Development as a 'solution' to the 'problem' of migration is a fatally flawed approach

As EU leaders meet their African counterparts in Abidjan for the 5th European Union/African Union summit, the European External Investment Plan (EIP) is in the spotlight. It is portrayed as the perfect recipe for the EU to combine development aid with migration control and economic interests. But such a plan risks deviating from genuine development goals unless strong safeguards and control procedures are put in place, claims a new report published today by Counter Balance.

Going back to the premises of the European Commission’s initiative – to tackle 'the root causes of migration' and leverage private sector investments – the study points out that linking development and migration objectives can have dangerous consequences and end up using aid money to finance 'fortress Europe'.

The report goes on underlining that stirring private sector investments – which is per se an objective of the plan – is not enough to guarantee that the plan will deliver sustainable development and secure jobs in Africa and the European neighborhood regions.

Children in School

To ensure that the EIP goes beyond economic diplomacy and contributes to development and poverty eradication objectives, few key recommendations are highlighted:

  • The EIP should be de-linked from migration control policies its operations should not be made conditional to partner countries implementing other measures or initiatives under the EU Migration Policy and should target actual development needs.
  • The respect of social safeguards and climate change objectives should be a clear priority of the plan contribution to poverty eradication, promotion of Human Rights, rule of law and democracy need to be at the core of the EIP. Ruling out fossil fuel projects will also be essential to align the initiative with the Paris Agreement objectives. In this regard, the Commission needs to take direct responsibility for the respect of such safeguards, and not just outsource due diligence to development banks implementing the EIP.
  • The plan needs to score high on transparency and accountability this means ensuring accessibility of information on projects financed and on decision-making processes, together with a high level of accountability for final beneficiaries and local communities impacted by the projects, for example through guaranteeing access to grievance mechanisms.
Crowd HandsMan in slum

Xavier Sol, author of the report and Director of Counter Balance,said:

“The Commission is presenting the EIP as a flagship initiative, so it is now imperative that it takes full responsibility to ensure it is not business as usual, and that development objectives are not forgotten in a rush for profit-making by European companies and reward for migration control measures.”

If the External Investment Plan really is to be an innovative instrument, it needs to focus on quality projects offering a high development added-value. A focus on small-scale projects with positive social and environmental impacts for local populations and territories is needed. The reduction of inequalities and enhanced domestic resource mobilization should be at the heart of the EIP”.

2017 External Investment Plan title page

The External Investment Plan: Innovative instrument or dangerous blueprint for EU development policy?

Download the report