29 May 2018, Rome. A “better understanding of the drivers and impacts of migrations for forward-looking policies and programmes” was the main objective of the Forum on Agriculture, Rural Development and Migrations in the Mediterranean, jointly organised by the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the European University Institute- Global Governance Programme (EUI), under the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI).
This first expert-level meeting took place at the FAO Headquarters and brought together experts from international institutions, development cooperation agencies, research centres, policy practitioners and civil society organisations.
The Forum provided a first overview of the challenges and opportunities associated to rural migratory dynamics in the Mediterranean as well as main policies and strategies designed to harness the potential of agriculture and rural mobility, collecting different perspectives from experts from the region.
As indicated in the UfM Roadmap for Action (2017), “the Mediterranean has always been an area of mobility and migration”. Nevertheless, as the current refugee and irregular migration crises clearly show, addressing the adverse drivers of migration is essential to regional stability. Likewise the CIHEAM Tirana Declaration (2016) states that “agriculture and food security are closely related to reconciliation, peace and stability in the Mediterranean region, and must be considered as priority sectors for these countries and for the international cooperation”.
Migration has a strong agricultural and rural dimension. A large share of migrants originate from rural areas, characterized by growing rates of poverty and unemployment. The implications of this phenomenon are significant in terms of food production, natural resource management, skill management, education, territorial integration, social protection, Diasporas, gender, and inclusive development. It follows that investing in sustainable agriculture and rural development, climate change adaptation and resilient livelihoods is a crucial component of any plan to tackle the current migration challenges in the Mediterranean region.
At the crossroads of three continents, all Mediterranean countries are areas of origin, destination and transit of migratory flows coming from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Even if agriculture and rural livelihoods are priority fields in policy agendas in all countries across the region, public investments have consistently decreased in recent decades. In this context, regional processes may help tackling long-term drivers by creating synergies and fostering projects devoted to social and inclusive development.
If well managed, internal and external migrations can contribute to economic growth, poverty reduction and food security of the Mediterranean region, through knowledge, skills and technology transfer. But the potential benefits of migratory movements must be actively promoted through policies that jointly harness its potential and minimize its negative effects.
The complexity of migratory dynamics and their significant impact on the future of agrarian and rural systems across the Mediterranean, call for dialogue and exchange at regional level among countries of origin, transit and destination, across different levels of governance as well as across policy sectors. Moreover, research and innovation play a relevant role in understanding the heterogeneous drivers and patterns of rural migration, thus the need for strengthening nexus between policy, cooperation and research.
The participants of the Forum proposed concrete recommendations for moving forward regional cooperation in this respect, which could serve as a basis for future research activities and joint initiatives.
As part of its work on Migration, FAO is co-chairing, together with the International Organization for Migration, the Global Migration Group, a consortium of UN agencies advising member states on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration due to be adopted in December 2018. In this context, the recommendations stem from the Forum will be channeled into the Global Compact negotiation process, if and as required by Member States.
Speech by Saïd BHIRA, Special Advisor to the Secretary General for Higher Education and Research, UfM
Images from the Forum