Communicating the SDGs? Mind your business!

Open Air Museum, Vancouver

When analyzing Eastern European’s reactions to the refugee crisis Ivan Krastev rightly pointed to a compassion deficit[1], quoting statistics that showed that the citizens of the Czech Republic were against allocating any public resources to help the refugees and Slovakia’s Prime Minister saying that 95% of the people arriving to Europe are not ‘real’ refugees and in any case Slovakia could only receive Christians into the country. In Romania, President Iohannis embarrassed himself by first saying that under no circumstance will Romania receive more than 1700 refugees, just to realize later that he will have to bend to the quota voted by the European leaders in Brussels and receive a bit over 6000 people. Still in Romania, after World Vision launched a fundraising campaign for the refugee children, under the slogan ‘They have no fault, but they are the most affected’, cynical comments flooded their social media channels:  ‘Why don’t you help the poor Romanian children? Poverty in Romania is rampant and all you can think is how to help a group of future killers’, ‘Their only fault is that they have stupid parents’, ‘These kids are dangerous. They are taught to kill from very early ages. Help Romanian children instead’.

How, in this context, can we expect to successfully communicate the Sustainable Development Goals in the Eastern European countries? UK observers deplore than less than 4% of the British citizens knew about the MDGs in 2013 and call for better communication strategies to be created for the SDGs. If this is the case in one of the countries who invented the notion of ‘international development’ from the ashes of the colonialism ideology, how much bigger the need is in a country like Romania, Bulgaria or Hungary (to name just a few) where the majority of the people believe that they still need to be helped to overcome their own poverty and where events from the developing countries are very rarely reported by the media?

Here are four simple ideas:

Mind your messenger.

The agreement on a new global plan to fight poverty is an important step, but similar plans have been presented and have failed in the past. Many in the post-development circles show that after 60 years of ‘development’ and trillions spent, poverty is still a shameful reality of the human race, at a time when we would have all the resources to truly eradicate it, as the supporters of the development business have been trumpeting all along the way. Development is growingly contested as a useful technology and many call for its demise. ‘Development is dead’ or it should be killed as soon as possible, say thinkers  like Wolfgang Sachs, Gustavo Esteva, Dambisa Moyo, James Ferguson, Serge Latouche and many others. In Eastern Europe not many will remember the Millennium Development Goals and still fewer will be able to say if they were a success or a failure, but many believe that our own development is our first priority and a promise that was not delivered on. Additionally, racism is rampant, with many people believing that other nations do not develop simply because they are too lazy to do so. Cynicism is also on the rise as shown by the recent refugee crisis.

Who, in this context, is the right messenger for promoting the SDGs? CEOs of big NGOs or inter-governmental organizations (many of them perceived as indulging in luxury and totally disconnected from the ‘normal’ people), high profile public officials, diplomatic staff will in no way be the best people to communicate that. The people who should carry the message should be perceived as genuine and legitimate: those who can talk about poverty from their own efforts to help poor people or those who know poverty in and out because they live in it. Compelling story-telling techniques rather than sophisticated advertising techniques should be used. The story of the people who fight poverty or the story of the people experiencing poverty should be documented, told and disseminated instead of advertising vague messages about how the world should fight poverty. The costs would probably be in the same range, with far better results that can also have indirect results, such as reducing the mental space for racism and cynicism.

Mind your language

The development business is infested by technical jargon, many ‘isms’ that combine into long and abstract sentences that are incomprehensible for the non-expert audiences, i.e. the majority of the population. Mass murders are transformed in ‘abuses’, wars become ‘tensions’, ‘incidents’ or ‘crisis’, starving children and adults become ‘people who leave on 1.25 USD / day’, the millions who run from  torture are actually facing ‘escalations’. In terms of actions, what we do is to ‘condemn’, ‘regret’, ‘deplore’, express ‘concern’, ask for resolutions and make recommendations on top of other thousands of recommendations and resolutions never heeded by anyone. Jargon can never produce the empathy which is needed for the global solidarity movement that is implied by the SDGs, but it can surely create the kind of misunderstandings that lead to prejudice and narrow-mindedness. The messages should therefore be ‘tested’ with their end users and not only in the large creative agencies or communications departments of the institutions and the organizations meant to lead the ‘awareness’ campaign. In general, the civil society should consider fighting the ‘discursive’ war that waters down the big tragedies of our world in a way that allows for starvation in a time of lavish affluence. Fighting under-development is the word of the day, but why not fighting the over-development that creates and perpetuates under-development? Fighting poverty can easily turn into fighting the poor, if the ways of the opulent are not considered.

