Tag Archives eu

How Europe’s (anti-)migration policies are fuelling a humanitarian crisis

When some one million people crossed the Mediterranean in the course of 2015 to seek refuge, European countries called it a crisis. Yet the real crisis was created by European immigration and asylum policies and by the challenges they posed for aid providers. We discussed these issues at the  conference of the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) in August 2018 that was held at the ISS in The Hague. In this blog we highlight some of the key issues from our just-published conference special issue and show how the issues raised back then are still of concern today.  The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the violence experienced by people seeking safety in countries such as Italy, Greece, France, Belgium, Germany, Norway, and the UK.

Photo: European Commission DG ECHO. Available at: https://euobserver.com/opinion/136333

Back in 2018, the humanitarian consequences of Europe’s migration policies were a key theme at the IHSA conference. We’ve just published some of the conference contributions in a special issue of International Migration entitled ‘Politics, humanitarianism and migration to Europe’. The issue seeks to unpack how European governments and the EU are creating a policy-induced humanitarian crisis, how this works in the micro-practices of migration politics, and what this means for humanitarian and political action. This blog article provides a brief overview of the key themes in the special issue.

Crisis-creating policy developments

In the issue, we observe many policy developments that are of humanitarian concern. European governments view migration as economically driven or as a threat to their national security. As such, migration has been criminalised for years. Policies such as strengthening border controls, the externalisation of borders, and a focus on smuggling and trafficking rather than on the causes of forced migration all result in humanitarian crisis. In addition, the EU or its member states (and the UK) have made agreements with Libya, Turkey, and Sudan to contain those seeking protection, which risks violating the human rights of those who flee. Support for Libyan coastguards or for Sudanese paramilitary border forces leaves migrants stuck in conflict- and crisis-ridden countries and/or in appalling conditions in migrant detention centres. The UK’s externalised border in France leaves those seeking asylum in the UK stuck in France without basic assistance and vulnerable to police violence. Border restrictions on the Italy-France border have a similar effect. And the closure of legal routes means migrants have to take more dangerous routes and use smugglers or traffickers. Preventing people from leaving or from coming to Europe amounts to a policy of letting die.

Micro-practices and the politics of exhaustion

Border restrictions, mass detention, and forced returns are complemented by a number of less visible deterrence tactics and strategies. The humanitarian crisis in Europe is characterised by these regimes of micro-practices, which include 1) migrants sleeping rough or in makeshift camps with little or no shelter, food and health care, 2) regular police violence, confiscation of possessions, and evictions, and 3) slow, confusing, and inconsistent asylum procedures. The latter make it difficult or undesirable to claim asylum. Migrants who are ‘illegalised’ in this way can be exposed to more violence and can be deported.

Combined with constant uncertainty, these regimes of micro-practices lead to a politics of exhaustion aimed at influencing people’s resolve to claim asylum or to make them leave. Camps and migrants stuck on borders in desperate conditions itself also acts as a deterrent and at the same time highlights action to defend national security for domestic audiences.  Another advantage is that regimes of less visible forms of violence make it difficult to identify intent or overtly illegal practices.

The restriction of humanitarian response and a shift to political action

In terms of humanitarian response, we identify a number of issues, including the criminalisation of assistance provision and the constraints faced by traditional organisations in Europe, as well as the rise in resistance and activism by newly created volunteer groups.

Here’s what been happening in the European countries covered in the special issue: In Italy, accusations by far-right organisations that NGOs are assisting in trafficking made it possible to develop legislation against the docking of ships carrying migrants and to restrict their protection once they have reached land. In Calais, France, local authorities have repeatedly tried to restrict assistance to refugees. In both the Italy and the France cases, providing assistance is deemed illegal and showing solidarity with refugees has become a crime. Examples can be found in many other European countries. As a result, new volunteer groups quickly became politically engaged – not only through assistance as a political act, but also by providing legal assistance, preventing police raids (for example in Belgium), gathering information, and lobbying politicians.

The politicisation of humanitarian action has complicated the role of more established organisations, who are bound by principles of neutrality and impartiality. In Germany, for example, room for manoeuvre for traditional state and non-state actors was legally restricted, but different political narratives enabled some flexibility. In Norway, some volunteer groups shifted to political action and others found ways of working with more established organisations. The greatest frictions between established agencies and volunteer activist groups are often found in humanitarian advocacy. An examination of the activities of these groups in Greece, Turkey and Libya, however, shows that complementarity between negotiating and confrontational strategies is required.

