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Dagens Arena | Stefan Rother on the Global Forum on Migration and Development

The Forum on Migration and Development wasn't just talk.

Ambitions and expectations were high for this year’s Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Stockholm. The Swedish host government had announced plans to move the forum significantly forward in terms of specific outcomes and interactions with civil society representatives.

The organizers also had had ample time for preparation: the GFMD, held annually since 2007, took a break in 2013 because of the United Nations 2nd High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development (HLD) in New York.

The first HLD in 2006 had actually paved the way for the GFMD process. Because the member states could not agree if and how the issue of migration could be addressed permanently within the UN system, they created the informal, nonbinding and state-led Global Forum as a space for finding common ground on issues relating to migration and development.

The Swedish meeting certainly was a success in terms of atmosphere. Compared to some of the overblown previous meetings, the setting in the former brewery Münchenbryggeriet was more down-to-earth while the opening speech of crown princess Victoria provided some glamour: even hardened activists could not resist getting their cameras out.

More importantly, Sweden for the first time not only provided separate two-day-sessions for the governments and the civil society each, but reserved almost a full day where government could interact with non-governmental organisations, experts and activists. Keeping in mind the limitations and fear coming close to paranoia about provocative civil society statements that has characterized some of the earlier meetings, this normalization of affairs can be seen as an important confidence-building measure.

But the hard question remains: Which concrete improvements could a refugee stranded in Lampedusa, a Thai berry-picker in Sweden or a migrant domestic worker in Saudi Arabia expect from a meeting like the Swedish GFMD?


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