Study of the Outcomes and Impacts of the Global Forum on Migration and Development and Civil Society Days

by Danielle De Garcia; Kristine Johnston; Richard Blue

Oct 26, 2012

In November 2011, the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) and accompanying Civil Society Days (CSD) completed their fifth year of operation, with the aim of improving migration policy coherence and enhancing the benefits of migration to sending and receiving countries, and to migrants themselves. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the largest non-governmental donor to this process, commissioned this study to retrospectively assess the outcomes and impact of the CSD and GFMD on policies, practices, issue framing, and government-civil society cooperation; and to prospectively draw lessons learned for the future of the GFMD and CSD. The evaluation took place from November 2011 through September 2012, allowing the team to observe the CSD and GFMD in Geneva, conduct an in-depth case study in Mexico, distribute online surveys to participants, conduct interviews at the UN offices in New York, and conduct key informant interviews by phone. Using a mixed method approach, combining quantitative survey data with qualitative key informant interviews and an extensive document review, the team has worked to triangulate data and strengthen the validity of findings. This study is geared towards the main stakeholders of the GFMD and CSD, including governments, civil society representatives, and donors. It is hoped that the aforementioned stakeholders will be able to utilize the findings, conclusions, and recommendations within this report to better inform their work in migration and development moving forward -- both within and outside of the GFMD and CSD processes.

  • Different expectations among and between civil society and government actors stem largely from the lack of a clearly defined and generally accepted set of objectives and assumptions for the Civil Society Days, which has caused a good deal of frustration on the part of government and civil society representatives.
  • Networking and knowledge building efforts among civil society actors have been largely successful within the Civil Society Days framework, while capacity building and access to government by CSOs have enjoyed a far lesser degree of success. Given the presence of additional processes and organizations that also provide networking and knowledge building to CSOs, some civil society actors question the value added of the Civil Society Days.
  • Data regarding the impact of the Civil Society Days and Global Forum on Migration and Development on civil society and government collaboration are mixed. While there are specific examples of collaboration between civil society actors and member states, resulting at least in part from participation in the forum -- and more than 30% of surveyed participants believe the CSD/GFMD collaboration has been fairly or very impactful -- nearly the same percentage believe there had been very little evidence of impact. This is predominantly due to the fact that the ability of the CSD and GFMD to contribute to collaboration depends largely on external factors, such as the political, economic, and social context within each member state.
  • Much of the ability of civil society to influence the agenda of the Global Forum on Migration and Development occurs during preparatory meetings, while their ability to influence the migration agenda occurs largely at the national level outside of the GFMD process. While most civil society representatives do not feel their issues are adequately incorporated into the states-led discussion, the perspective does seem be improving in recent years.
  • A few distinct policies and projects are reported to have benefited from the Civil Society Days/Global Forum on Migration and Development, however the ability of the meetings to produce finite policy and project outcomes is a source of both debate and frustration due to differing expectations regarding the goals of the Civil Society Days and GFMD.
  • While 2012 marked a significant positive development in the institutional structure of the Civil Society Days, there remains considerable room for improvement. In particular, there is a need for enhanced sustainability, continuity, and dialogue between different actors (both through enhanced representation between different types of civil society representatives and increased dialogue between government, civil society, and private sector actors). The ideal structure of the Civil Society Days cannot be specified however, as it needs to advance an identified theory for how change is expected to happen as a result of the process.
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