More unwelcome than ever

In the Europe we are living in today, security and political concerns continue to override obligations to respect human rights and to address humanitarian concerns. Crises among migrants and asylum seekers in Europe continue to unfold as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit, and the new EU Migration and Asylum pact. Covid-19 is by now known to have a disproportionate impact on displaced people. Even in Europe, many migrants live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, in informal camps, on the streets, or in detention and asylum centres where the health risks are acute and conditions abysmal.  But besides the exacerbation of the appalling living conditions a number of other pandemic-related measures make the current asylum procedure more alienating than ever. These include:

Can the trend be reversed? We hope so. As Europe’s humanitarian crisis continues and worsens, the political nature of humanitarian action is becoming ever more apparent. It will require a concerted effort by all concerned actors to monitor, research, advocate, and resist crisis-inducing policies, and to demand that states uphold international human rights and humanitarian laws.

Opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the ISS or members of the Bliss team.

About the authors:

Dr Susanne Jaspars is an independent researcher and a Research Associate at SOAS, University of London.  She has researched the social and political dynamics of famine, conflict and humanitarian crises for over thirty years, focussing particularly on issues of food security, livelihoods, and forced migration.

Dorothea HilhorstDorothea Hilhorst is Professor of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Are you looking for more content about Global Development and Social Justice? Subscribe to Bliss, the official blog of the International Institute of Social Studies, and stay updated about interesting topics our researchers are working on.

The asylum procedure as a hope-generating machine

Over the past few years, the European Union has used deterrence as its main strategy to prevent an influx of refugees, becoming more hard-handed as the number of refugees has increased. A faulty asylum procedure creates false hope to those who are then met by an untimely death or horrific conditions upon reaching Europe instead of ‘making it’ as a handful of refugees before them did. This hope-generating machine divides instead of unites, diminishing the collective power of refugees to challenge the EU’s migration policy.

Eu refugee policy migrant
Activists have taken to the streets in Amsterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands to protest conditions in refugee camps, particularly Moria, and the EUs migration policy. Pictured here are protesters at Neude Utrecht. Photo: Dorothea Hilhorst.

Some days ago I reread Power, Community and the State[1], a book by former colleague at Wageningen University Monique Nuijten, to contribute to a publication celebrating the author’s work on the occasion of her retirement. Back in 2003, Nuijten described how the Mexican state acted as hope-generating machine that disciplined and divided poor peasant communities. While rereading the book 17 years after it first appeared, I was reminded how much the world has changed in the last two decades. I also realized how appropriately the idea of a hope-generating machine describes the asylum system in Europe.

Power, Community and the State is written in a time when arguments that we had entered a deterritorialized and transnationalized world seemed compelling. The book quotes Hardt and Negri’s view[2] that ‘sovereignty has taken a new form, composed of a series of national and supranational organisms united under a single logic of rule’.

How dreamily naïve such a quotation sounds today. In contrast to what was then hoped would be a move toward greater global unity, today’s world manifests itself as reterritorialized and renationalized, especially when seen through the eyes of migrants. Most passports in the world do not travel far. Borders that seemed to have disappeared have been reinstated as real physical borders, paper borders, iron borders, or even—when we read about the plans for barriers miles away from coastlines or hear of surveillant ships shooting at migrant boats at open sea—borders of death[3]. As Linda Polman accurately remarked, ‘[t]he Human Rights Commission of the United Nations stated in 2018 that Europe has developed a refugee policy that implicitly and explicitly accepts death as an effective anti-migration instrument.’[4]

Yet the core idea of Nuijten’s book about the state as a hope-generating machine is more relevant than ever —certainly for the millions of migrants seeking entry into inaccessible states. Oliver Bakewell noted how prospective migrants in East Africa are completely devoted to collecting papers and building a portfolio for an envisioned migration. During his presentation at the Forced Migration Studies Association Conference in Thessaloniki in 2018, Bakewell echoed Monique Nuijten, who said that ‘[t]he culture of the state is central to the operation of the bureaucracy as a hope-generating machine. The hope-generating bureaucratic machine gives the message that everything is possible, that cases are never closed […]’ (p. 196). With reference to the migration policy in East Africa, Bakewell seemed to expand on her argument that ‘[s]tate intervention in Mexico tends to have a divisive effect on the population, and to frustrate independent collective organising efforts “from below”’ (p. 198).

