Prioritising fragile and conflict affected states in a post-pandemic world

By Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate, and Helder da Costa, General Secretary of the g7+ Secretariat 

Every country has been affected by the concurrent climate, pandemic and economic shocks of 2020. But they pose a severe threat to fragile and conflict affected states with specific needs that must be addressed in 2021. Already the least able to cope, these states urgently require leadership and collective responses at scale to mitigate the multifaceted impact of systemic shocks and build pathways to sustainable peace and prosperity.

One year into the Decade of Action, fragile and conflict-affected states are at a critical juncture. Even before the pandemic, the furthest behind were falling further behind on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2020, before COVID-19, the 57 fragile states identified by the OECD’s States of Fragility 2020 report were home to almost a quarter of the world population, but approximately three-quarters of all those living in extreme poverty globally. Thirteen extremely fragile states (including nine members of the g7+ group) were identified as being particularly at risk of being left behind from progress on sustainable development and peace relative to their peers. No fragile states are on track to meet the SDGs on hunger, health, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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Data innovation for migration: why now and how?

By Marzia Rango, Data Innovation and Capacity-Building Coordinator at the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC), IOM – UN Migration, and Michele Vespe, European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC), Demography, Migration and Governance Unit, Big Data for Migration Alliance (BD4M)

Now more than ever we need to invest in responsible data innovation for the analysis of mobility and migration

The impact of COVID-19 on the production of migration statistics around the world has been severe, particularly across low- and middle-income countries. In Africa, where national population censuses and household surveys are the main sources of data on migration, travel restrictions, lockdown measures and closure of government offices have heavily affected the ability to collect data from these sources, delaying the (already infrequent) production of migration statistics. The same has occurred in some European countries. And even in countries that were able to switch to remote modalities for data collection, challenges persisted, particularly in terms of the quality of data. Meanwhile, only just over a third of the 47 African countries surveyed in May 2020 reported using sources other than traditional ones.

One of the UN Secretary General report’s (“From Promise to Action:  The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”) key recommendations is to ‘strengthen evidence-based discourse on migration.’ But how to do so when even basic facts about migration in many countries around the world are largely unknown, because capacities to collect, or properly analyse and disseminate reliable statistics are extremely modest? And when a global pandemic further limits the availability of data from traditional sources?

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COVID-19 and the Kafala system: protecting African female migrant workers in Gulf countries

By Mona Ahmed, Junior Policy Analyst, OECD Development Centre

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected women and men differently depending on the sector they work in, their employment situation and their access to labour and social protection measures. Domestic and care work, traditionally female-dominated, form one of the most marginalised, undervalued and least protected employment sectors. It therefore comes as no surprise that the current crisis has not reinvented the wheel, but rather amplified persistent vulnerabilities faced by female migrant workers.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are home to the world’s largest number of international labour migrants. According to a study carried out by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), 12% of the 28.1 million migrant workers in GCC countries in 2017 were African, with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait hosting almost 90 percent. Historically a destination for South and Southeast Asian workers, the growing demand in domestic labour has attracted a considerable number of East and West African women, mostly from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana. Despite their economic contribution in both origin and destination countries, the duties of child and elderly care, cleaning and food preparation are culturally devalued and receive limited social recognition.  

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Migration is a force for development (and vice versa): it’s time we tell this story right

By Gonzalo Fanjul, Co-founder and Head of Research at por Causa Foundation

There is a dangerous contradiction in the prevailing narrative on migration and development. Despite the fact that international labour mobility has proven to be one of the most effective and powerful levers for individual and collective progress, many development co-operation actors treat migration as a problem that must be solved. This logic responds to the myth of ‘root causes’: human mobility as a mere escape from poverty and the lack of opportunities, rather than as an effective strategy against them. Migrants are victims who must be rescued from their own decisions, and aid is an adequate tool to do so.

The political advantage of this narrative is unbeatable. A wide part of the more centered ideological spectrum – from social democracy to liberals to the moderate right – can take refuge in it to whitewash a model obsessed with border impermeability, which too often violates the boundaries of a liberal democracy. The proposal for the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented by the European Commission last September, is one of the most recent and worrying examples in this regard.

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Protecting migrant workers in the Gulf: don’t build back better over a poor foundation

By Vani Saraswathi, Editor-at-Large and Director of Projects, Migrant-Rights.Org

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states need to completely revamp past policies, and not merely attempt to bridge gaps or provide a salve to deep wounds.

Construction workers in Dubai, UAE. Photo: LongJon / Shutterstock

As of February 2020, millions of migrants –– primarily from South and Southeast Asia and increasingly from East African countries –– were holding up Gulf economies, working in sectors and for wages unappealing to the more affluent citizens. In countries with per capita GDP of US$62,000 or more, minimum wages ranged as low as US$200 per month.

Men were packed into portacabins and decrepit buildings, six to a room if lucky, hidden behind screens of dust and grime, away from the smart buildings they built and shiny glasses they cleaned. The women were trapped 24/7 in homes that are their workplaces, every movement monitored. It is accepted and normalised without question that these men and women will leave behind their families in the hopes of building a better future for themselves. That they may live all their productive life in a strange country, excluded from social security benefits and denied all rights of belonging, is seen as a small price to pay for the supposed fiscal benefits. The fact that the price is too steep is rarely discussed.

