From 30th January to 1st February 2023, I had the privilege of attending the Abuja Civil Society Forum. The forum was a space for both African civil society and diaspora organisations to come together to discuss migration issues impacting Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. The aims of the Abuja Forum were to formally open the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society process ahead of the 2024 GFMD Summit in Paris and to strengthen the capacity of African civil society and diaspora participants.
Over the course of the forum, panelists and participants discussed several topics related to African migration. This included the need to bring African-centered migration perspectives to the forefront of global migration policies and discussions, the need for states to implement global and regional migration frameworks, and the need for more collaboration between organisations and partners on the continent and in the diaspora to support each other in their work.
The main takeaway of the forum was the creation of the Abuja Statement. The Abuja Statement is an advocacy document created from themes that emerged during discussions on three GFMD priority areas: climate change, labour migration, and diaspora. The statement acknowledges progress made in different areas of global migration policy, highlights concerns of the participants, and provides recommendations for action on these key areas. The statement includes also a fourth section that highlights the importance effective engagement of African civil society in migration processes, barriers that hinder African civil society engagement, and recommendations for increasing engagement.
The Abuja statement is comprehensive and rightfully brings African perspectives on migration issues to the fore in a specific and detailed manner. As Shabaka is a diaspora-led research and consultancy organization focused on migration, diaspora, and humanitarianism, I would like to highlight three recommendations from the Abuja statement that are especially relevant to our work:
Climate Change: Adopt policies and frameworks that factor in climate-induced migration
The Abuja statement acknowledges the impact of climate change on African migration. The African continent has been seriously impacted by climate change, even though African nations have some of the lowest carbon footprints globally. There has been an increase in migration caused by climate change events such as droughts, desertification, deforestation, and coastal erosion, causing more people on the African continent to migrate to safer areas. African migrants in the diaspora are also dealing with the impacts of climate change, such as African migrant farm workers in Italy whose livelihoods are being impacted by drought-included crop failure. Climate change has changed African mobilities. Policies and frameworks need to adapt to accurately support the changing needs of African migrants in Africa and the diaspora in this new context.
Labour migration: Create legal avenues for migrant workers to access social welfare systems and promote the portability of social benefits especially when returning to their countries of origin.
The Abuja statement calls for states to create legal pathways for migrant workers to access social welfare systems in their countries of settlement and in their countries of origin if they return. Implementing such policies would not only assist labour migrants, but also other types of migrants and people who migrate in vulnerable conditions, such as asylum seekers. African students who were unable to leave Ukraine at the outbreak of the Russian invasion in 2022 and asylum seekers in the UK not being able to work or receive benefits until they are granted refugee status are examples of how the inability of migrants to receive social benefits hinders their human rights. Ensuring all migrants have access to social benefits and protection will help their health and well-being in their countries of settlement.
Diaspora: Recognise the important contributions of second and subsequent generations of diasporas (that is the children of migrants and their descendants) in all areas of migration and development as well as humanitarian support and encourage their continued support in diaspora engagement efforts.
The Abuja statement highlights the intergenerational nature of diaspora communities, a point that is often forgotten in discussions on diaspora engagement. Diaspora engagement programs and policies have long focused on the contributions of migrants while neglecting the contributions of the children of migrants and their descendants. Second and subsequent generations of diaspora play very active roles in supporting causes both in their diaspora communities and in their countries of origin. The perspectives of younger generations of diaspora communities should be included in the global migration agenda as they are also impacted by migration polices and frameworks.
The Abuja statement successfully unifies the voices of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora on important migration issues. As civil society and diaspora actors prepare for the GFMD Summit in 2024, I look forward to seeing how Africans across the world will continue to shape the global migration agenda. I am very proud to have been a part of this moment and I look forward to seeing more developments from African civil society and diaspora on the road to the 2024 GFMD.