What the example of East Africa shows is that, rather than seeking out their brothers in fate and rising to protest, migrants are driven by the hope of becoming one of the lucky chosen few, doing everything in their power to mould their individual behaviour and attitudes to the requirements imposed or favoured by the migration machines. The annual lottery that hands out 55,000 Green Cards to hopefuls wishing to enter the United States—with a 1.33% chance of people in the most eligible countries getting one—is indeed the ultimate hope-generating machine, steering millions of people away from engaging in protests and activism in their own countries against conditions they are fleeing from, and instead motivating them to be left at the hands of ‘fate’ in the form of a lottery, as in the US Green Card Lottery, and to maintain immaculate track records and build their individual case files to be considered ‘good citizens’.

Stories of refugees ‘slipping through the cracks’ of Europe’s asylum system and starting afresh continue to fire the continent’s hope-generating machine.

It is widely acknowledged that Europe’s policies towards migration can be summarized by the word ‘deterrence’. The European Union as well as its individual member states, perhaps with the exception of Germany, seem united in their determined aggression in seeking to expose and render as visible as possible the cases of failed migration that result in tragic and horrifying death by drowning when crossing the Mediterranean Sea or being stuck in a horrific limbo in refugee camps such as Moria. In these camps, refugees seem to have the same function as the shrivelled human heads on stakes that used to decorate the walls of medieval European cities to deter vagabonds from passing through the gates. The purpose of these efforts is similarly to deter would-be migrants from trying to reach Europe. Nonetheless, there are always a number of people who manage to slip through the cracks of the system and are granted asylum, and so the hope-generating machine continues to churn out hope, fed by ‘success stories’.

For a long time, I thought maintaining the appearance of a just system of asylum was a concession to the many Europeans who are supportive of refugees. In the Netherlands, for example, the government insists that there is no social support base for migrants. This, however, is far from the truth. Recent research[5] from the University of Groningen found that, although the support base for migration is shrinking in the Netherlands, 45% of the population still supports government assistance to refugees. Another 25% of the population is willing to support such assistance to refugees provided that strict measures are taken to protect society from asylum seekers who ‘misbehave’. Thirty Dutch municipalities have declared their willingness to receive refugees from Moria.

The bold statement of the right-wing Dutch government that there is no support base for refugees is no more than a malicious manipulation of the truth by a government that plays to the populist far right, where it fears it is losing votes. I always assumed that the small numbers of successful asylum cases in Europe were a triumph of the countless refugee-friendly lawyers, volunteers, and left-wing politicians making noise on behalf of refugees. I assumed that they occasionally managed to beat the system.

Upon closer inspection, and after rereading Power, Community and the State, I realize more clearly that those asylum seekers who successfully slip through the system are not a mistake or a failure of the deterrence machine. It is much more likely that the machine is built in such a way that, once in a while, a lucky individual comes out with a residence permit. Thus, refugees that slip through the cracks, and are granted a residence permit to continue their life in Europe—are also the symbols of hope that keep inspiring migrants to bet on obtaining a residence permit. .

It may very well be that the machine is designed in this way to discipline the migrants in Moria and other places where they are living a non-life.

When stuck in these camps, they continue to hope that they can eventually ‘move on’ and start the asylum procedure, and so they continue to wait, and to hope. And those that reach a country where their asylum procedures are started are told by their friendly lawyers to keep their heads down, behave well, and do whatever they can to enhance their chances of being granted a residence permit. Knowing one or two people who succeeded before you further feeds that hope. And as long as migrants have this hope, they are prevented from being united to fight the cruel reception they get in Europe.

[1] Nuijten, M. C. M. (2003). Power, Community and the State: The Political Anthropology of Organisation in Mexico. London, UK and Sterling, VA: Pluto Press.

[2] Hardt, M., and Negri, A. (2000). Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[3] Henk van Houtum & Rodrigo Bueno Lacy (2020) The Autoimmunity of the EU’s Deadly B/ordering Regime; Overcoming its Paradoxical Paper, Iron and Camp Borders, Geopolitics, 25:3, 706-733, DOI: 10.1080/14650045.2020.1728743

[4] Linda Polman Tegen Elke Prijs. Essay Vluchtelingen en Europa. Groene Amsterdammer, 01-10-2020.

[5] Toon Kuppens et al. (2019). Ongenoegen, migratie, gastvrijheid en maatschappelijke onrust. Onderzoek Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, in opdracht van het Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum. https://www.wodc.nl/binaries/2742%20Volledige%20Tekst_tcm28-425017.pdf

About the author:


Thea Hilhorst

Dorothea Hilhorst is Professor of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

This article is based on a contribution of the author to the Liber Amicorum for Monique Nuijten of Wageningen University.

