A Mobile World
The growing numbers of migrants, with their diverse origins, profiles and causes of departure defy any simple explanation. The transnational networks of migrants seeking work are a means of fighting poverty, as well as bringing about social change and the hybridization of societies.
In 2017, there were 258 million migrants in the world, or 3.4% of the global population, representing an increase of 50 % since 2000. Migration is understood to mean all types of population movement involving a change in place of residence, whatever its cause, distance, and duration. In 2017, 65.3 million people left their home country, 21.3 million of them refugees (over half below the age of 18), forced to leave by conflicts and persecutions and protected by international law. Those not able to flee beyond their borders are considered as displaced, and continue to come under the protection of their sovereign state. As for environmental migrants, their status still remains ill-defined and they have little protection. Although there may be massive migration of workers inside states, as in China, international migration of workers is larger still. Whether legal or illegal, qualified or unqualified, men, women, or young people, permanent or temporary, these economic migrants depend on the laws of each host state.
Comment: This diagram shows more than half a century of migratory flows by major regions of departure, identifying departures for other countries in the region or for other regions of the world. The five-year time scale enables irregularities in the curves to be seen, demonstrating the sudden nature and scale of certain movements (political and economic crises, conflicts). In Africa, Europe and the ex-USSR, the intra-regional flows are more substantial, or close to the numbers of departures out of the region. In Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America, departures from the region largely dominate, as they do to a lesser extent in South East Asia. In the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East (although involving very different numbers) the disruption shown is spectacular, with departures out of the region from 1990 on the first graph and, conversely, into the region from 2000 on the second.
Contrary to preconceived ideas, there are slightly more South/South migrations than there are South / North migrations (over 85% of African migrations take place within the continent) and large groups of migrants flow from South America to North America, from Western Asia to the Gulf countries, and from the entire globe to Europe. They are based on former links (ex- colonies, diaspora, language, etc.), spatial proximity, and/or labor needs.
Comment: Although the data are grouped by major regions (except for three countries which have been singled out: Syria, India and Mexico), this map shows the extent to which the movement of people became a generalized phenomenon over the five years from 2010 to 2015 – and this, despite the obstacles they may encounter on the way. North America experiences very substantial inflows of people from all over the globe, just as Europe does, but there are also outflows to other regions of the world and high internal migration. Europe continues to be the main destination for Africans, but internal movement is equivalent to the numbers of departures for other regions. Flows from South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico converge towards the United States, those from the Indian subcontinent and India towards the Gulf countries, and the massive exodus of Syrians primarily affects the Middle East.
Although the decision to migrate is an individual one, it is part of the world-wide context of growing economic inequality in a globalized market economy, as well as of demographic imbalances, poor development and political crises in postcolonial states. The combination of these factors permanently sustains the desire and need of individuals to migrate to somewhere else where they might build a future. Forming themselves into groups means that these costly and dangerous individual choices create or reinforce family, village or community channels.
Compensating for failures in development, the remittances made by migrants to their countries of origin are made possible by regular savings, and represent an amount that is three times higher than public development aid.
Comment: Money transfers by migrants remain difficult to assess since they are transnational and partly escape the regular channels for money transfer because of the wish to avoid high transaction costs. The World Bank publishes a set of data annually on remittances by migrants and second-generation diasporas. By comparing the remittances received and their proportion of GDP, the map reveals their crucial importance to the poorest countries.
These international family, economic, and cultural networks help to subsidize those who have stayed at home to feed and care for themselves, and to educate children. They are also a means of spreading knowledge and skills, which are responsible for profound social changes. As both intermediaries and builders, migrants collectively take charge of providing the basic facilities that the state fails to supply. Such development nevertheless does not mean that migration decreases. On the contrary, it encourages mobility, particularly on the part of those who are most qualified.
Quota-fixing or governance?