Mind your business

In the Eastern European countries the talk about the predicament of the developing countries is constantly opposed to ‘our own poverty’. In Romania and other EU Member States the failure of the state administrations to integrate the Roma populations created unprecedented levels of racism. Many still use the term ‘crow’ to refer to the Roma citizens, as they use the term ‘monkey’ to refer to non-white persons. Before 1989 the non-aligned movement included the Eastern European countries in a global movement where under-development was hotly debated, although ideologically blamed on the Western countries. In those years the Romanian ‘Scînteia’ (the main newspaper) had a whole page on international affairs and very often the articles reflected the situation of the developing countries, global meetings, Romania’s positions in the international summits, etc. After 1989 the ‘free’ but resource-depleted mass media stopped reporting from the developing countries which totally disappeared from the public discourse. For the regular Romanian, Romania is probably one of the poorest country in the world and statistics showing that Romania scores in the first 70 countries in the world in the Human Development Index are not convincing. And still, the voices who want us to first address ‘our own poverty’ before any talk about global development are frequently dismissed by development professionals as a proof of degrading and outdated selfishness that should be quickly marginalized. This can result only in frustration on both ends, while a middle way, that of speaking of co-development and the global inter-dependencies do exist, although it would require us to go the extra mile for identifying those areas where these inter-dependencies could be explored and harnessed.

Mind the compassion deficit

Krastev is doing us a big favor when coining the metaphor of the ‘compassion deficit’, as he gives us a crucial insight into how our SDGs communication campaigns should be framed. People in the ‘new’ EU Member States were eager to join the EU for the prosperity promise. A promise about how prosperity would be shared with themselves and not about how they would be expected to share with the ‘others’. Living at the margins of the most developed club of nations, not far from the shiny comforts of some of the most industrialized countries in the world, the Eastern European citizens feel that they are the unluckiest people in the world. History had wickedly conspired to keep them away from progress. Any comparisons with those who are even unluckier is taken as a bad joke. Blinded with the sparkly luxuries they can almost touch across a border that does not even exist any longer, Eastern Europeans feel that they suffered enough and now they ‘deserve’ to be as developed as anyone can dream.  the  In the EU ‘new’ Member States any SDG ‘awareness campaigns’ needs to take this complex aspirations into account and probably build on them, instead of dismissing them. Smart communicators will want to talk about common interests, before they speak about any ‘duty’ or moral obligation to help those in need.

[1] Ivan Krastev, Easter Europe’s Compassion Deficit, available at:


Mirela Oprea has earned a PhD in international development from the University of Bologna and she is a Senior Liaison Manager at World Vision Middle East and Eastern Europe. She writes a blog at


Migration – the buzzword of the moment

Migration-related words seem to have become the buzzwords of 2015 lexicon: about 60 million refugees worldwide, millions of economic migrants, almost 100 million people dependent on everyday humanitarian aid to survive, large-scale displacements in Ukraine, millions at risk of famine in South Sudan, 5 years of conflict in Syria, 1 year of ISIS, plenty of minorities slipping into oblivion. The picture looks gloomy at the moment and the phenomenon of migration is both academically and professionally challenging.


Alexandra: We are interviewing Irina Mihalcuţ, a young professional in international development with a strong background in migration policies.


Irina, June 2014 ©StudioAlb


The concept of migration has a very special meaning for you. It can be translated through many stories and serendipitous moments that have marked your personal and professional path. With a Master Degree in Migration and European Affairs from Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium) and Babes-Bolyai University (Romania), your first professional experience with the phenomenon of migration was in Italy where you worked as a Cultural Mediator and Social and Legal counselor for a local immigration office. Before joining the team of UNCHR in Malta you have experienced the status of a foreign student in Belgium and the one of a migrant in Italy, Belgium and South Korea.



What first made you to choose migration as the core topic of your studies and then, of your profession?

Irina:  Yes, as you have mentioned already, the concept of migration has played a very important role in my life. When I was about 13 years old, I heard from my family about an uncle of my father who ran away from Communist Romania and became a refugee in France. He was a Catholic priest in a small village in the region of Moldova and he tried to oppose the Regime through different actions in his community. Of course, he was living with the constant fear of being stopped by the authorities but despite that he continued his work, mainly in awakening the community through his preaching. One day, the Securitatea was informed and of course they took him for questioning. I do not know all the details related to what exactly happened to him after, but apparently one day he just disappeared and nobody from the family saw him again. Only after the fall of the Communism, they found out that he became a refugee in France. There, apparently, continued to work as a priest until his death. Some years ago I actually have managed, by chance, to find a book written by him during his stay in France. It is really incredible to have found a copy of that book with his signature on it. It was a very emotional moment!