Are you looking for more content about Global Development and Social Justice? Subscribe to Bliss, the official blog of the International Institute of Social Studies, and stay updated about interesting topics our researchers are working on.

EADI/ISS Series | Bridging EU- & Postdevelopment Studies: Four Avenues by Sarah Delputte and Jan Orbie

Postdevelopment debates are relatively new to scholars studying the EU’s Development Policy. However, bridging EU development and post-development can help us to think about (normative) alternatives to EU development, both generally and concretely, argue Sarah Delputte and Jan Orbie. The EU provides a relevant and practical setting within which concrete alternatives to development aid can be considered. In line with Julia Schöneberg’s plea for practical postdevelopment, the focus on the EU can contribute to making more concrete how policies and approaches should be changed. 

In February 2019, we pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones to participate in a panel on “Re-thinking, Re-defining, Re-positioning: “Development” and the Question of “Alternatives”, convened by Julia Schöneberg at the Development Days Conference in Helsinki, in a first attempt to look at EU development policy from a postdevelopment perspective. As scholars studying the EU’s Development Policy we usually try to take a critical approach towards EU Development. However, and perhaps embarrassingly, postdevelopment debates were new to us.

Back home from this very interesting experience, discussions in our research center’s reading group on postdevelopment continued for some months until we found it was time to invite Julia Schöneberg to our university for a full-day workshop on bridging EU- & Postdevelopment. For this occasion, we structured our insights into four potential avenues for bridging EU- & Postdevelopment Studies, departing from our own EU Development perspective: 

1. Munition

EU development scholars know the EU’s development policies very well. We are aware of the EU’s development history and evolutions, its complex institutional setting, its ideational and internal divisions and debates, various programmes, different budgetary instruments, trends in aid flows etc. In sum: we know EU development inside-out. Moreover, we have already problematized various aspects of it, e.g. securitization, marketization, incoherencies, coordination fetish, bodybuilder image, from different empirical and theoretical perspectives. We also have access to experts and scholars working on EU development policy. Our expertise can enrich the perspectives of postdevelopment scholars for whom EU development policy could be considered a ‘goldmine’. Hence the idea of providing postdevelopment scholars with ‘extra munition’ for their critiques. It can strengthen and substantiate postdevelopment critiques. 

2. Infusion

Postdevelopment ideas have been floating around since at least the mid-1990s. However, they seem not to have reached the EU development studies community. Via EADI and other networks, postdevelopment thinking can get ‘infused’ within the EU development studies community. We can at least provoke a debate on whether development policy should be necessary. In doing so, we can make clear that radical arguments against development policy are not necessarily ‘reactionary populist’ but can also be skeptical and geared to ‘radical democracy’. We can clarify that the real challenge – underlying many more superficial challenges that are often noted in EU development studies – lays in the problematic conception of development (aid) itself. This opens up a new research agenda that should interest scholars currently working on EU development/aid, because it provides a novel way to analyze changes and challenges to EU development policy and to link this with current debates such as the rise of populism. It also allows to do more comparative and detailed research on different visions in development policy within Europe (PlEUriverse).


3. Another Europe is possible

Bridging EU development and post-development can help us to think about (normative) alternatives to EU development, both generally and concretely. In general, it can foster thinking about different imaginaries of ‘another Europe’ and about which role(s) the EU could/should play towards the so-called ‘developing countries’. This would be in line with a 2016 call by Ian Manners, Richard Whitman and others to allow for more dissident voices in theorising Europe.

There have been longstanding debates on the EU’s role in the world, not only from mainstream and policy- oriented corners (e.g. civilian power Europe) but also from critical Scholars (e.g. Galtung in 1973) which can (and should) be updated taking a postdevelopment context into account. Although there is a broad recognition within scholarship and policy circles that the EU is a ‘post-modern’ construct, this has not coincided with pleas for a ‘postdevelopment’ policy. More concretely, the interaction between EU and postdevelopment studies could involve a translation of ‘alternatives to development’ in the EU’s institutional context and policy making.