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Three root causes of violence against women and how to tackle them

By Hyeshin Park, Gender Programme Co-ordinator and Gabrielle Woleske, Policy Analyst, OECD Development Centre

Every day, 137 women are killed by their partner or a family member. And one in three women worldwide have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. While violence against women remains a persistent, global problem, many continue to view it only as an individualistic issue or the actions of “some bad men”. However the widespread nature of the problem indicates that violence against women is also a collective, social problem, rooted in the widely-held social norms surrounding masculinities – socially constructed notions about how men behave and importantly, are expected to behave in specific settings to be considered ‘real’ men. To understand why some men perpetrate violence against women and to end it, we must uncover and address the drivers that lead to such behaviour and move beyond the discourse that simply attributes it to the individual actions of “some bad men”.

Driver 1: The norm that ‘real’ men are breadwinners

Masculine norms are diverse and can be harmful and restrictive – like those associated with “toxic masculinity” – or gender-equitable and flexible. The critical issue is that some masculinities promote very rigid understandings of what it means to be a ‘real’ man, thus putting pressure on men and boys to live up to the ideals of a socially constructed idea of manhood. Indeed, the men who accept and internalise these norms are more likely to commit violent acts1. One such ideal is that ‘real’ men have to be breadwinners and financial providers for their family. In fact, this is one of the strongest and most universal social expectations that societies have for men. Data from EU-28 countries shows that in 2017, 43% of respondents declared that the most important role of a man is to earn money, and up to 80% said so in Bulgaria for example. Moreover, in 2016 in Azerbaijan, a majority of men declared that a man who does not have an income is of no value.

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Inequalities and international migration: securing benefits for all post COVID-19

By Jason Gagnon, Development economist, OECD Development Centre

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, May 2020. Indian migrant laborers leaving the the city due to lockdown. Photo: Mukesh Kumar Jwala / Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned international migration on its head. According to the United Nations, there were 272 million international migrants in the world in 2019, reflecting a steady rise over the years, reaching 3.5% of the global population. However, since the start of the crisis, migration has decreased significantly. Due to restrictions, admission of foreigners to OECD countries has fallen by 46%. In the Gulf Co-operation Council countries, and many other parts of the world, the trends point in the same direction. The general fall in migration flows is likely to continue in 2021.

There have been countless takes on the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on migrants. The pandemic has also exposed the extent to which many countries heavily rely on migrants as core cogs in their economic engines, their food security and in filling skills gaps. Not to mention the intangible cultural goods that societies benefit from in all parts of society, through food, festivals and art. But how will COVID-19 impact the future of international migration?

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Our top 10 blogs of 2020!

In 2020 we posted 179 blogs! Here are the top 10 most read blogs of the year:


1. Landmark Supreme Court victory in Zambia: collecting millions in tax revenues and sending a message across borders

By Ignatius Mvula, Assistant Director – Mining Audit Unit, Zambia Revenue Authority, Mary Baine, Director – Tax Programmes, African Tax Administration Forum, and Ben Dickinson, Head of the Global Relations and Development Division, Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, OECD

The authors explain why a landmark Supreme Court victory in Zambia sends a message that African tax authorities are able and confident to take on and deal with complex transfer pricing transactions.

In French: Victoire historique devant la Cour suprême en Zambie : des milliards de dollars US en recettes fiscales supplémentaires et un message par-delà les frontières

2. COVID-19: consequences for international migration and development

Immigration-coronavirus

By Jason Gagnon, Development economist, OECD Development Centre

Jason Gagnon discusses how to minimise the short-term effects of the Covid-19 crisis on migrants and leverage the crisis to address the unfinished business of international co-operation on migration.

In French: COVID-19 : conséquences pour les migrations internationales et le développement

3. How China is implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

By Xiheng Jiang, Vice-President of China Center for International Knowledge on Development (CIKD)

Xiheng Jiang discusses the key points of China’s Progress Report on Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2019).


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Reforming industrial subsidies usage through the WTO: process proposals

By Professor Peter Draper, Executive Director and Dr Naoise McDonagh, Lecturer, Institute for International Trade, The University of Adelaide

The distorting effects of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and industrial subsidies on global market competition has become a topic of increasing importance for many World Trade Organization (WTO) members in recent years. There is growing pressure from key actors for WTO reform. The U.S., EU and Japan have jointly outlined a reform agenda for the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM)1 , focusing on market distorting effects of state capitalism. China has offered a different reform agenda that seeks greater recognition of the role of subsidies in pursuing legitimate social and development goals, as outlined in a recent WTO communication. Subsidy usage is therefore a key development issue.

A lack of reform may lead to growing use of subsidies by developed and advanced developing countries with deep pockets in ways that ultimately widen the economic gap between countries. This is because many developing economies will not have the capacity to leverage subsidies to build their industrial bases.

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Can civil society survive COVID-19?

By Elly Page, Senior Legal Advisor, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and Simona Ognenovska, Research and Monitoring Advisor, European Center for Not-for-Profit Law Stichting (ECNL)

As the world confronts new waves of COVID-19 cases, civil society should be wary of a parallel surge of new emergency laws and measures that restrict fundamental freedoms. According to our COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker, 146 countries enacted 385 measures in response to the pandemic that affected human rights, during the initial waves of the virus from January to September 2020. While some may have been a necessary and understandable reaction to a public health crisis, many overreached, exacerbating existing challenges to civic space. In particular, existing barriers to foreign funding for organisations have remained in place during the pandemic, limiting their ability to provide support to vulnerable populations during the crisis. The onslaught urgently requires an international response to roll back restrictions and increase support for embattled civil society.  

Our Tracker, based on information from our worldwide network of civil society partners, reflects ways that governments’ responses to COVID-19 have affected civic space, and suggests ways that OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members could respond. These suggestions are timely as the OECD-DAC takes further steps to develop a DAC policy instrument on enabling civil society.

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