Economic migration is a huge transnational phenomenon linking places and societies. It is at the heart of frictions opposing the free flow of non-nationals with the rigidities of territorial sovereign states. While there are no signs that mobility is about to abate, the reaction of Northern states is to recommend restriction of these migratory flows. The limitations they impose, however, create more problems than they resolve. Denial of visas, walls, coastguards, port closures, and detention camps herald the end of free circulation and complete the process, started during the 1970s, of migrants in precarious circumstances settling in societies which had thought they were there temporarily. This geographical exclusion has not only posed the question of integration but has also given rise to a flow of illegal migrants and the creation of an organized criminal activity of people smuggling. The considerable costs of controls have not noticeably lessened the flow; at best, migrants have changed their routes and are taking ever greater risks in an attempt to improve their lot and that of their family. The priority of security has opened up a way to discredit those engaged in humanitarian aid for migrants, without resolving the fears (of losing jobs, identity, security, etc.) cultivated and exploited by xenophobic populism, which is particularly targeted at the people who have been made most vulnerable by economic crises. The criminalization of mobility, accompanied by ethnicization, and cultural and religious phobia, dangerously undermines the democratic foundations of host countries and hinders any debate about mobility, internationality, and alterity.
Comment: In 2017, the UN database estimated (based on national data and calculated estimates) the stock of international migrants (people in the country who were born abroad and, if this information was lacking, the numbers of people holding foreign citizenship) present in each country in relation to the country’s total population at the same date. This number may be underestimated, since new residents with uncertain legal status were not counted. The magnitude of the dataset shows the wide variety of situations (from 0.1% for China, Vietnam, Cuba, Indonesia, Madagascar and Myanmar, to 88% in the United Arab Emirates).
Faced with this deadlock, it is essential for all public and private actors worldwide to come together and devise common supportive measures. Despite an improvement in the knowledge and quantifying of migration, there continues to be a split between the initiatives of international organizations (International Organization for Migration, International Labor Organization, World Bank, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, etc.). Ten years separate the UN General Secretary’s Report of 2006, which underlined the necessity of constructing a migration governance framework, from the New York Declaration of 2016, which put a Global Compact for Migration on the agenda for adoption at the end of 2018.
- Movement of people leaving their country of origin permanently (emigration) to relocate to another country (immigration), which might be voluntary or forced (war, poverty, unemployment, human rights violations, climate factors, etc.), and which often involves temporary stays of varying duration in several transit countries. Migratory flows, which are an integral component of humanity’s history, give rise to a range of public policy measures linked to specific political, economic and cultural contexts and understandings of nationality. Host states seek to organize immigration, sometimes to attract it (need for labor, exploitation of specific territories, naturalizations, etc.), and most often to restrict it (border controls, quotas, residence permits, etc.). In most cases the states of origin seek to maintain relations with their nationals and diaspora communities living abroad.
- refugees > Refugee
- A status applying to persons living outside their country of origin, who have been recognized by their host country as refugees according to definition set out in the Geneva Convention of 1951. This convention grants the protection and assistance of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (HCR) to anyone who, “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” The term refugee should not be confused with that of asylum seeker, which applies to people who have fled their country and have submitted a request for asylum to their host country or to the HCR in order to benefit from refugee status. A refugee has been an asylum seeker, but not all asylum seekers have their request accepted (those who have been rejected must then leave the country).
- conflicts > War
- Violent confrontation between armed groups over values, status, power or scarce resources, in which the aim of each party is to neutralize, weaken or eliminate their adversaries. This organized, collective, armed violence can be undertaken by states (via their national armies) or by non-state groups; it can bring several states into opposition (interstate war) or occur within a single state (civil war). The former, progressively codified within a legal framework, have become rare, while the latter, today primarily caused by state institutional failure, are tending to become more international in scope, to last over time (sometimes decades) and to be extremely devastating, especially for civilian populations.
