no plan to better manage situations like this in future. Large numbers of refugees will continue to seek shelter in Europe for the foreseeable future; we need to build long-term infrastructure to ensure that the benefits of hosting refugees outweigh the costs. This takes time, effort, and money. However, such a plan will not just save money in the long run, but also lives.
Just this year, the UNHCR is seeking $236 million for emergency winter aid for asylum-seekers. These purely reactive funds do not begin to scratch the surface of what needs to be done. Perhaps the simplest alternative is to leverage existing institutions to provide protection and humanitarian assistance in advance of a full-blown crisis. Only 45% of the UNHCR’s Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan has been funded as of 20 October 2015. The approximately $2.5 billion still needed is a considerable but not challenging sum when shared across the global community.
However, as University of Oxford professors Alexander Betts and Paul Collier point out, we need to move beyond the classic “boats-and-camps approach” of refugee management. A successful policy would align refugee and host country needs, contributing to sustainable regional development. We hope that this latest agreement is a sign of EC progress. However, Sunday’s action plan is only a tiny first step towards a desperately and urgently needed strategic agreement.