Inclusion and Social Cohesion: Connecting research, data, and policy 

Inclusion and Social Cohesion: Connecting research, data, and policy 

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Access to basic services entails the right to housing, education, energy, and health, among other benefits of public interest which are essential to satisfy human needs – not just to survive, but to also thrive.  

Basic services ensure social justice and contribute to the equal treatment of all citizens. It constitutes a key aspect to promote economic, social, and territorial cohesion, and therefore sustainable development. 

Access to basic services is based on the principles of universal access to goods and essential services as well as fundamental rights. Therefore, states are obliged to regulate and assure the provision of quality services in the interest of promoting and reaching social well-being and the social protection of their populations – citizens and others.  

Access to basic services is based on the principles of universal access to goods and essential services as well as fundamental rights. Therefore, states are obliged to regulate and assure the provision of quality services in the interest of promoting and reaching social well-being and the social protection of their populations – citizens and others.  

Millions of people are displaced across the IGAD region – the Horn of Africa – and across the continent. Many remain excluded from access to basic services, such as healthcare, water, education, housing, transportation, and protection; and with more macro crises, such as climate change, access is becoming even more challenging 

We are at a critical time, there are already more people ‘on the move’ than ever before in human history. Projected global demographic, climate change, and economic crises are already intensifying this dynamic. 

For example, countries in the IGAD region are already experiencing the impacts of extreme weather linked to climate change. From record flooding in Sudan to the worst drought in the Horn of Africa for decades, millions of people have been affected, and millions more displaced. 

Furthermore, the COVID19 pandemic was more than a health crisis. It has triggered the most severe economic recession in nearly a century, pushing millions world-wide into extreme poverty and having devastating consequences across the globe. Access to basic services has become even more challenging. The difficult realities facing those who migrate to, from and within the IGAD region have increased.  

This poses enormous challenges for governments in the region, local communities, and humanitarian and development stakeholders, including the diaspora. Will states try to put up greater barriers and limit mobility? Or will they open their borders and welcome those who have moved – or who have been forced to move – and enable them to build new livelihoods and contribute to their new adoptive homes?  

We can all find examples globally of both trends, and there are no absolute answers to the challenges and opportunities posed by migration and displacement. 

Through our work and our lived experience, we are aware of how migrants and diasporas contribute to socio-economic development in countries of origin, transit, and settlement. They also respond to humanitarian crises through mobilising resources, skills, and transnational action. However, migrants and diasporas are more than just beneficiaries and cash machines. They are active transnational citizens in their origin and settlement countries. 

It is important to recognise that African states, and especially states in the IGAD region, have a proud history of welcoming migrants and refugees. Yet, this should not obscure the root causes of migration from and within the region.  

Mo Ibrahim Foundation 2022

This raises the question of entitlement and access for migrants and displaced people to basic services.  

In the context of challenging global economic headwinds, national governments must make difficult decisions about what public services and goods they can provide to their citizens and others. Increasingly, some states in Europe and North America are seeking to restrict access to basic services for irregular migrants and asylum-seekers as a deterrent to further irregular migration. But this approach is both expensive and ineffective as a deterrent.  

By contrast, a key approach identified by researchers, policymakers, and practitioners is a so-called ‘social floors’ approach, whereby (irregular) migrants and displaced people are able to access basic services such as health, education, as well as labour markets (AUC/ SLE 2020b). 

Arguably, this is not so much an issue for regular (labour) migrants and recognised refugees, as these typically have access to basic service provision. Furthermore, the AUC and RECs like IGAD have made significant progress in facilitating regular inter-African migration flows through continental and regional agreements on labour mobility and portability of benefits. 

By providing access to basic services and employment opportunities and pathways to regularisation, irregular migrants and displaced people can contribute to the societies and communities in which they settle, both in the near- and long- term. 

However, increased irregular migration flows and displacement as a result of political instability, complex (and often recurrent) crises, and environmental degradation threaten to put pressure on the resources and capacities of governments to ‘manage’ irregular migration, as well as on community cohesion.  

By providing access to basic services and employment opportunities and pathways to regularisation, irregular migrants and displaced people can contribute to the societies and communities in which they settle, both in the near- and long- term. 

For example, the African Union migration and health research project presented in the IGAD Scientific conference shows that access to health services for refugees and migrants in Kenya, Nigeria, and S Africa has a positive effect on overall health outcomes. ‘This strongly suggests that extending regularization pathways in African states, even if on a temporary basis, would be an effective policy lever to improve migrants’ access to healthcare, and by extension migrants’ health’ (AUC/ SLE 2022c). 

The global COVID 19 pandemic showed the world the urgent need for coordinated action by governments, civil society, the private sector, and local communities to protect the most vulnerable. 

How we manage migration and displacement, and promote social inclusion and community cohesion, is therefore a critical question for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners alike. We have several policy levers that can be deployed according to the local context, but these need to be based on robust data and evidence. 

This is where our joint endeavours must be intensified. At Shabaka, our focus is on improving our understanding of migration and displacement through better data, analysis, and insight in order to inform more effective policy and programmatic interventions.  Shabaka is proud to be working with IGAD and partners to strengthen the data and statistics capacities of IGAD Member States in relation to migration and displacement.  

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