The security-development-migration nexus: avoiding the traps of a holistic policy

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The Sustainable Development Goals, the EU Global Strategy and the Consensus on Development present an unprecedented opportunity for a holistic understanding of what development means and how the EU can foster it. As part of this approach, the nexus linking migration, development and security is as important as bedevilled with potential traps.

Human security is a precondition for development, while socioeconomic development is the baseline for sustainable security. At the same time, securitised states rarely foster inclusive growth, and the lack thereof ultimately generates instability and conflict. Insecurity is a driver of migration, while irregular migration poses security risks. Yet security cooperation with countries of origin and transit is but one, fairly small, component of an effective external migration policy. Likewise, underdevelopment is a trigger for migration, while migration – notably remittances, return and circular migration – contribute to poverty reduction. But development does not automatically and certainly not immediately imply a reduction of migration. In the short-term quite the reverse often happens. The nexus is as important as it is complex.

Against this backdrop, EU development policy in the context of the next Multiannual Financial Framework can seize the opportunity that a holistic approach presents by avoiding two seemingly contradictory traps.

The first is a policy that is so broad as to be hollowed out of real meaning and impact. Managing migration, contributing to security, and fostering socioeconomic development are all relevant goals for EU development policy, as are a wide range of other objectives laid out in the SDGs. But careful calibration is essential, be it in terms of the quantity and quality of engagement, or in the sequencing of actions, not least given the contrasting effects that the pursuit of different goals may have.

The second trap is avoiding an excessively narrow application of development policy, with the latter being highjacked by highly politicised questions at any point in time. No where is this clearer than in the current excessive deviation of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa for the purpose of migration management (or more accurately curtailment).

All this suggests that whereas linkages should be recognised, and stovepipes broken down, effectively acting upon the security-migration-development nexus does not imply a conflation between the three. In the framework of the new MFF, treading the fine and multiple lines connecting while separating development, security and migration is no small feat: but an essential one to meet for a development policy fit for the 21st century.

* Author: Nathalie Tocci, Director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) 

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