2011 - African Migration, Global
Inequalities, and Human Rights: Connecting the Dots.
Current African Issues Paper for Nordic Africa Institute.
August 1, 2010 - Oped in Providence Journal U.S.-Africa 'reset' requires honesty about America's wrongs
President Obama has inspired hope in Africa and around the world.
Africans who heed his call to build the future, however, must still
reckon with the stubborn fact that the United States can be an
obstacle as well as a partner.
Spring, 2010 - Foreword to issue of Articulate -
End "Aid," Invest in Global Public Goods
Let us agree that the "aid paradigm" is fundamentally flawed, in that it is based on
a model of the rich "helping" the poor. But the paradigm advanced by free-market
fundamentalism, that poor countries and poor people can and should lift themselves
up by their bootstraps, without benefit of support from the wider society, is also
April, 2010 - Zimbabwe: Demystifying Sanctions and Strengthening Solidarity,
by Briggs Bomba and William Minter
In the case of Zimbabwe today, both supporters and opponents of
sanctions exaggerate their importance. The international community,
both global and regional, has other tools as well.
October, 2009 - Africa: Climate Change and Natural Resources,
by William Minter and Anita Wheeler
Africa will suffer consequences out of all
proportion to its contribution to global warming, which is
primarily caused by greenhouse gas emissions from wealthy
countries. But Africa can also make significant contributions to
mitigating (i.e. limiting) climate change, by stopping tropical
deforestation and ending gas flaring from oil production.
March, 2009 - Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa,
by Daniel Volman and William Minter, for Foreign Policy in Focus
html | pdf (283K)
Will de facto U.S. security policy toward the continent focus
on anti-terrorism and access to natural resources and prioritize
bilateral military relations with African countries? Or will the
United States give priority to enhancing multilateral capacity to
respond to Africa's own urgent security needs? If the first option is
taken, it will undermine rather than advance both U.S. and African
February, 2009 - Inclusive Human Security: U. S. National Security Policy, Africa,
and the African Diaspora, edited for TransAfrica Forum html (150K) | pdf (2.8M)
Fundamentally, it is necessary not only to present a new foreign policy
face to the world, but to shape an international agenda that shows more
and more Americans how our own security depends on that of others. The
old civil rights adage that "none of us are free until all of us are free" has
its corollary in an inclusive human security framework: "None of us can
be secure until all of us are secure. "
April, 2008 - Migration and Global Justice, pamphlet written for American Friends
html | pdf (379K)
"As the global economy drives global inequality, movement across borders
inevitably increases. If legal ways are closed, people trying to survive and
to support their families will cross fences or set sail on dangerous seas
regardless of the risks. "
December, 2007 - "The Armored Bubble: Military Memoirs from Apartheid's
Warriors," pp. 147-152 in African Studies Review
html | pdf (70K)
"The books reviewed in this essay are a small sample of one genre of war
literature: detailed accounts of battle from the perspective of those among
South Africa's military veterans who have no question that they were fighting
a just cause in defense of their country. "
Jan 31, 2007 - Oped in Providence Journal
"Don't replay Iraq in Horn of Africa"
"Somalia is not Iraq, of course. ... But the similarities are nevertheless substantial. The United States and Ethiopia cut short efforts at reconciliation ... They disregarded Somali and wider African opinion in an effort to kill alleged terrorists. And while chalking up military "victories," they aggravated long-term problems."
Jul 8, 2005 -
"Invisible Hierarchies: Africa, Race, and Continuities in the World Order" (pdf)
"The failure to acknowledge race as a fundamental feature of today’s unequal world order remains a striking weakness of radical as well as conventional analyses of that order. Current global and national socioeconomic hierarchies are not mere residues of a bygone era of primitive accumulation. Just as it should be inconceivable to address the past, present, and future of American society without giving central attention to the role of African American struggles, so analyzing and addressing 21st-century structures of global inequality requires giving central attention to Africa."
In Science & Society, July, 2005
Jul 8, 2002 -
"Aid—Let's Get Real"
"There is an urgent need to pay for such global public needs as the battles against AIDS and poverty by increasing the flow of real resources from rich to poor. But the old rationales and the old aid system will not do. ... For a real partnership, the concept of "aid" should be replaced by a common obligation to finance international public investment for common needs."
In The Nation, July 8, 2002, with Salih Booker.
Nov 3, 1992 - Oped in Christian Science Monitor
"Savimbi Should Accept That Democracy Worked in Angola"
"Just one month after Angolans peacefully thronged polling stations in their first multiparty election
ever, the conflict-battered Southern African country is on the brink of all-out war. ... The international
community, including the US, has been unanimous, in urging Savimbi to accept the election results, but Savimbi and his close-knit group of top officers remain both unpredictable and militarily potent. The new conflict, which appears to the starting, will be hard to contain."
April, 1988 - "When Sanctions Worked: The Case of Rhodesia Reconsidered", with Elizabeth Schimdt, in
African Affairs html (97K) | pdf (3.4M)
"Sanctions, while not the only factor in bringing majority rule to Rhodesia, made a significant
long-term contribution to that result. ... Moreover, more strongly enforced sanctions could have
been even more effective. If Rhodesia's petroleum lifeline had been severed and if South Africa
had not served as a back door to international trade, ... the country could not have survived
for more than a matter of months."
