Review of Global Evidence John Page and Sonia Plaza The World Bank



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Mobilizing the diaspora

Governments are realizing the potential role migrants can play in providing lucrative networks with their native countries. In an effort to tap into these unique resources and facilitate remittances, knowledge sharing and technology transfer, some source countries are creating policies designed to encourage long-term and long-distance linkages between emigrants and their countries of origin. Steps such as these enable immigrants to take part in the economic development of their countries of origin without having to return home. For example, 10 Latin America countries passed new laws on dual nationality or citizenship; these include: Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay (Jones-Correa, 2002). Similarly, in Africa, Ghana has also adopted a dual citizenship policy.


Temporary or virtual return programs also offer considerable promise. The United Nations Development Program’s TOKTEN projects support three week to three month development assignments at home for expatriates. These are run on a voluntary basis an at much lower costs than the cost of hiring professional consultants. The Taiwanese (China) government is taken an interesting approach to its diaspora. It has chosen to focus less on attracting investment from its nationals living abroad than on making use of their skills acquired abroad. The emphasis is on encouraging visiting diaspora to share their knowledge. This is done through government invitations to scientists, professionals and highly-skilled technicians to participate in seminars, teach in Taiwanese universities, or network with their Taiwanese counterparts, government officials and investors.

International efforts at collective action


Although migration is at the top of the global agenda, efforts to create a viable international architecture for better management of international migration are still at an early stage. Because migration has global externalities dealing with it effectively requires substantially increased cooperation at the international level, based on a multilateral system of rules and principles. Several international and inter-governmental organizations (e.g.., the United Nations, the World Bank, and the regional development banks) are undertaking work to assist in formulating and promoting mutually acceptable principles for a multilateral framework for managing migration. The United Nations has also launched a Global Commission on Migration to deliberate on improvements in the field of international migration

Regional agreements

Regional integration agreements and regional free trade agreements offer an attractive framework within which to manage migration among neighboring countries. Thus far, however, with the exception of the European Union they have made little progress towards ensuring the free movement of persons or workers. Even among the EU states, greater harmonization in the area of immigration from outside the union is needed.


Where FTAs among developing countries or between developed and developing countries have attempted to deal with migration issues, they have generally limited their coverage to temporary location of skilled workers, as illustrated in the case of the Chile Singapore agreement described in Box 5. The United States is pursing some bilateral Free Trade Agreements in which temporary movement of professionals is allowed. But again, the approach to trade in services, including temporary location of workers, is not being applied uniformly. For example the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the FTA with the Americas (South America) have ruled out including agreements of this type.
In Africa, there are also barriers to the free movement of people. CEMAC, ECOWAS and UEMOA have introduced the use of intra-regional passports. However, most countries of the region have enacted or retained a series of laws, which in effect restrict “foreigners” from participating in certain kinds of economic activities. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has adopted the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Labor, and Services. However, ECOWAS has not yet implemented it.

Mode IV, the GATS and other trade agreements involving skilled labor movement
The temporary movement of persons for delivery of services (Mode IV) was negotiated under the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS).29 The agreement established four possible modes or ways, in which services can be traded between World Trade Organization (WTO) Members:



  • Mode I (cross-border supply)

  • Mode II (consumption abroad)

  • Mode III (commercial presence)

  • Mode IV (presence of natural persons)

There were intense discussions between developed and developing countries at the time of the agreement concerning the free movement of labor. Mode IV is considered by most developing countries to be more regulatory rather than liberalizing of labor migration.


The majority of developing countries have not succeeded in obtaining market access for services providers under the GATS. Since this instrument establishes negotiations on a case by case basis, applications of Mode IV and its interpretation vary tremendously across countries. For example, there is no clear definition of what constitutes a “self-employed” person on what the definition of an “independent service supplier” is. Additionally, while service suppliers at all skill levels are included in Mode IV, in practice, WTO members have generally limited its application to high-skilled workers such as managers, executives and specialists. Developing countries are questioning the application of quotas and the definition of specialties for the purpose of granting work permits. They also would like to address the issue of rights of citizenship and residence. Some other questions pending are on the length of duration of stay of migrants with “temporary worker” status.
Developing country demands in the current Doha round fall into three major areas: eliminating or reducing economic needs tests that can limit the entry of migrant workers, expediting the recognition of an individual’s credentials, and making visa and work permit issuance easier and faster. The Philippines, India and Thailand are pushing for market access concessions in Mode IV, but there is still some debate among developing countries on the role of Mode IV in relation to bilateral agreements, which some view as more advantageous for the free movement of labor.

6. Concluding Remarks
The central question about migration is not whether there should be more or less of it, but which policy options, adapted to their varying circumstances, countries have to increase the development impact of migration and remittances on their economies. Our review suggests a number of areas in which future research and debate will be needed to improve policy formulation related to migration. These include: how to make remittances more effective as tools for poverty reduction and development in migrants’ countries of origin; how to mitigate the impact of highly skilled emigration, particularly of professionals in education and health, on low income countries; how to tap into the vibrant communities of the diaspora and work with them as development partners; and how to manage migration in a mutually beneficial way for both labor sending and labor importing countries.
The question of what is the appropriate institutional structure within which to manage migration also remains to be answered. Recent discussions in international fora have concluded that one possible approach to the collective action problem posed by migration would be the formation of a World Migration Organization (WMO) to improve the “architecture and governance” of migration. There is growing support for such an organization. Perhaps, we can look forward to a time when the world will organize collectively to mutually set rules, promote good practices, and foster mutually beneficial solutions to migration problems.
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