- borders > Border
- The line that marks the limit of state sovereignty, as distinct from the hazy boundary zones or limits of empires. In no way natural, these long-term historic constructs, which can be more or less endogenous and more or less subject to dispute and violence, are being profoundly altered by contemporary globalization processes. Regional integration processes are transforming and diminishing them – even erasing them, and pushing them back; transnational actors are crossing them or bypassing them; at the same time, they are being closed to migration, while new borders (social, cultural) are being constructed.
- displaced > Displaced
- According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the term describes persons or groups who have been forced or obliged to flee or leave their homes or their habitual place of residence, in particular because of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, or to avoid the effects of these, but who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border. These are known as IDPs (internally displaced persons).
- environmental migrants > Environmental migrant
- Environmental migration describes the movements of populations, voluntary or forced, short-term or permanent, over greater or lesser distances, driven by environmental conditions in their place of origin (progressive degradation, sudden natural disasters, etc.). The International Organization for Migration defines environmental migrants as “persons or groups of persons who, for compelling reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad.”
- colonies > Colonization
- A historical process by which Europe established deep links with the rest of the world. From the late fifteenth century (the Age of Discovery), a vast movement began for economic, political, and cultural domination of the world, first by Spain and Portugal and then by England, France, and Holland, which from the late sixteenth century started to compete for possession of colonial wealth. A second wave of colonization took place in the nineteenth century, when all the countries of South America that had been under the first two empires were already independent. The Industrial Revolution encouraged the search for new markets, and France and England jockeyed for a share of part of Asia and Africa. The colonized territories had different statuses (dominions, protectorates, or direct rule).
- diaspora > Diaspora
- A set of communities that are often dispersed over very considerable distances, but remain linked by economic, financial, and cultural exchanges, and refer to a land and culture of origin. Acceleration of the globalization process and the increased number of migrants have given new life to former diasporas (Jewish, Greek, Armenian, Chinese, Indian) as well as creating new ones (countries of the Southern hemisphere). The ability to preserve cultural references from one generation to another and independently of distance is a function of the dense international networks they construct. By extension, the term diaspora is used by governments of the South to talk about their migrant workers in the North, whose remittances to the home country contribute to GDP.
- individual > Individual
- The individual, as a basic social actor, is playing an increasingly important role in the processes of globalization for multiple reasons, including the ever-faster circulation of ideas, values and information; the ability to build networks for sharing and solidarity without physical proximity; the networking of international expertise; and human rights movements and demands for democracy.
- inequality > Inequality
- Unequal distribution of goods, material and/or non-material, regarded as necessary or desirable. Beyond income inequality (national, international and global), cumulative inequalities can also be measured with respect to accessing public services (healthcare, education, employment, housing, justice, effective security, etc.) and accessing property and natural resources more generally, and also relative to political expression or the capacity to respond to ecological risks. When these inequalities are based on criteria prohibited by law, they constitute discrimination.
- market economy > Capitalism
- An economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and the free market (free enterprise, free trade, free competition, etc.; the foundations of liberalism). In this system, the capital holders (as distinct from employees who form the workforce and who, according to Marx, are exploited) seek to maximize their profits (accumulating capital). After the end of feudalism, the system took hold during the Industrial Revolution. Now adopted by all countries (with the exception of communist ones), it takes multiple forms, and still includes state intervention (to a greater or lesser extent), for the purpose of regulation (notably in the Rhineland model or the social market economy in Scandinavian countries) or as actor and planner (Japan, Singapore, France, etc.).
- development > Development
- Definitions of development and its opposite – underdevelopment – have varied considerably according to the political objectives and ideological positions of those using these words. In the 1970s, Walt Whitman Rostow conceived of it as an almost mechanical process involving successive stages of economic growth and social improvement, whereas Samir Amin analyzed the relationships between center and peripheries, seeing the development of the former as founded on the exploitation of the latter. In Latin America, the dependency theory condemned the ethnocentrism of the universal view that the “periphery” of underdeveloped states could simply catch up through modernization. Talking of poor or developing “countries” masks the inequalities that also exist within societies (in both Northern and Southern hemispheres) and individuals’ connections to globalization processes.