While postdevelopment has given much thought to such alternatives, Aram Ziai’s statement of 2004 still seems to hold true: “Admittedly, little thought is given to how development institutions could contribute to the flourishing of these alternatives, but to expect that from postdevelopment would certainly go too far.” In line with Julia Schöneberg’s plea for practical postdevelopment, the focus on the EU can thus contribute to making more concrete how policies and approaches should be changed. The EU provides a relevant and practical setting within which concrete alternatives to development aid can be considered. Because of the EU’s nature as a multi-level, fragmented and compartmentalized thing, policymaking in the EU arguably contains many access points for critical debates –– including discussions on general postdevelopment roles and on practical alternatives. The EU also provides a relevant platform to discuss solutions for injustices in the global governance framework such as the World Bank and the WTO.

4. PlEUriverse

Taking postdevelopment thinking seriously, we should also acknowledge the diversity of views on ‘development’ within Europe. Whereas the underlying Eurocentric, modernist and colonial paradigm may be the same, there are various ways in which member states and civil society actors have conceived development (policy). For instance, the ‘Nordics’ or ‘like-minded’ have always played an interesting role in development debates. The rejection of monolithical thinking on ‘EU development’ should allow for more detailed and complexity-sensitive research that delves into the different cultural, historical and political economy backgrounds of different EU views on development.

Beyond the diversity in view on ‘development policy’ narrowly speaking, this also connects to wider critiques of development within the EU which have gained more traction since the Euro-crisis and austerity policies, such as commons and degrowth. Whereas the postdevelopment literature has pointed to this ‘bridge’, many studies seem to generalise the ‘western’ and ‘European’ thinking to such an extent that 2nd order differences remain unnoticed. Paying more attention to the ‘PlEUriverse’ is not only academically interesting but also normatively important, as it will point to spaces and agents where change may be possible.


With sharing these reflections on bridging EU- and postdevelopment we also hope to inspire and encourage EU Development, Postdevelopment and all other interested scholars to join the seed panel on “Views on the EU as a development actor in conversation with postdevelopment” that the EADI Working Groups on “The European Union as a Development Actor” and “Post- and Decolonial Perspectives on Development” are organizing at the EADI General Conference in The Hague (29 June-2 July 2020).

This article is part of a series launched by the EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes) and the ISS in preparation for the 2020 EADI/ISS General Conference “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”. It was also published on the EADI blog.

About the authors:

Medewerkers Centrum voor EU StudiesSarah Delputte is Post-Doctoral Assistant at the Centre for EU Studies (CEUS), and a lecturer at the Department of Political Science at Ghent University. Her teaching and research interest concerns the EU’s development policies and its interlinkages with other external policy fields, as well as its interregional relations with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). She is a co-convener of the of the EADI working group on the EU as a development actor.janorbie_foto6

Jan Orbie is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and Director of the Centre for EU Studies (CEUS) at Ghent University (Belgium). His research focuses on EU external relations, in particular the external trade, social, development, humanitarian aid and democracy promotion policies of the EU.


Image Credit: Nicolas Raymond

Development Dialogue 2018 | Pan-African diasporas in the Brussels bubble: new actors, new business? by Valentina Brogna

Pan-African diasporic networks are emerging in Europe as new lobbying actors within EU-Africa relations under the prism of development cooperation. Who are they, and can they influence EU development policy? This article shows that pan-African diasporic networks as new actors within (or without) EU-Africa relations try to propose different narratives on the African continent, advancing the cause of African-led development.

EU-Africa relations are tightly linked to development cooperation. Civil society tries to influence development policies, gathering around International Non-Governmental Development Organisations (INGDOs). Recently, pan-African diasporic networks have been created with apparently similar purposes, gaining visibility in the same EU political instances, but also African (AU, ACP Group) and international ones.

Many questions relate to the rising of pan-African diasporic networks in Europe, including on development theory (which paradigm(s)?), EU lobbying (which advocacy strategies? why lobbying the EU?), social movement studies (do pan-African diasporic networks and INGDOs ignore, clash, co-opt one another?), and African and diaspora studies (how do pan-African diasporic networks evaluate their representativeness as the sixth African Region?). With these questions in mind, I enucleate the ‘diaspora’ concept and sketch features of some pan-African Diasporic Networks active at European level.


I consider African ‘diaspora(s)’ inasmuch as networks and organisations that take ownership of this term, a “category of mobilization” (Kleist 2008, cited in Sinatti and Horst 2015), with the aim to unify what seems disperse, thus strengthening their agency vis-à-vis political institutions. Definitions of ‘diaspora’ in scientific literature stress ideas of dispersion (of people in distant places, normally abroad), relation-keeping (with the hailing country) (Van Hier, Pieke, Vertovec 2004, cited in Norglo et al. 2016), transnationality (Clifford 1994, cited in Norglo et al. 2016, Sökefeld 2006) and imagined community (Sökefeld 2006, Anderson 1983).

