From One Crisis to the Next: Could the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Contribute to Govern Migration Better?

Public Lecture by Marion Panizzon Christ
 (World Trade Institute)

Date: 20 January 2021, 16:00 - 17:15 CET
Venue: Online via Zoom

The dynamics of migration governance have been redrawn by the 2015/16 refugee crisis. With the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and policy crisis response the connections and boundaries between the global, regional and local layers again, were redrawn. Paradoxically, the patterns of migration governance were diametrically different between the refugee and this health crisis. This presentation explains why the response to the refugee crisis shifted the levels of governance to the global regime, delegating political responsibility to a UN-led global migration and refugee regime, while the regional level significantly lost appeal, also to a growing number of local initiatives and practices. During the COVID-19 health crisis, however, migrants and refugees were seemingly out of sight of the international response, with the exception of those working in frontline functions. While the Global Pacts’ response to crisis appeared to freeze, national immigration policy awakened to alleviate the risks of poverty, hunger, incapacitated access to health, education and other social services for those, who the crisis had ‘left behind,’ many of which were migrants. We hypothesize from our bird’s eye view of selected COVID-19 relief programs that the Agenda 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sub-goals, calibrate a crisis response, which is better aligned to national emergency measures and migrants’ needs alike, than the holistic approach of the GCMs actionable commitments. In addition, the Agenda 2030’s ‘to leave no-one behind’ is more apt to fight the crisis-induced rise in multiple discriminations facing migrants, in particular children and youth, women, persons in vulnerable situations. In sum, we open up for a discussion, if the COVID-19 pandemic might have elevated the significance of the Agenda 2030 for global migration governance. We ask how SDG 10’s goal of building ‘orderly, safe and responsible’ migration policies, might accompany migrants and states to navigate the insecurity of a global health crisis by embedding policies such as regularizations, which gained a new urgency with migrant workers stranded behind closed borders and immobilized by travel bans.