Forced displacement in 2021: much to commemorate, little to celebrate

 By Martin Wagner, Senior Policy Advisor Asylum, ICMPD, Caitlin Katsiaficas, Policy Analyst, ICMPD, and Benjamin Etzold, Senior Researcher, BICC

Photo: Ververidis Vasilis, Shutterstock

This year, we celebrate 70 years since the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention was signed. While the Convention has aged relatively well since its inception and has remained relevant for so long, global developments have left their mark. Ever more protracted, mostly internal, conflicts make true solutions for displaced people scarce. As a consequence, UNHCR has sounded the alarm on the growing numbers of displaced persons, virtually every year for the past decade, on the occasion of World Refugee Day (20 June). As expected, the 2020 figures presented at this year’s world refugee day were no different.

The international community, spearheaded by UNHCR, has taken considerable action to tackle this trend, seeking global allies to expand access to solutions for refugees who have little chances for return or resettlement. The Global Refugee Forum, created to promote the 2016 Global Compact on Refugees, mobilises a broad array of actors and initiatives committed to its objectives. Two of these goals are: 1) building opportunities for refugees to become self-reliant and 2) expanding third-country solutions (through resettlement for the most vulnerable and other safe and legal pathways for refugees to complement resettlement).

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Least Developed Countries have 13 years to meet global trade rules, but still lack critical flexibility at the WTO

By Rachel Thrasher, Researcher, Boston University Global Development Policy

By only granting a 13-year extension in a critical time for economic recovery from COVID-19, Members of the World Trade Organization may be creating more severe challenges for Least Developed Countries and the global economy down the road.

Without much fanfare, on June 29, 2021, the member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) quietly agreed to extend the transition period for least-developed countries (LDCs) to implement the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) for another 13 years.

The recently granted extension falls substantially short of what was requested, though it is slightly longer than the previous two nine-year extensions. The news has received relatively little attention in the midst of negotiations for vaccine access and pandemic fears about new vaccine-resistant variants, but to be sure, the failure to acknowledge the need for a longer-term transition period has substantial impacts for LDCs’ development trajectories.

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The European Union as a development superpower

By Ambassador Dr Mohan Kumar, Chairman, RIS, Dean/Professor, Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India, Former Indian Ambassador to France1

It is a truism that the European Union (EU) welcomes, prefers and supports a multipolar world; a strategic world view that is fully shared by its partners like India. More fundamentally, it is in the interest of the EU and its like-minded partners to ensure that the international order is not underpinned by a G2 system of government where the rules are essentially shaped by the US and China. This, however, entails the EU being strong enough to occupy an independent pole in the multipolar system. The EU is not quite there yet, but its friends and partners will certainly wish this to occur, sooner rather than later.

The other strategic dictum that is worth noting is this: a multipolar world is scarcely possible without a multipolar Asia. And a multipolar Asia is not necessarily a given; it needs to be ensured with collective action based on an agreed set of rules. It is my view that the EU has an important role in ensuring that Asia remains multipolar.

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From protest to progress?

By Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Centre & Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary General on Development and Alexander Pick, Head of Unit, New Development Policies and Institutions, OECD Development Centre

The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity for humanity to chart a new course and for societies to build forward better. The pandemic has shown that there is a need for change. However, as the new edition of Perspectives on Global Development warns, relying on the same voices, the same institutions and the same mind-sets that prevailed prior to this crisis to answer these questions is unlikely to produce an equitable, inclusive and sustainable recovery. A surge in discontent prior to the pandemic demonstrated that these approaches were failing billions of people around the world, as well as generations not yet born.

Our report, From Protest to Progress?, argues that a long-lasting recovery from COVID-19 cannot be achieved without addressing this discontent, which it defines as collective feelings of frustrated expectations, injustice, vulnerability and powerlessness. A sharp increase in protests during the period between the global financial crisis of 2008-09 and the COVID-19 pandemic shown in Figure 1 attests to a global rise in discontent. However, not all forms of discontent are so obvious: the report also finds evidence of growing discontent amid marked declines in voter turnout, trust in government and support for democracy. And if these variables seem biased towards democratic countries, it’s worth noting that protests rose in authoritarian states too. Taken together, we see that discontent was neither marginal nor fleeting; indeed, it is likely to worsen as countries emerge from the pandemic.