This family story was the starting point for me in getting interested in the topic of asylum and migration. It would have been great if during High School we had had some classes about migration. Not necessary as a separate subject, but somehow integrated in the curricula of another subject, like History or Social Sciences. That would have helped me understand earlier so many issues related to this phenomenon, which is part of the human history since its beginnings. Migration affects almost everybody’s lives in our current society and it is important to make people think from an earlier age about the consequences of migration, the effects of conflicts and what it means to be a refugee. Only like that we can diminish and, hopefully, even eliminate rampant racism, discrimination and xenophobia which are so much prevant in our societies these days. Only like that we can prevent the manipulation of the masses by media and politicians.

The second main reason why I became so much interested in the migration phenomenon is also a personal one. My mother has become an economic migrant in the late ’90s. She was “forced” to leave Romania by the economic situation in our town and her desire to make sure that I have a better future. She had to leave me alone while I was still in High School and that had a tremendous impact on the way I have perceived and led my life afterwards. Through her experience as a migrant I have learned about the many difficulties a foreigner can encounter while working and living abroad, I learned about the emotional costs that a migrant has to pay but, I also learned about the wonderful gifts that the world can offer to these courageous people. Yes, all persons who decide to leave their country for any reason, are very courageous people. Some have it easier than others, but for all of them the hearts will always long for something left back home: their family, a friend, a special place, a dish, a landscape, a feeling, a particular time in their youth etc.

The abovementioned reasons made me become interested in the topic of migration and determined me to become a migrant myself. Since September 2004, this life style has become my “full-time job”  when I started my Master Degree in Brussels and I think I will not stop being a nomad for quite some time from now on. You know what they say? Dust if you must, but the world’s out there/With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,/A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,/This day will not come around again... as in Rose Millingan’s poem.

Alexandra:  In Italy you used to work with refugees and economic migrants seeking for a better life in Western Europe. What have been the common misconceptions about migration that you encountered in your work at the immigration office in Italy?

Irina:  Yes, I had the chance to work with refugees and economic migrants in Italy for some time in 2005 and in 2007. It was a very challenging experience for me, since I was still at the beginning of my professional career; nevertheless, during those times, I learned a lot about what I wanted to do in the future. And more than that, through interaction with colleagues from different teams I worked with I learnt how to balance emotions, reactions and actions, how to become a good professional in such a tough environment.

During those times, I understood that there are three types of professionals working in the migration and asylum environments: 1) the pastoral ones – these are the ones who give everything to the people they are working for; they do not separate their personal lives from the work life; they do not have the strength to say “no” when is needed; they are the ones who are ready to listen to the life story of a person for the tenth time at three o’clock in the morning; 2) the technical onesthese are the ones who do not shed a tear when they hear a horrific story form a war situation; they are the ones who will stop the interview with five minutes before the end of their working office hours and, even if that moment might be crucial for the status determination of that case, they do not care; 3) the techno-pastoral onesthese are the ones that can show compassion, but who can also say when needed now it’s enough! Take your life in your hands and start living again, do not expect the system to do it for you!; they are the ones who separate their personal lives from the work life but who can say Hi! How is your family? How were things for you lately? whenever they meet a migrant/refugee on the street.

In my opinion, the first two types are often met in the migrant/refugee contexts (including in the Italian Immigration Office where I worked) and are very dangerous. The professionals falling in the first category create most of the time an emotional dependency for their clients and the ones found in the second category provoke fear and inhibition in the hearts and minds of the migrants/refugees with whom they deal with. These two categories of professionals contribute a lot to the failure of the projects and programmes they try to implement and they fuel very much the misconceptions about what migration and asylum seeking means. On one side, the migrants/refugees either believe that their lives are in the “hands” of the system or they just avoid telling the truth because they fear the system (depending on what type of professionals they deal with). On the other side, these failed projects and programmes are used by media to create sensational news, by politicians to create “catchy” propaganda slogans and by hosting communities to blame foreigners for their socio-economic problems.

From my point of view, the third category of professionals – the techno-pastoral ones – are the best. They are the ones giving the emotional comfort needed so much by the migrants and refugees, laying the foundation for trust and truth and for successful personal stories, but in the same time they are the ones ready to tell at the right moment that is time for the migrants/refugees to take their lives in their hands and not to behave constantly as vulnerable and victims.

I have mentioned these categories of professionals working in migration and refugee contexts because I believe they are very often the main responsible for the existence of many misconceptions about migration and the way they act influences a lot how migration and asylum seeking are perceived by everybody.


Irina Mihalcut (in the middle) with her colleagues at UNCHR, World Refugee Day (2011)

Alexandra: Working with UNCHR in Malta (2009 – 2012) while the new office was opening in Valletta was definitely a great professional challenge. What were your main tasks and how did a day-to-day work look for you? What gave you most job satisfaction? 

