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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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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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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The debt burden: why ex-post intervention shouldn’t be the default option

By Rodrigo Olivares-Caminal, Professor of Banking and Finance Law at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London, and Paola Subacchi, Professor of International Economics, Global Policy Institute, Queen Mary University of London

The financial response to the COVID-19 crisis has driven debt building at an unprecedented speed, which has increased the risk of debt distress and the odds of a new debt crisis cycle. Emerging markets and developing economies are most at risk. When the COVID-19 crisis began in February 2020, it demanded extraordinary policy measures to protect lives and provide support to those who had lost their livelihoods. The public debt vulnerabilities for many countries, especially the poorest ones, were already significant at that time, but the subsequent collapse of many economic activities exacerbated the situation. As of 30 April 2021, 29 countries were at high risk of debt distress, and 7 low-income countries had already succumbed to it. Somalia, for example, is currently in debt distress and needs to secure relief to restore debt sustainability.

Emerging markets and developing economies are most at risk because of their exposure to international capital flows and the fact that portions of their debt are issued in hard currencies, namely the US dollar. This leaves them vulnerable to changes in US monetary policy, and so to sudden outflows when risk aversion and international financial volatility are high. Some countries have learned lessons from previous debt crisis cycles – as is evident, for example, in the development of local-currency securities markets which mitigate the risk of foreign-currency borrowing – but such resilience is patchy and far from being systemic.

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Enjeux et défis du financement du développement dans la zone de l’Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine post-COVID-19

Par Alain Tchibozo, Chef Economiste, Banque Ouest Africaine de Développement – BOAD

Endettement accru par les dépenses liées à la Covid-19

Le recours à l’endettement pour financer les plans de riposte et de relance économique explique principalement le fait que le déficit budgétaire des pays de l’Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA) se soit accru. Au plan des finances publiques, même en tenant compte d’un redémarrage de l’activité autour de 5.5% cette année (contre 1,5% en 2020), le déficit budgétaire global représenterait en 2021 près de 5,0% du PIB, après 5,4% en 2020. L’accumulation de déficits publics liés au financement de dépenses de fonctionnement des États apparaît de fait comme le principal facteur d’endettement public. Or la détérioration des finances publiques restreint l’accès futur des États à de nouveaux financements. En 2021, le service de la dette intérieure (paiement des intérêts et amortissement du principal) représentera plus de 50% du service total de la dette dans sept des huit États membres de l’UEMOA. En outre, la part des recettes publiques consacrée au service de la dette représente depuis 2020 plus d’1/3 des recettes totales dans sept États. Aussi, la question de la soutenabilité de la dette sera un enjeu crucial pour les États de la zone ces prochaines années.

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Migración urbana y COVID-19: Las ciudades están en la primera línea de una respuesta inclusiva y de la recuperación

Por Samer Saliba, Líder de Proyectos, Mayors Migration Council1

Foto: Manoej Paateel / Shutterstock

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La comunidad internacional no está haciendo suficientes esfuerzos para apoyar económicamente a quienes más hacen por las personas migrantes, refugiadas y desplazadas durante la pandemia global: los Gobiernos de las ciudades. Aunque numerosas Alcaldías tienen el mandato de atender a las personas en situación de vulnerabilidad, tales como migrantes y residentes desplazados, frecuentemente las ciudades no cuentan con suficientes recursos económicos para responder a las crecientes necesidades de quienes van llegando. Asimismo, los Gobiernos locales de las ciudades han dejado de percibir ingresos debido a los impactos económicos del COVID-19, lo cual este año limita aún más su capacidad de brindar servicios fundamentales a los residentes. Según algunas estimaciones, los Gobiernos de las ciudades experimentarán una pérdida de ingresos de hasta un 25 % en el 2021, precisamente cuando necesitan incurrir en un mayor gasto para impulsar la recuperación y para atender a una población que crece continuamente. En una encuesta reciente, 33 funcionarios a cargo de las finanzas municipales de 22 países de todos los continentes expresaron que ya se observa una disminución del 10 % en el ingreso total y un aumento de aproximadamente 5 % en el gasto. Este “efecto tijera” de los ingresos y gastos de los Gobiernos locales tendrá un mayor impacto en las ciudades de países en desarrollo. Las ciudades africanas, por ejemplo, podrían dejar de percibir hasta un 65 % de sus ingresos en el 2021.      

Si bien la comunidad internacional está cada vez más atenta a las finanzas municipales en relación con el cambio climático, el desarrollo sostenible y el desarrollo urbano en general, no puede decirse lo mismo respecto a la migración y al desplazamiento urbanos. Pocos mecanismos de financiamiento municipal se centran exclusivamente en la atención de personas migrantes y desplazadas en las urbes, a pesar de que la mayoría de ellas reside en las ciudades. Además, muchas veces las agencias donantes con baja tolerancia al riesgo no toman en cuenta a los Gobiernos de ciudades en países de medianos y bajos ingresos.  Atendiendo a estas necesidades no satisfechas de las ciudades, mi organización, el Mayors Migration Council (MMC), lanzó recientemente el Fondo de Ciudades Globales para una Respuesta Inclusiva a la Pandemia, con el fin de apoyar a cinco Alcaldías en la implementación de programas de respuestas inclusivas y recuperación diseñados por ellas.

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