Number of protests by region, 1991-2019

Source: Clark, D. and P. Regan (2021), “Mass Mobilization Protest Data”, Harvard Dataverse (database).
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A new social contract for a job-rich recovery

By Paola Simonetti, Deputy Director, Economic and Social Policy Department, ITUC

“People are no longer coming to the kiosk to buy tea since the pandemic outbreak started. I am the breadwinner of a family of nine. On many days I don’t earn a single shilling and return home empty handed”. This is the story of Jamila, a tea kiosk holder in Mogadishu, Somalia. Her story is also the story of around 2 billion informal workers worldwide who have been left to cope with the crisis on their own.  

The pre-existing labour market deficiencies have made those who were already vulnerable – low-skilled workers, migrant workers, informal workers, women, and young people – even more exposed to the impact of the crisis. In fact, the world entered the pandemic with a pre-existing “sustainability debt”.

The ITUC SDG8 composite indicator below – covering 145 countries corresponding to more than 97% of the world population – is calculated on the basis of four sub-domains related to four dimensions: economic well-being, employment quality, labour vulnerability, and labour rights. The rating ranges between 70-130 and the world average is set to 100.

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An excellent but incomplete IMF decision

By José Antonio Ocampo, Professor at Columbia University and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Finance Minister of Colombia

The decision of the IMF Board last Friday to approve the allocation of $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) is excellent news for the world economy. This proposal had been on the table since the early phase of the COVID-19 crisis. It was vetoed by the United States under the Trump administration, but endorsed by the Biden administration, who proposed the magnitude of the agreed allocation.

The decision follows that adopted during the Global Financial crisis in 2009 to allocate $250 billion, the advantage of which was that it was timelier. There were several proposals made early during the current crisis, including the one we made with Kevin Gallagher and Ulrich Volz in March of last year, and that by Christopher G. Collins and Edwin M. Truman in April, who emphasised the importance it had for increasing the foreign-exchange reserves of low-income countries.

There were later proposals, several of a political character, to issue as much as one or two trillion dollars. They went much beyond the total IMF capital (quotas), which implied that they would have required approval by the US Congress, which would have delayed the decision. The $650 billion meets the criteria of being less than IMF quotas.

The SDRs are the global monetary asset that the IMF issues. They are part of the foreign exchange reserves of countries. Their basic limitation is that they can only be used by central banks or by specific international institutions that are allowed to hold them. Nonetheless, they can be sold to other central banks, which makes them liquid. The country that uses them has to pay an interest to the IMF SDR accounts.

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Intermediate cities: a green and transformative post-COVID-19 recovery?

By Dražen Kučan, Sector Lead / Senior Urban and Energy Efficiency Specialist, Green Climate Fund

Guilty as charged: cities and urban populations are among the core drivers of anthropogenic climate change. Cities produce between 71% and 75% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions1. There needs to be a ‘paradigm shift towards low emission and climate-resilient development pathways’. A shift that can happen in developing countries by supporting and investing in high impact climate mitigation as well as resilience and adaptation initiatives.

While the paradigm shift is defined by the ‘degree to which the proposed activity can catalyse impact beyond one-off project or programme investment’, the reality is not so straightforward in the context of the urban sector. Urban areas are complex, multi-stakeholder environments that require holistic, structurally sound, sustainable solutions. They need transformative investments in energy efficient buildings; decarbonising urban energy systems; compact and resilient urban development (including investment in mass transit and non-motorised transit systems and vehicle electrification); grey to green urban infrastructure upgrading; the circular economy; and methane and emissions-free integrated waste management.     