Irina:  Yes, you are right. It was a very challenging professional experience working with UNHCR in Malta while the new national office was established. The Country Agreement between UNHCR and the Government of Malta was just signed when I arrived in the archipelago (the summer of 2009) and the initial steps for the set-up of the office had to be finalized by the end of the same year. I started my employment with UNHCR sometimes in November, mainly due to bureaucratic delays related to a slow national process for getting the work permit in Malta. Yes, I was again experiencing on my own skin what it meant to be a migrant.

I have been hired to assist the Country Representative in all aspects related to the set-up of the new office. My tasks were very technical at the beginning and mainly related to logistics, procurement, administration, human resources, IT and finance. I have received an empty building, that required a lot of repairs and improvements, and my task was to make that place a functional office. In the first months, a “normal” day at the office meant long hours of technical work and learning. I was new in Malta and in the same time it was my first experience in such a large organization built on a very complex system of rules and regulations and I had very little time to “get used to it”. I had to do it fast and I had to ensure that everything was done according to the UN requirements and in accordance with the local rules and regulations.

After the whole rush for the set-up of the office has ended, I also started getting involved directly in the other activities planned by the UNHCR office. Therefore I was also going with my colleagues from the Protection and Durable Solutions departments in the open and closed centers to do registration of persons of concern (PoC), to distribute non-food items to the newly arrived, to do counseling or simply to monitor what was going on in the different locations. In 2010, due to the large number of new arrivals coming from North-Africa (due to the Arab Spring revolutions), the UNHCR office has started also an intra-European Relocation Project, in which Romania took part as well. Since our office team was small and our projects were many, I helped my colleagues in identifying and counseling the PoC to be submitted for relocation to one of the ten EU states who offered to share the burden with Malta.

In 2011, apart of all the above mentioned activities, I was also involved in the preparation of a contingency plan for Malta in coordination with the other UN agencies present in the country and with the local authorities (especially with the Maltese Civil Protection). We needed to do that so that we could respond immediately to large influxes of asylum seekers coming in the archipelago. We set-up the first non-food items warehouse in Western Europe and that implied a lot of coordination with our offices from the region, from the HQ and from the Middle-East (where the items were shipped from), with shipping companies and of course with the local Maltese authorities.

During the three years I have spent with UNHCR Malta, I did a lot of interesting activities and my days of work were extremely diverse, because I was interested in learning a bit from all the departments. I was hired for a very technical post but I wanted to be also close to the PoC as much as possible. My joy and satisfaction during this professional experience came from seeing my team happy because they had a functional office and from the reactions of the different PoC that I have interacted with. For example, one day in 2011 I have received a phone call from one of the Ethiopian refugees that I worked with. He called me to tell that he was accepted to be relocated to Norway (where one of his brothers was living) and he wanted to thank me for the way I encouraged him one day while I did a visit in the center where him and his family were hosted. He said that my kind words and the way I behaved gave him courage and hope, and that was a turning point in his life which marked the beginning of a new personal chapter. That was an emotional moment for me and I was given an insight into what an important role me and my colleagues had in the life of those people. I still keep in touch with him and I am so happy to hear that him and his family are achieving so much in their new home country.

From this professional experience I learned that no matter what you do, if you do it with enthusiasm, if the things you accomplish are done with love and a sense of purpose, then you can change lives.

Alexandra: In Romania, you were the National Focal Point for Romania for the European Resettlement Network (2013-2014). During that period, 40 selected Iraqi refugees have been resettled from their camp in Turkey to Romania. These days there is a huge debate about hosting a certain quota of refugees from Syria in Romania. From your experience gathered during the abovementioned experience, how would you assess the main challenges encountered by the responsible authorities and the Romanian civil society during the current debate about welcoming and integrating refugees?

Irina: Indeed, in my role as ERN NFP for Romania, I had the chance to get involved also in the different discussions held at the national level, about the resettlement of 40 Iraqi refugees to Romania. During those discussions it became very clear that Romania had still a lot of difficulties in welcoming and facilitating the integration of persons in need of protection. There were several factors that contributed and still contribute to this situation: 1) the Romanian asylum system is still quite young, 2) the lack of real coordination between the different non-governmental organization in the country is still present, 3) the economic problems and the lack of jobs at the national level are current topics, 4) the small immigrant communities present in the country, 5) the low involvement of the administrative authorities from the local levels and of course 6) the desire of the refugees to have a better new start in life which would be assured by a more developed country in the Western of Europe.