- states > State
- The state is a political system that is centralized (unlike the feudal system), differentiated (from civil society, public/private space), institutionalized (institutions are depersonalized), territorialized (a territory whose borders mark the absolute limit of its jurisdiction), that claims sovereignty (holding ultimate power) and that bears responsibility for ensuring its population’s security. In public international law, the state is defined as a population living on a territory defined by borders subject to a political authority (the national territorial state).
- community > Communitarian
- Notions that appeared in the late 1970s on the political science, denoting the development of identity, a sense of belonging, and allegiance on ethnic, linguistic, religious, or sociological grounds, aside from or even against the state and the social contract it is supposed to guarantee. Contemporary globalization is profoundly altering the role of states and individuals, as well as the complex relationships between the universal and the particular, thus opening up spaces for multiple forms of communitarianism to emerge.
- remittances > Remittances
- Financial transfers from migrants to their country of origin, made either directly by individuals or through financial transfer companies with varying costs. These remittances are identified and studied by the World Bank. For some countries they may represent a sizable share of GDP. They also enable the migrants’ families to feed and care for themselves and to be consumers at a minimum level, and/or may allow villages to finance infrastructure (schools, health centers, etc.) where government investment is lacking.
- development aid > Official development assistance
- Gifts and loans granted by developed countries (bilateral aid) and international institutions (multilateral aid) to developing and less developed countries: food aid, technical assistance, military assistance, debt relief, and so on. Bilateral aid (2/3 of world aid) leads to dependency (obligation to buy goods and services from the donor’s companies). Introduced during the Cold War era and the time of decolonization, it was used by the United States and the USSR to create or maintain links with their respective blocs, as well as between former metropoles and their former empires. The target of spending 0.7% of developed countries’ GDP for ODA, which was set by the UN in 1970, has only rarely been reached. The European Union is the primary world provider of aid. Multilateral aid is conditional upon respecting economic and political “good governance” criteria.
- networks > Network
- Classical geography tended to place too much importance on surface areas, territories, countries and soil, but network analysis has now become central to its approach. Networks are defined as spaces in which distance is discontinuous and consists of nodes linked by lines. Some are physical (networks for the transportation of people, goods and energy, IT cables and information super highways), others not. When they are partly virtual (such as the internet), they also involve individuals and organizations. Philosophers (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari), sociologists (Manuel Castells), political scientists (James Rosenau), and economists use this concept to analyze the interconnected functioning of individuals.
- flows > Flows
- Increasing flows of goods and assets, tangible and intangible, of capital and of people are characteristic of the globalization processes currently underway. This cross-border mobility constitutes a spatial phenomenon that geographers and cartographers, focused as they have been on territory, have been relatively slow to examine. These flows are organized in networks of varying degrees of density, not because territories and places are similar and interchangeable but because they are different and interdependent. They presuppose infrastructures (submarine cables, oil and gas pipelines, routes via land, sea, river and air) and logistics businesses (intermodal ports, freight airports, e-commerce warehouses, data hubs, etc.).
- circulation > Circulation
- People, merchandise, services, capital, information, ideas, values, and models are being transferred and exchanged in ever-increasing numbers. The expansion, diversification, and acceleration of movement typify the ongoing process of globalization. Circulation connects economic and social spaces through networks which, depending on their density, fluidity, output, and hierarchy, can differentiate them considerably. Of all types of circulation, information in the broadest sense is experiencing the most rapid growth, whereas the circulation of people is the one encountering most obstacles.
- integration > Integration
- Concept with multiple uses. The opposite of “segregation,” with reference to the incorporation of foreigners within host societies, “integration” means more than just inclusion by juxtaposition (multiculturalism) but is different from assimilation. Spatial integration refers to the progressive incorporation of peripheral, marginalized spaces within a central spatial system. The problem of social disintegration occurs when groups experience multiple types of exclusion at once: economic, social, political and spatial. The globalization processes that are connecting societies but maintaining or deepening social, economic, health and cultural disparities between and within these societies, are creating and reproducing a global social integration deficit that is increasingly apparent to those excluded.
