Migration and Integration: The Impact of NGOs on Future Policy Development In Ireland (Full 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 identifi es 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.
  • While there is a degree of cooperation across the sector and close working relationships between some organisations, there is also a healthy but sometimes inhibiting degree of competition for profile and resources, tensions over over-lapping roles, and differences of view on strategy.
  • Where the legitimacy of NGOs was questioned by officials, three sources of legitimacy were identified: the extent to which an organisation was genuinely representative of migrants or other sections of public opinion; its level of expertise; and the value of the services that it provides. The organisation with the broadest level of representation, depth of expertise and recognised as a provider of quality services to migrants, would carry most authority in the eyes of policy makers. The absence of a strong migrant voice in an organisation was identified as a weakness by all sides.
  • The strength of an organisation's internal capacity was identified as dependent on its staff and non executive board, funding (crucially), internal unity, and capacity for self evaluation.
  • The lack of an authoritative evidence base was widely recognised as a limitation and was a source of criticism by officials, though shortage of official data was one major cause.
  • In relation to broader dimensions of strategy, challenges were identified under five headings: objectives, relationship with policy makers (including issues of style and trust), target audiences, strategic partners and lines of argument.
  • On international target audiences, there was scepticism on the value of addressing EU policy makers on the most contentious issues of immigration control, if of more value in relation to social inclusion and discrimination.
  • A focus on solutions is important, not only on the problem; on seeing the issue not only from the migrant perspective if to be able to converse with policy makers on their own terms; the need to choose arguments that are influential with the particular audience that the NGO is seeking to persuade; and the equal need for care in voicing criticism in a way that is palatable to the listener, if not to be ignored.
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