When we think about welcoming asylum seekers and persons with a form of protection, both in Romania and in Europe in general, we have to remember that we are talking about saving lives first of all and, in my opinion, this element is often placed on a secondary place by the different actors involved in the discussions. Recently the President, Mr. Iohannis said that Romania is ready to welcome 1785 in need of protection while the EU said that Romania should take 6351. When I hear these discussions I feel like we are at a market where things can be negotiated. No, lives cannot be negotiated!

I understand the different issues connected to receiving new asylum seekers, especially when they come from a very different social and religious context, but we do have to open our country and our continent to saving as many people as possible no matter where are they coming from, no matter how educated they are and no matter how strong they are. I still remember the ridiculous criteria used by some countries in receiving refugees for relocation from Malta. They had to be Christians, educated, to speak one foreign language, to not need special medical care and/ or to not want family reunification.

Did Romanians forget that we were “exporting” refugees during Communism? Did Europeans forget that a total of about 60 million Europeans became refugees during the entire World War II period and that (according to the UN) a million people had yet to find a place to settle down by 1951, more than five years after the fighting stopped? What would have happened to those Europeans if the borders would have been closed for them when trying to escape war and famine?

Of course, there are some countries better ecquiped than others that can accept persons în need of protection, but this is a very cheap excuse from some European governments (especially în the Eastern Europe) and it is time to look at values that are beyond economical and financial matters: like hospitality and humanity.

At the same time, it is the moment for the finalization of a common European Asylum system and for a bigger freedom of movement within the EU borders for all persons with a form of protection. If it will be put in place an easyer way for these persons to move and to compete for the labour market around the EU member states, then there will be less trafficking and less irregular work. There will be less traumatized people, less „asylum shopping” and more competition on the labour market which, on a longer term, will inevitably motivate both the European citiziens and the persons with a form of protection to learn new skills and develop personally and professionaly.

Imagine if all asylum seekers would be allowed to work and study immediately after their registration with the local authorities, then there will be a smaller need for financial support from the local entities and those persons would learn immediately more about the hosting society, they would be able to make friends from amongst the locals, they would learn the local language faster and they would keep themselves busy while waiting for the result of their status determination. Briefly, the process of integration would be much faster and more successful! In my opinion, if governments around Europe would focus more on supporting and welcoming than on prohibiting and limiting, the current situation would not be defined as a “refugee crisis” but rather a “new page in the European humanitarian intervention”.

SDG-Goal-10-inequalityAlexandra:  Less than one month ago, the new Sustainable Development Goals have been adopted by the world leaders gathered at the UN Summit in New York. The goal no. 10 and more specifically the target 10.7 include specific references related to migrants and the migration phenomenon. How would you comment the importance given to migration in the current Post-2015 Agenda?

Irina: While I was working as NFP for ERN in Romania, I had the opportunity to participate in July 2014 to the Development Camp organized by FOND Romania. That edition was dedicated to the discussions related to the international agenda post 2015 and it was part of the “global conversations” meant to identify the priority areas to be addressed in the SDG goals. During the discussions held there it became clear that migration had to be included in the list of specific targets for the new development goals because this phenomenon is an integral part of the international development. Foreigners can contribute very much to the diversification of local economies and can refresh the local societies. Because of their presence the locals will find a stronger motivation to learn new skills and find new opportunities. In most of the cases, every migrant contributes to the global fight for reducing the social and economical inequalities. If all people can assert their interests without the fear of becoming “illegals or irregulars” the process of reducing poverty around the world will go much faster.I am very glad to see that migration was included in the list of targets for the new development goals. The now expired MDGs did not mention anything specific about migrants or persons in need of international protection and it was about time to include this topic in the global agenda.

“Regular and responsible migration and mobility of people”, “implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies” are notions much needed in the new global agenda. The MDGs were meant to be applied to all the countries in the world but in fact they became targets for poor countries to achieve with financial support from the wealthy states and, the inclusion of a topic like “migration” shifts the pressure on all the countries (including the wealthy ones) to contribute to the achievement of the new goals.

Alexandra:  The daily path never ends says an African/ Masai proverb. A couple of months ago, you moved to Tanzania where you work with a local NGO. Could you tell us more about your projects over there? How does this experience match with your migration-related professional background?


Lugarawa, Tanzania (2015)

Irina: I arrived in Tanzania at the end of February 2015 and immediately after I have started my collaboration with a local foundation. I live in a small village (of about 2000 people) in the Southern-Highlands of Tanzania, not far from the border with Malawi, in a very fertile and picturesque area, but where the majority of people live beneath the poverty line and the population is heavily dependent on subsistence farming and various forms of aid. It is my first time in Africa and I am so lucky to live this experience in this village. I have decided to work with the foundation because I understood from my first meeting with the team that they are different. The motivation for doing something for their community and for contributing to the development of their region, was originating from their hearts and not from a foreign impulse or from a personal financial desire.