Demand pressure on developing new urban infrastructure is high: new homes and infrastructure will have to be built at great speed for the approximately 2.5 billion new city dwellers expected by 2050. About 85% of new housing demand is projected to be in fast emerging economies (such as China) and in the majority of developing countries. Furthermore, of the 70 million new residents expected to move to pre-existing urban areas each year, the vast majority will live in intermediary cities, mostly in Africa and Asia. This adds to climate pressures, both in terms of accelerated emissions and enhanced vulnerabilities. 

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Why local? Why now? Strengthening intermediary cities to achieve the SDGs

By Shipra Narang Suri, Ph.D. Chief, Urban Practices Branch, Global Solutions Division, UN-Habitat and Federico Bonaglia, Deputy Director, OECD Development Centre

Cities and local authorities around the world have played a key role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, applying prevention and containment measures, providing swift humanitarian response, as well as taking the first steps towards post-pandemic recovery. They implemented nation-wide measures, but also experimented with bottom-up recovery strategies. Local authorities are an indispensable “ring” in the governance chain necessary to prevent and respond to pandemics and advance a One Health Approach.

At the same time, COVID-19 has spotlighted, amplified and exacerbated underlying structural inequities across cities, and the capacity and financing gaps facing local governments, especially in developing countries. The pandemic may have initiated or accelerated a shift towards a new urban paradigm of “inclusive, green and smart cities” but it is still too early to say whether cities in developing countries will be able to embark on this transformation. Confronted with massive increases in poverty and vulnerability, those objectives might look like less relevant, distant or even unattainable goals. Estimates from the World Bank and UN entities suggest that local governments may on average lose 15 to 25 percent in revenues in 2021. First-hand accounts from African mayors confirm they face phenomenal trade-offs and have to repurpose their scarce resources to advance a green transition to tackle the consequences of the pandemic.

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Quatrième révolution industrielle et migrations : comment assurer la transition dans les pays d’origine et de destination ?

Par Jason Gagnon, Économiste du développement et Catherine Gagnon, Stagiaire, Centre de développement de l’OCDE

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Avec l’arrivée de nouvelles technologies qui brouillent les frontières entre sphères physique, numérique et biologique, un changement spectaculaire dans la façon dont nos économies et nos sociétés interagissent, produisent et communiquent est en cours. Et comme nos économies sont aujourd’hui plus que jamais interconnectées, cette révolution industrielle a lieu dans pratiquement tous les coins du monde. Parallèlement, les migrations internationales n’ont jamais été aussi nombreuses.

Ces deux mégatendances ont une forte interaction qui va considérablement modifier la mondialisation telle que nous la connaissons. Les pays du Conseil de coopération du Golfe (CCG) en sont une belle illustration : à la fois tournés vers un nouveau modèle économique, ils restent très dépendants de la main-d’œuvre migrante, notamment d’origine d’Asie du Sud et du Sud-Est. Des mesures politiques concrètes doivent donc être mises en place dans ces pays d’origine et de destination pour permettre une transition plus fluide au niveau mondial.

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The fourth industrial revolution and migration: how to ensure a smooth transition?

By Jason Gagnon, Development economist and Catherine Gagnon, Intern, OECD Development Centre

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A dramatic change in the way our economies and societies interact, produce and communicate is underway as a fusion of technologies blurs the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. And with our economies more globally interlinked today than ever, this industrial revolution extends to practically every corner of the world. Meanwhile another sweeping trend is gaining traction: international migration is at an all-time high as new host countries, routes and freshly skilled workers multiply, and as a young population eager to make a mark on the world continues to grow.

The two megatrends of technology and international migration have the potential to significantly change globalisation as we know it. The Gulf countries offer an illustration of the especially pronounced interaction between both trends. On one hand, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have made it a priority to usher in this new economic era. On the other, GCC countries are some of the world’s most dependent countries on migrant labour. How can GCC countries ensure a smooth labour market transition as they shift to this new economic model? And how can the primary migrant countries of origin to the GCC – mostly in South and Southeast Asia – navigate the changes they will face in the main destinations for their labour migrants?

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