Institutional legitimation to African diasporas’ engagement in different fora is given by the AU definition: “Peoples of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union” (AU 2005, point VIII, 18). By finding themselves in between social places, African diasporas could have a comparative advantage vis-à-vis traditionally conceived INGDOs (Brinkerhoff 2011). African diaspora representatives at EU level are today advancing the cause of African diasporas’ formal recognition in development cooperation (Bora, pers. comm.; Global Diaspora Week 2018).

Pan-African diasporic networks regroup people from different African countries. They operate at national and international level with purposes of inclusion and anti-racism in the societies of residence and betterment of living conditions in the countries of origin. Which visions of development do pan-African diasporic networks concretely strategise to put in practice? When lobbying at EU level, they tend to officially espouse the Sustainable Development framework (UN 2015), probably as the contrary would imply working outside political institutions tout-court, renouncing to any attempt of influence (Ebony, pers. comm.).

Many of these networks are Brussels-based. The EU capital also gathers the AU Permanent Mission to the EU, the ACP Group Secretariat: multi-institutional strategies can thus be considered here. Among these networks, created since 2011, we find the African Diaspora Youth Network in Europe (ADYNE – 2011), the Africa-Europe Diaspora Development Platform (ADEPT – 2013), the A.C.P. Young Professionals Network (ACP YPN – 2014), the African Diaspora Youth Forum in Europe (ADYFE – 2014), the African Diaspora Network in Europe (ADNE – 2015), and the Afro-European Diaspora Platform (AED – 2015). The European Year on Development might have had a triggering effect.

ADNE operates through lobbying events with EU institutions. They have individual and organisational membership, a diverse expertise (both thematically and geographically), an enabling social capital (ex: professional connections to the EP, the ACP Secretariat, DG DEVCO). ADEPT, created within the Joint Africa-Europe Strategy, has organisational membership and aims to become the umbrella organisation of African diasporas. ACP YPN, now a member of ADEPT, works to influence EU, AU and the ACP Group with regards to youth empowerment in the implementation of the Cotonou agreement, currently being renegotiated; its membership is individual only, but its members are highly proactive. Competition among these organisations is probable; lack of unity is often deplored and calls for better cooperation are made, without (for the moment) leading to concrete results (Global Diaspora Week 2018).

Other pan-African diasporic networks define themselves as clearly pan-Africanist (Boukari-Yabara 2014) and follow the African Renaissance ideal (Diop  1948; do-Nascimento 2008), detached from the mainstream development paradigm and classic EU-Africa relations: the International Movement for the Renaissance of a Unified Africa (MIRAU), the Pan-African League Umoja (LP-U), and its Belgian branch Renaissance Africaine. They operate for the development of African countries by Africans themselves (including African diasporas), persuaded that EU-Africa relations are not a priority in the quest for a genuine ‘rebirth’ of the continent.

To conclude, pan-African diasporic networks as new actors within (or without) EU-Africa relations try to propose different narratives on the African continent, debunking some development cooperation myths, advancing the cause of African-led development, in cooperation with external actors like the EU or autonomously.