They are all volunteers and they did all their projects with very little financial support. The team is made mainly of doctors, teachers and business owners. It is a small team but, due to their energy and dedication, together we managed to achieve a lot in a very short time.

As Program Officer, I take care (among other things) of launching and coordinating new projects, of managing fund-raising actions, of planning new strategies and of changing the image of the foundation. Some of the projects we did in the past months included activities related to: 1) childrens rights; 2) respecting and protecting the environement; 3) prevention of conflicts; 4) identification of young leaders in the community; 5) supporting small business ideas; 6) identification of causes for poor performance in schools.

We did also a lot of meetings with local villagers, with students and local leaders during which we discussed also about asylum and refugees. We did this mainly because of two reasons: 1) Tanzania started receiving new asylum seekers coming from Burundi, due to the civil unrest related to the latest Burundian Presidential elections and 2) Tanzania has been preparing for national elections which will take place towards the end of October 2015. During our discussions we emphasised the fact that Tanzania is the most peaceful country in the region (and has been like this since its independence in the ’60s) and the only way for this country to remain like this is for its inhabitants to continue living peacefully in diversity and to contiue working assidously on preventing conflicts.

Apart of the above mentioned activities, we have recently organized a festival, which involved the communities from three villages. The festival had several components, including: 1) awareness about protecting the environment (in special the de-forestation of the mountains and the impact on the water sources in the area); 2) to re-connect those born in the area and who migrated to other destinations with their home communities; 3) the development of a ethno-historical research about the region; and 4) “planting the seeds” for the construction of a community center (where locals could have a library, could take various courses, could make cultural meetings).

The work that I currently do is not related to managing migration, however, it has provided me with an insight into the importance of migration at a micro level. For example, I understand better now the necessity of migration for personal socio-economic development (mainly related to access to education and labor market mobility) and the restrictions that potential migrants meet due to limited resources, high costs and lack of a network for information and experience exchange. And, yet another time, I am experiencing the life of a migrant. I am learning a new language, I am discovering a new culture and the most important, I understand much better what are the best ways of working efficiently in international development projects.

“Development Cooperation Days” Romanian Development Camp, 8th edition

devThe Romanian Development Camp 2015 – entitled “Development Cooperation Days” was a public event organised by the Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme –  Regional Centre for Europe and Central Asia. This edition took place between 8th – 10th of July in Bucharest in the context of the European Year for Development 2015. Having the unique opportunity to bring the public closer to development issues, the event’s main purpose was to raise awareness on Romania’s role as an international donor and inspire Romanian institutions, organisations and individuals to become more involved in the global efforts of eradicating poverty in the world.

Reaching its 8th edition, the Romanian Development Camp has become a traditional annual event, which reunites representatives from NGOs, government, academia and mass-media within a unique space dedicated to fostering an open and constructive dialogue on topics relevant for the field of international development cooperation. as

This year’s edition was different from all the others, being an interactive and open event which combined plenary sessions and thematic workshops with side-events such as a movie projection and debate, photo exhibition, theatre forum and a projects’ fair. Throughout these activities, the audience had the chance to better understand how aid works and how they can become more involved in development efforts. Also the projects’ fair offered visibility to development projects and activities with focus on results and provided the tools to better communicate development projects and results.

Moreover, the 2015 edition of the Romanian Development Camp enjoyed the presence of some of the most relevant speakers in the development cooperation field. The key note speaker was Mr. Simon Maxwell, an expert with a career in international development of over 40 years, currently Senior Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute (UK’s leading independent think-tank on international development and humanitarian issues) who talked about the complexity of the field of international development, the achievements reached so far and the challenges we are facing in the context of a new post-2015 development agenda.

 “An excellent event and a productive partnership between civil society and the Government of Romania, demonstrating the country’s commitment to sustainable development in all its aspects, and Romania’s leadership at regional level. There is a lot to do if we are to secure a safe, prosperous and sustainable world by 2030. Romania’s engagement, on its own account and within the EU will be essential.”

 The audience also engaged in fruitful discussions with: Ms. Carmen BurlacuState Secretary for Global Affairs, Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geert LaporteDeputy Director, European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), Ms. Deirdre de Burca –  Member of the EU Beyond 2015 Campaign Steering Group, Ms. Amalia Garcia-TharnPolicy Officer, Policy and Coherence Unit, Directorate – General for Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid, Ms. Ebba DohlmanSenior Adviser, Office of the Secretary-General, Policy Coherence for Development Unit and many other representatives of national/European institutions and organizations (NGOs, think-tanks).

