Migration and Integration: The Impact of NGOs on Future Policy Development In Ireland Summary Report

by Sarah Spencer

Jul 1, 2006
The purpose of this study was to investigate the capacity of non governmental organisations (NGOs) to inform the development of national policies on migration in Ireland, here taken to include policies on immigration, asylum, integration and citizenship. In the context of current policies and likely future developments, and the opportunities and constraints in the Irish political system, the report assesses the strengths and limitations of existing NGO strategies. It identifies initiatives that NGOs and the government could take to enhance the capacity of NGOs to inform future policy development. It does not explore their capacity needs as advice and service providers, nor relationships with policy makers or service providers at the local level. The research was completed in the Autumn of 2005.
  • NGOs should consider ways to increase their legitimacy in the eyes of policy makers (without losing credibility in the eyes of their members and supporters), whether by strengthening the input from migrants and/or individuals with credibility with different constituencies; by developing their expertise; or by increasing the contribution they are seen to make to service provision (recognising that each option can have significant resource implications).
  • NGOs should review their objectives to ensure that they anticipate future opportunities and constraints before choosing deliverable goals. Review their strategy for influence: their target audiences -- including a broader range of government departments (to embed migration in mainstream programmes); their line of argument for those audiences and consistency in approach in their relationships with policy makers.
  • Individually, NGOs should take advantage of the government's concern to stay in line with EU policy by highlighting its commitments at EU level on social exclusion and integration issues, including the Common Basic Principles on the Integration of Migrants where they extend beyond the commitments in the National Action Plan against Racism.
  • Individually, NGOs should be more opportunistic in taking up opportunities to exert influence through organisations which themselves have influence where that approach will help them to achieve their objectives.
  • NGOs should strengthen their evidence base by securing resources for research, more effective monitoring of advice and service provision, engaging in advice and or service provision as a means to obtain an evidence base, or commissioning research from external experts. Cooperation with academics should potentially be at arm's length in order to avoid undermining the independence and credibility of the academics' research by too close an association with the NGO's campaign objectives.
  • Individually, NGOs should better inform the manifestos of all political parties prior to the general election while avoiding association with any particular party. Ensure that material provided to Parliamentarians and other stakeholders is concise, accessible and addresses the issues in a way that is useful in practice to the audience for which it is intended.
  • Individually, NGOs should develop evidence based, workable proposals to tackle the policy issues that will need to be on the government's future agenda, such as the regularisation of those migrants whose immigration status is irregular but will not be removed from the country.
  • NGOs should develop measures to train, develop and retain their staff, and to draw to a greater extent on external expertise -- recognising that they can only do so if they receive the resources for that capacity building.
  • Individually, NGOs should better evaluate the tangible outcomes from their work on a regular basis and feed the results into discussions on their priorities and forward agenda.
  • Funders should fund independent research in Ireland to provide an authoritative evidence base for the NGOs to use, for instance on the economic contribution which migrants make to Ireland's economy; or evidence which would inform NGOs' strategy, such as data on public attitudes, the sources of attitudes, and the lines of argument or messages which different sections of the public find persuasive.
  • Funders should provide the technical expertise and staff resources to those NGOs which provide advice and services to the public to enable them to develop a shared data base on the problems which migrants are experiencing, to make an analysis of that data public in an accessible form on an annual basis (with appropriate data protection safeguards), and to disseminate policy proposals that arise from it.
  • Funders should consult on the value of an annual summer school or alternative means to offer training to NGOs on all aspects of campaign strategies, drawing on expertise from within Ireland but also from other jurisdictions. Participation in the course, if highly regarded, could be valued on the CV of individuals seeking appointment or promotion within the sector.
  • Funders should respond to the need for funding in the migrant led sector, including local organisations, so that migrants can increasingly exert infl uence directly on policy, complementing the role of other organisations.
  • Funders should better encourage debate among independent foundations and state agencies funding NGO work and NGO recipients about issues of common interest including gaps in funding and the optimal level and mode of engagement of a funder in the operation of recipients. Dialogue, whether multi- or bi-lateral,should be conducted in a manner which enables NGOs to express their views without jeopardising their sources of income.
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