ACP YPN, n. d. http://www.acpypn.com, accessed 25/07/2017
ADEPT, n. d., http://www.adept-platform.org/about-us/ accessed 25/07/2017
AED, n. d. https://diasporafroeuropeenne.org/presentation-2/ accessed 18/08/2018
ADNE. n.d. http://www.africandiasporanetwork.eu/en/aboutus.html Accessed 05/05/2018
ADYFE, n. d. www.adyfe.eu, accessed 15/08/2018
African Union. 2005. ‘Report of the Meeting of Experts on the Definition of the African Diaspora’, 11 – 12 April 2005, Addis Ababa. http://www.dirco.gov.za/diaspora/definition.html. Accessed 04/05/2018
Anderson, B. 1983. Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism, London: Verso.
Boukari-Yabara, A. 2014. Africa Unite. Une histoire du Panafricanisme, Paris : La Découverte
Brinkerhoff, J. M. 2011. ‘David and Goliath: Diaspora organizations as partners in the development industry’ In Public Administration and Development 31: 37-49 10.1002/pad.587
Diop, Ch. A. 1948. “Quand pourra-t-on parler d’une renaissance africaine?” In Le musée vivant, N. spécial 36-37, 57-65. Paris : ADAM
do-Nascimento, A. J. (ed.) 2008. La renaissance africaine comme alternative au développement. Les termes du choix politique en Afrique. Paris: L’Harmattan
L.P.-U n. d., http://lp-umoja.com/lpu/onepage/ accessed 12/12/2017
MIRAU n.d., http://www.mirau.org accessed 10/02/2018
Norglo, B. E. K., Goris, M., Lie, R., and Ong’ayo, A. O. 2016. ‘The African Diaspora’s Public Participation in Policy-Making Concerning Africa’. In Diaspora Studies 9(2): 83–99
Renaissance Africaine asbl, n. d., https://www.linkedin.com/company/raasbl/ accessed 13/08/2018
Sinatti, G. and Cindy Horst. 2015. ‘Migrants as agents of development: Diaspora engagement discourse and practice in Europe’ In Ethnicities 15(1): 134-152
Sökefeld, M. 2006. ‘Mobilizing in Transnational Space: A Social Movement Approach to the Formation of Diaspora’ In Global Networks 6 (3): 265–84
UN A/RES/70/1 Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld accessed 05/03/2017
Bora, ACP Young Professionals Network, Advocacy and Parliamentary Relations Officer, 18 October 2017
Ebony, ACP Young Professionals Network, Policy advisor, 30 January 2018
Observed meetings:
22/05/2017, Conference The impact of Communications on EU’s Policies on Africa, organised by Africa Communications Week; EU DG DEVCO, Brussels
23/05/2017, Conference Changing African Narratives through Diaspora Initiatives, organised by Africa Communications Week; AU Permanent Mission to the EU, Brussels
27/09/2017, Conference Africa at a Crossroads: Youth Political Mobilisation, Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, organised by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) and SOLIDAR as part of the S&D Group Africa Week 2017; FEPS, Brussels
21/03/2018, Cercle Kilimandjaro de l’Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles (USL-B), Conference L’impératif panafricain: penser la repolitisation, with the participation by Dr. A. Boukari-Yabara, LP-U Secretary General ; USL-B, Brussels
05/10/2018, Global Diaspora Week 2018 Opening Ceremony Digital Diaspora. Boosting the Digital Agenda and Innovation for Development, organised by ADNE; European Parliament, Brussels

This blog article is part of a series related to the Development Dialogue 2018 Conference that was recently held at the ISS. Other articles forming part of the series can be read here,  here , here, and here.

Valentina photo

About the author:

Valentina Brogna is a PhD researcher under FSR grant at the Research Centre in Political Science (CReSPo), Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles. Her research focuses on the participation of pan-African diasporic networks and INGDOs within EU-Africa relations, mainly in the Post-Cotonou negotiations.

Deglobalisation Series | Is anti-globalisation only a preoccupation in the Global North? by Rory Horner, Seth Schindler, Daniel Haberly and Yuko Aoyama

A remarkable ‘big switch’  has emerged from the turn of the millennium in terms of attitudes towards and discourses over globalisation. But while the world is currently witnessing a new backlash against economic globalisation, considerable support for globalisation within some parts of the Global South should not be overlooked.

While the world is currently witnessing a new backlash against economic globalisation, considerable support for globalisation within some parts of the Global South should not be overlooked. Supporters of the UK’s exit from the European Union seek to “take back control” from Brussels, while Donald Trump’s economic ethno-nationalism has promised to put “America first”. In contrast, the picture that emerges in the Global South is quite different, as part of a remarkable ‘big switch’ that has been taking place from the turn of the millennium in terms of attitudes towards and discourses over globalisation.

Support for globalisation in the global South

The polling company YouGov, in a 2016 survey of people across 19 countries, found that France, the US and the UK were the places where the fewest people believe that “globalisation has been a force for good”. In contrast, the survey found the most enthusiasm for globalisation in East and Southeast Asia, where over 70% of respondents in all countries believed it has been a force for good. The highest approval rate, 91%, was in Vietnam.

From a poor starting point, many in the Global South have experienced some improvement in basic development indicators in the 20th and 21st Centuries. People living in Asia accounted for the vast majority of those who experienced relative income gains from 1988 to 2008. In comparison with the 1990s, the Global South now earns a much larger share of world GDP, has more middle-income countries, more middle-class people, less dependency on foreign aid, considerably greater life expectancy, and lower child and maternal mortality rates.

Less of a backlash in the Global South necessarily means support for neoliberal globalisation—and the optimism in countries such as Vietnam may paradoxically be a result of an earlier rejection thereof. China, in particular, has not followed the same approach to economic globalisation as that which was encouraged by the US and organisations such as the IMF and World Bank in the late 20th Century.