The plenary sessions were bolstered up by the thematic work-shops, focused on more specific subjects such as: Promoting development through social media, Young people in international development,  The role of academics, Migration and Development, Financing Development: The role of Multilateral Development Banks, Child Protection, Gender & Development, Humanitarian Assistance.

Nevertheless, one of the most interesting and engaging parts of the Romanian Development Camp were the side-events. Below you can have a quick peek of the most exiting moments during the event.

Living Library: Getting to Know Migrants’ Experiences in Romania


Projects’ Fair: Development Cooperation Initiatives and Projects


 Forum-Theatre: From Spectator to Actor – Disaster Risk Reduction


Food Workshop: Traditional International Cuisine, Dance and Music



For more details regarding the Romanian Development Camp 8th edition – “Development Cooperation Days” we invite you to visit and FOND FB page.

The Romanian Development Camp is an annual event organized by the Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme –  Regional Centre for Europe and Central Asia.

Migration as a driver for development

migrationThe emergence of a long-awaited global consensus on the MDGs during the 2000 United Nations Millennium Summit laid the foundations of a new era of worldwide cooperation and common development framework. With the imminent expiry of the eight time-bound goals rapidly approaching, the international community has been actively engaged in discussions on how to advance and reshape the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015. In the light of the latest shifts in human mobility and migration patterns, it becomes clear that migration must be brought to the negotiation table. More specifically, since the adoption of the original MDGs in 2000, international migration flows have increased by approximately one third, from 175 million international migrants in 2000 to 232 million in 2013 (UN DESA 2013). The same source highlights shifting global migration trends, with a substantial increase in the global South – South migration (between developing countries) which almost equals the South –North migration (from developing to developed countries) (UN DESA 2013).
Reaching a global consensus on the adoption of the eight MDGs was a long-term process which took almost 10 years. This might account for the fact that migration – a politically controversial topic, and at the same time a goal difficult to measure – slipped away from the negotiation table. It is interesting to note the shift in perception of migration at the time of the adoption of the MDGs and its evolution up to today. The 2001 UN Road map towards the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration refers to migration as one of the factors contributing to the worsening of global malaria problem, and portrays migrants as “victims of discrimination, racism and intolerance” (UN General Assembly 2001). Fortunately, a departure from this point of view is to be seen in the 2005 final report of the UN Millennium Project, called “Investing in Development: A Practical Way to Achieve the MDGs” (UN Millennium Project 2005). More specifically, the report shows an evolution of the concept of migrants portraying them as agents of development in the context of poverty-alleviation. The migration-development nexus was reiterated in further conferences such as the Second Earth Summit in 2013 “Rio +20” UNGA High Level Dialogues (HLDs) in 2006 and 2013 as well (Lönnback 2014).

Why should migration be an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda?

Migration has the potential to boost both the economy of the country of origin and of the host country. Firstly, the remittances sent back home by migrants are crucial to reducing household poverty by providing an additional income which can be used in various ways in order to meet the family’s needs. According to the World Bank, remittances sent to developing countries exceed up to three times the amount of official development assistance received (The World Bank n.d.) and at the same time are comparable, if not higher than the export earnings of the recipient countries. For instance, in Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, remittances exceeded the total earnings from exports of goods and services. Another case in point is India, where in 2013 the value of remittances was higher than the earnings coming from the export services of its vibrant IT industry (The World Bank 2014).
Remittances have been shown to be an extremely powerful tool for poverty reduction in developing countries, which has been correlated with increased child schooling, especially among girls, as reported in Pakistan (Ratha 2013). Likewise, it has been shown that households which receive remittances tend to invest more in health care than those which do not receive remittances.
In the light of the illustrated impact, it becomes evident that migrant remittances actually contribute to the achievement of the original MDGs by reducing poverty and hunger (MDG 1), contributing to an increase in child schooling, including primary education (MDG 2) especially among girls, with positive impact on efforts to achieve gender equality (MDG 3). Furthermore, migrant remittances also contribute to health care improvement, which results in reduction of child mortality (MDG 4), maternal health improvement (MDG 5) and stepping up efforts in preventing or combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, other diseases (MDG 6) and ensuring environmental sustainability (MDG 7) by improving the access to safe water and sanitation.
Secondly, it has been argued that migrants can improve also the economy of the host country by “ tackling skills shortages and labour market bottlenecks.” (Andor 2014).
A recent study (OECD 2014) shows that the financial contribution that migrants make to the host country budgets through taxes and social security actually exceeds the benefits received. In addition, claims that migrants are draining the social welfare of the host country were found to be inaccurate by a report commissioned by the EC. It was shown that unemployed migrants represent a very small share of beneficiaries, with low impact on the social budgets of the host countries (Juravle et al. 2013). Beyond the taxes that migrants pay, they contribute to the development of the host countries by stimulating trade, investments and business.
Thirdly, migration also brings about an increase in the transfer of skills and innovation. For instance, in 2013, almost half of the patents applications in the U.S. were filed by foreign-born citizens. The same is valid also for the business sector where more than half of the start-ups in Silicon Valley were set up by citizens of foreign origin (Quittner 2014). Moreover, migrants are important agents for development since they facilitate links between private and public sectors in both country of origin and country of destination and can even act as “the basis of business partnerships, trade, and flows of investment” between the two countries (House of Commons International Development Committee 2004). By acting as the facilitators of development between home and host country, migrant further global partnership for development, contributing to the achievement of the last of the eight MDGs.

