The recent migrant crisis has brought longstanding tensions in Europe’s immigration and integration policies to the forefront. This is compounded by a concern in Europe and the United States that hosting refugees and migrants from fragile and conflict-afflicted states in the Middle East and North Africa increase domestic security risks, and that such persons are not easily integrated into existing socioeconomic and political systems. We believe the United States and Europe need to develop a holistic approach towards their development, migration, and integration policies, as success in each field is interlinked. More effective aid can help to address the root causes of conflict and fragility, reducing the pressures of forced migration at the source. At the same time, more open, inclusive and integrative policies at home serve to buttress our credibility as a value-based community, making our efforts to address global security challenges more effective.
1. Development Cooperation: Coordination and Financing for a More Effective Aid System
Successful development cooperation goes back to the origins of the transatlantic partnership. The legacy of the Marshall Plan allows Europe and the US to act from a position of economic strength; today, the United States and Europe are the world’s the two largest donors in development and humanitarian aid, and are generally at the forefront of international efforts to respond to humanitarian crises. However, the United States and Europe often do not invest the necessary resources and attention to prevention. Both parties should be committed to meeting the 0.7% of GDP development aid target for OECD countries. But even small, continuous investments in development projects – done effectively – can help to address some of the root causes of conflict, political violence, migration, and other challenges. This will be less painful and costly than dealing with the fallout of major international crises after the fact.
However, one of the major bottlenecks of effective developmental assistance in fragile and conflict-affected states has been the lack of coordination among different actors. Over the short term, the American and European aid agencies should improve their coordination mechanisms, to more systematically and formally improve synergies in their activities, while reducing programmatic and funding overlap, duplication and competition. This needs to take place at the level of in-country actors in embassies and delegations, but should mature into more coordinated policies between US and EU at a policy level. As this coordination matures, a joint comprehensive review of the development system should be carried out – including a reexamination of some of the orthodoxies of the development sector. For instance, regulations that lead to a ‘move the money around or budgets will be cut’ mentality must be avoided. Over the long term, more sustained pooling of resources should take place. For instance, a joint trust fund can be established to provide a self-sustaining source of development finance. The differential remaining in the fund can be invested productively in the economy, prioritizing businesses involved in the green energy transformation or providing services to the ‘poor’. National ownership, rigorous policy research and independent evaluation mechanisms should guide transatlantic efforts.
2. Organizational Partnership for Refugee Asylum and Protection
The massive outflow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa over recent years have tested the capacity and willingness of the United States and European Union member states to keep their doors open to refugees. A sustainable balance between various competing policy objectives, including humanitarian aid and burden-sharing, remains to be found. We propose several measures to increase fairness, efficiency, sustainability, and legitimacy of the current system.
Emergency situations like the 2015 refugee crisis make short-term burden-sharing measures inevitable. The subnational actors affected most by the admittance of refugees need to be included in decision-making, and diplomatic effort between the United States, the EU and UNHCR should be continued to fight traffickers and to reach agreements on resettling refugees. Sharing expertise and best practices could also be used to increase transparency and coherence of the asylum application procedure to prevent populist backlash while at the same time ensuring equitable protection for asylum seekers.
All transatlantic partners must be held accountable to reduce push factors of forced migration by improving employment of refugees as well as standards in camps, particularly in Eastern Africa and Syria’s neighboring states. For this aim, securing the financing of UNHCR and investing in research and pilot projects is vital. On the long term and with respect to probable climate-refugee scenarios, we stand up for an equitable transatlantic solution and propose pooling resources and the introduction of a humanitarian visa based on criteria of vulnerability.
3. Empowering NGOs and Local Communities toward Effective Integration
The steady flow of immigrants into the United States and Europe is an inevitable and positive tenet of contemporary society in these regions. There must be systematic and consistent initiatives to successfully integrate migrant, including refugee, populations to stop culture-based polarization in western countries. The surge of immigrants into Germany should force the country to critically reexamine its integration practices. The United States may have a long history of successful integration but this threatens to be undone by the Trump Administration.
Many key innovations in integration resources are from or will require non-government actors. Two services essential for integration are employment support and language skill courses. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), usually non-for-profit, organize language courses and are key to softening anti-immigrant attitudes in local communities. The non-profit sector in the United States has a better organizational and funding structure than in Germany. Successful American NGOs in integration work should be committed to sharing best practices and partnering with German non-profits. Also, German and US public funding for integration should be increasingly tailored toward NGOs as they have greater flexibility in their operations and empower local actors to part of the integration process.
The most successful integration initiatives are not top-down but bottom-up. Therefore, we believe municipal governments in both the US and Germany should have broad determination for integration policies. This includes starting private sponsorship programs for refugees, providing financial incentives to companies for hiring underrepresented migrant populations, and providing cultural education curriculum. This local approach to integration ensures that the community most responsible for making migrant groups feel welcomed are an active participant in the ground-level process. Both the US and Germany have failed to be consistently transparent and communicative in describing how schools, religious institutions, and the private sector must engage migrant populations for successful integration and broader communities to be created.
Tim Fingerhut is a graduate of Sciences Po Paris and interns with the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, with a focus on Eastern Europe and migration.
Michael David Harris is a Civil Affairs Specialist in the Army Reserve and teaches foreign policy to high school students in Chicago, IL.
Jonathan Old studies International Relations at Technische Universität, Dresden. He has worked on NGO Development projects in Germany and India.
Jiayi Zhou is a Researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI); she was a Atlantis Transatlantic Fellow in 2011-2013.