Meanwhile, many of the world’s poorest in the Global South have seen very little improvement in quality of life in recent years, yet they are much more marginal and less well-positioned to express their frustrations than the ‘losers’ in countries such as the US and UK. They must not be forgotten.

China and India warn against deglobalisation

Most notably, the last two World Economic Forum gatherings at Davos have seen explicit statements from the respective leads of China and India warning against deglobalisation. In January 2017, China’s president Xi Jinping said that his country would assume the leadership of 21st Century globalisation. Defending the current economic order, Xi said that China was committed to making globalisation work for everyone—its responsibility as “leaders of our times”.

At Davos in 2018, Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, warned against deglobalisation:

It feels like the opposite of globalisation is happening. The negative impact of this kind of mindset and wrong priorities cannot be considered less dangerous than climate change or terrorism.

 The ‘big switch’ on globalisation

It is remarkable that the backlash most associated with the Brexit referendum in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the US has emerged from the right of the political spectrum, in countries long recognised as the chief architects and beneficiaries of economic globalisation.

At the turn of the millennium, the primary opposition to globalisation was concerned with its impacts in the Global South. Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank, in his 2006 book Making Globalization Work wrote that “the rules of the game have been largely set by the advanced industrial countries”, who unsurprisingly “shaped globalization to further their own interests.” Their political influence was represented through dominant roles in organisations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the WTO, and the corporate dominance of their multinationals.

Protests in Seattle against the WTO in 1999. By Steve Kaiser from Seattle via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

In the 1990s the anti-globalisation movement opposed neoliberal economic integration from a range of perspectives, with a particular emphasis on the Global South. The movement was populated by activists, non-governmental organisations and groups with a variety of concerns: peace, climate change, conservation, indigenous rights, fair trade, debt relief, organised labour, sweatshops, and the AIDS pandemic.

Yet, in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, UK prime minister Theresa May offered a sceptical assessment at the 2017 World Economic Forum at Davos, arguing that “talk of greater globalisation can make people fearful. For many, it means their jobs being outsourced and wages undercut. It means having to sit back as they watch their communities change around them.” The US, under Trump, subsequently began renegotiating NAFTA and withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Significant proportions of the population in the US and other countries in the Global North have experienced limited, if any, income gains in the most recent era of globalisation. Leading global inequality expert Branko Milanovic has explored changes in real incomes between 1988 and 2008 to show who particularly lost out on relative gains in income. He found two groups lost most: the global upper middle class—those between the 75th and 90th percentiles on the global income distribution scale, of whom 86% were from advanced economies—and the poorest 5% of the world population.

Emerging evidence indicates that increased global trade has played a role in economic stagnation or decline for people in the North, especially in the US. MIT economist David Autor and his colleagues suggest that the ‘China shock’ has had major redistributive effects in the US, leading to declines in manufacturing employment.

Economists had previously argued that the “losers” from trade could be compensated by transfers of wealth. Autor and his colleagues found that while there have been increases in welfare payments to regions of the US hardest hit by the trade shock, they fall far short of compensating for the income loss.

Not just globalisation

Not all of the stagnation and decline experienced in the Global North can be attributed to economic globalisation. Technological change is a big factor and national policy choices around taxation and social welfare have also played key roles in shaping inequality patterns within countries. In such a context, ‘globalisation’ has been deployed as a scapegoat by some governments, invoking external blame for economic problems made at home.

The current backlash is not just about economic globalisation. It has involved ethno-nationalist and anti-immigrant components, for example among supporters of Trump and Brexit.

A key lesson from the late 20th Century is to be wary of wholesale attacks on, and sweeping defences of, 21st Century economic globalisation. In light of the difficulties of establishing solidarity between ‘losers’ in different parts of the world, the challenge of our times is for an alter-globalisation movement which addresses all of them.

Moreover, if the stellar growth rates of the last 15-20 years slow down, the relatively positive view of globalisation in much of the global South may not continue, with the possibility of a backlash (re)emerging beyond the Global North.

Also see: Deglobalisation 2.0: Trump and Brexit are but symptoms by Peter A.G. van Bergeijk

About the authors:

Rory_Horner_work_profile_photo.JPGRory Horner, Lecturer, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester321250

Daniel Haberly, Lecturer In Human Geography, University of Sussex;


Seth Schindler, Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, and Aoyama2016


Yuko Aoyama, Professor of Economic Geography, Clark University