To conclude, migration can be a driver for development in both home and host country. This is not to say that migration does not pose challenges. However, if efficiently governed, it can become a win-win process for the main parties concerned, i.e. country of origin and of destination but most importantly, for the migrants themselves. In order to do so, it is necessary that the international community agrees that the migration discourse must re-shift its focus from border control policies which basically see migration rather as a problem than as a solution. Likewise, seeing migration only in economic terms will not do since migrants might run the risk “to be regarded as commodities, rather than as individuals entitled to the full enjoyment of their human rights” (The UN Committee on Migrant Workers 2005). Hence, migration should be dealt with from a holistic perspective within which human rights play a crucial role.
The post-2015 development agenda has the potential to successfully re-shift the focus from border control policies to the improvement of the quality of migration. Quality migration approach sees migration as a development enabler and hence not as a problem per se but as a solution. It implies the protection of migrants’ fundamental rights as human beings, protection of migrants’ labour rights as workers (decent work) and safe migration for potential and returning migrants. The human rights approach to migration and development should be understood in terms of quality improvement of the migration process and not in terms of increasing the number of migrants.
Given the migrants’ contribution to the development of both home and destination countries and their undeniable positive impact on the achievement of the original MDGs, migration ought to become an integral part of the post-2015 development strategy. This will not only pave the way for a gradual expansion of migrants’ rights but, in the words of Peter Sutherland, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative for Migration “[…] perhaps even more important, it could change public perceptions of migrants, so that they are viewed as a blessing rather than a scourge.’’(Sutherland 2013). This is to say that the potential of migration potential as a development enabler cannot be fully achieved unless migrants’ human rights are protected and at the same time efforts are made to end the stigma and discrimination against migrants.

Andor, L 2014, ‘Labour Mobility in the European Union – The Inconvenient Truth’, Lecture at University of Bristol, Bristol, 10 February 2014
House of Commons International Development Committee and others, 2003, Migration and Development: How to make migration work for poverty reduction, Sixth report of Session, Volume 4.
Juravle, C; Weber, T; Canetta, E; Fries, T.E.; Kadunc, M, 2013. A fact finding analysis on the impact on the Member States’ social security systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, ICF GHK in association with Milieu Ltd.
Lönnback, L 2014. Integrating migration into the post-2015 United Nations Development Agenda. Bangkok and Washington, D.C.: International Organization for Migration and Migration Policy Institute.
OECD May 2014, Is migration good for the economy? Migration Policy Debates, Number 202, pp 1-4, viewed 20th October 2014,
Quittner, J 2014, Not Made in America: Where U.S. Innovation Really Comes From. April 10, 2014, viewed 25th October 2014,
Ratha, D 2013. The Impact of Remittances on Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.
Sutherland, P 2013, Migration is development. 18 March 2013, viewed 25th October 2014,
The World Bank n.d., Migration and Remittances, viewed 25th October, 2014,,,contentMDK:20648762~pagePK:64257043~piPK:437376~theSitePK:4607,00.html
The World Bank 2014, Remittances to developing countries to stay robust this year, despite increased deportations of migrant workers, says WB, viewed 28 Oct. 2014,
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2013, Number of international migrants rises above 232 million, viewed 25th October 2014,
United Nations General Assembly Sept. 2001, Road map towards the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration: report of the Secretary-General, UN Document no. A756/326. New York; United Nations;
UN Millennium Project 2005, Investing in development: a practical plan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, New York.

Ms Bianca-Ioanidia Mirea holds a BA from the University of Bucharest (Romania) and a master’s in European and International Studies from the University of Trento (Italy), specialising in Human Rights Protection.  Her main areas of interest are children and women’s rights, topics she has explored first hand as a Research/ field work intern in various countries. She worked as an intern on children’s rights at M.V. Foundation (India) and at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (Austria).  Currently she is a Research Intern working on children’s and women  empowerment in Egypt.