- organized criminal > Mafia
- Term originally referring to Italian criminal groups, it is now applied generically to all illegal economic networks based on organized crime (drugs, rackets, prostitution, counterfeiting, etc.). These groups, the least well-known of all transnational actors, are highly organized, strictly hierarchical and growing fast in states that either tolerate them or cannot control them (Russia, China, Mexico, Colombia), where their role within the economy can be considerable.
- identity > Identity
- The concept of identity is ambiguous, multifaceted, subjective, and frequently exploited and manipulated. No identity is foreordained or natural – so it is better to talk of identity construction, or of the processes of constructing self-representations developed by an individual or group. These constructions are neither stable nor permanent, defining the individual or group from multiple perspectives: on its own terms, in relation or opposition to others, and by others. The way individuals and groups use identity varies according to their interests and the constraints inherent in their specific situation: identity, therefore, is a construct based on interaction. This combination of affiliations, allegiances and internal and external recognition is a complex process, involving various degrees of awareness and contradiction, constantly being amalgamated and reconfigured.
- populism > Populism
- Populism refers to different forms of political language that establish a dichotomy between the people, whom the populists claim to represent, and political and economic elites, which they accuse of appropriating the sovereignty of the people and exploiting institutions for their own benefit (the “system”). In the international arena, the different strands of populism are similar in their denunciation of globalization as solely benefitting a minority, but differ in that some (such as the Bolivarian movements) advocate a form of internationalism, while others adopt identity-based or neo-nativist language (notably European populism of the far right).
- ethnicization > Ethnicity
- Ethnicity is a descriptive category that appeared at the end of the 19th century, constructed by anthropologists and disseminated by colonial administrations. Unlike “race” it does not reference biological criteria but designates a group of individuals with the same origin, the same cultural tradition, whose unity is based on language, history, territory, beliefs and the awareness of belonging to an ethnic group. Ethnicity, which some have claimed to be a natural phenomenon, is in fact a social construct, externally imposed or claimed, at once arbitrary and evolving. Proposed as an exclusive identity, it becomes all the more powerful as an instrument of political mobilization when the state is in difficulty. Ethnocentrism consists in understanding the world exclusively through the lens of one’s own culture and seeking to impose this interpretation.
- cultural > Culture
- Culture is what distinguishes human existence from the natural state, that is to say it denotes the processes through which humans use and develop their intellectual capacities. According to Clifford Geertz (1973), culture is a system of significations commonly shared by the members of a social community, who use them in their interactions. Cultures are therefore not immutable but change according to social practices, incorporating processes of both inclusion and exclusion. Culturalism is a concept which considers that supposed collective beliefs and membership of a particular culture predetermine social behavior.
- alterity > Alterity
- Alterity is the state of being “other,” outside of what is represented by an individual’s characteristics or those of a given socio-political or cultural environment. It is used here mainly in a cultural and political sense.
- international organizations > International Organization
- In the words of Clive Archer, an IO is “a formal, continuous structure established by agreement between members (governmental and/or non-governmental) from two or more sovereign states with the aim of pursuing the common interest of the membership.” Marie-Claude Smouts identifies three characteristics of IOs: they arise out of a “founding act” (treaty, charter, statute), have a material existence (headquarters, finance, staff), and form a “coordination mechanism.
- governance > Governance
- Inspired by management and entrepreneurship, the expression global governance refers to the formal and informal institutions, mechanisms and processes through which international relations between states, citizens, markets and international and non-governmental organizations are established and structured. The global governance system aims to articulate collective interests, to establish rights and duties, to arbitrate disputes and to determine the appropriate regulatory mechanisms for the issues and actors in question. Governance takes various forms: global multilateral governance, club-based governance (restricted to members, e.g. G7/8/20), polycentric governance (juxtaposition of regulatory and management mechanisms operating at various levels), and so on.