"Action against Apartheid,"
in Bruce Douglas, ed., Reflections on Protest: Student Presence in
"But the government usually seems to be a very distant and unresponsive target
[for anti-apartheid protests]. Therefore exposure of U.S.A. business involvement in
Southern Africa - by demonstrations, withdrawal campaigns, etc. - is at least equally
African Migration, Global Inequalities, and Human Rights:
Connecting the Dots
Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Uppsala, 2011
PDF available for download at
HTML version available at links in table of contents below.
next section |
Table of Contents
The Diversity of African Migration
Migration Frameworks: International and Internal
Migration and Global Inequalities
Migration and Development
Migration and Human Rights
Varieties of Migrants' Rights Organizing
Framing Advocacy Agendas
References: Books, Reports, and Articles
Annex: Implications for Development Goals and Measures
The era of the so-called Washington consensus of market
fundamentalism is long past. The developed countries are
mired in structural economic crises, while emerging
powers such as China, India and Brazil are advancing
their economic presence on the world scene and inspiring
new policy debates about the prerequisites for
development. And a recent joint study by China's
International Poverty Reduction Centre and the
Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests
that "Africa will be the next big emerging
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set poverty-reduction
targets for the year 2015, but they did not
fundamentally break with the ideology of market
fundamentalism. Addressing only "poverty",
these goals avoided fundamental issues of international
inequality and social injustice. However, it is now clear
to many people, including many policymakers in both rich
and poor countries, that economic growth is meaningless
unless it is accompanied by measures to reduce the
structural inequalities in societies. The post-MDG agenda
must focus on addressing the underlying structures of
production, distribution and ownership — and of power —
that perpetuate imbalances.
In Africa, that means we need developmental states that
have the capacity to advance both economic growth and
social justice. We need new politics that empower the
poor and values that advance common objectives and
ethical principles. We need new institutions that really
work on behalf of the marginalised segments of society.
There must be incentives to improve productivity growth,
jobs and incomes, as well as resources for realising
human aspirations and human security.
But in our globalised and globalising world, no country,
large or small, can advance its own interests without
considering its neighbours, its trading partners, its
region and, indeed, the entire global order.
Developmental states need a developmental world.
In this essay commissioned by the Nordic Africa
Institute, William Minter takes migration as an indicator
of the need to move beyond the national dimension.
Migration, he argues, should not be seen as a self-
contained issue, considered in the destination countries
as a problem to be managed or in countries of origin as
an adjunct to development. Rather, migration should be
understood as a process emerging from the relationships
between countries, especially inequalities of power and
wealth. New measures beyond the MDGs must include the
national level of analysis, but also directly address the
imbalances between countries.
One must also focus on the rights of migrants themselves.
Bringing together results from areas of research most
often considered separately, Minter stresses that fundamental human rights are due both to those who
decide to leave their countries and those who decide to
stay. The rights of migrants are threatened by
anti-migrant sentiment, xenophobia and the criminalisation of
migration in places as diverse as Norway, Italy, Libya
and South Africa. And the rights of the global majority
in developing countries are still threatened by a
systematically biased global economic order. Until
fundamental inequalities between countries are addressed,
the pattern of migration in today's world will continue
to evoke the spectre of South Africa's apartheid era,
when authorities tried to confine blacks to their
"homelands", except when their labour was
African development and global development, in short,
require more than measures to address growth and poverty.
Conflicts over migration are dramatic indicators that
"development" must also directly confront
morally unacceptable global inequalities.
Professor Fantu Cheru
previous section |
next section |
Table of Contents
The Nordic Africa Institute
The concerns of destination countries and the framing of
migration as a problem have long dominated public debate
on international migration, and to a lesser extent,
policy analysis and scholarly research. Anti-migrant
sentiment, leading to restrictive legislation, official
abuses against immigrants, and in extreme cases
xenophobic violence, is widespread in countries as
diverse as South Africa, Libya, Italy, Switzerland, and
the United States. Migrants are widely blamed for crime,
for "taking our jobs," and for threatening
national identity. Empirical evidence to the contrary has
had relatively little impact on public opinion.
At the same time, there has been increasing attention in
recent years to the impact of migration on the
development of migrants' countries of origin, with
emphasis on the potential contributions of remittances,
efforts to counter the "brain drain" of skilled
professionals, and the role of the diaspora in investment
Migrants' rights organisations, particularly in Western
Europe, have taken the lead in highlighting the need for
protection against abuses of the human rights of migrants
themselves. There is also increasing scholarly attention
to the topic, as well as multilateral institutional
attention by, for example, the UN's Special Rapporteur on
the Rights of Migrants and the European Union Agency for
Fundamental Rights. But it is still true that the rights
of migrants themselves are most often marginalized in
official discussions between migrant-receiving and
In 2009, the UNDP Human Development Report called for
"win-win-win" approaches to migration policy
that would provide benefits for receiving countries,
sending countries, and migrants. Such scenarios will have
little chance of success unless steps are also taken to
address fundamental issues of global inequality so that
both those who stay and those who move have access to
fundamental human rights. The growing phenomenon of
irregular migration, and more generally of
"problem" migration that leads to conflict,
does not result only from specific national policies. It
also derives from rising inequality within and between
nations, combined with the technological changes that
make migration a conceivable option for larger and larger
numbers. Thus trends in migration do not only point to
problems or opportunities for development; they also
signal fundamental issues facing both those who move and
those who do not.
This essay highlights the relationships between different
migration issues and the broader context of global
inequalities. It "connects the dots" rather
than exploring any one issue in depth. It is intended to
stimulate further debate and research that can contribute
to re-framing migration not as a technical issue for
migration specialists, but as one of the fundamental
issues that must be addressed in order to bring about a
more just global order.
While African refugees, numbering some 2.8 million at the
end of 2009, are prominent in the international image of
African migrants, they constitute less than 10% of all
African-born migrants living outside their country of
birth. The majority of African migrants, like the
majority of migrants from other world regions, do not fit
the definition of refugees fleeing violence or political
persecution; rather, they are seeking to escape economic
hardship and find better living conditions. Much of that
migration is indeed "forced," but the force
involved is that of economic inequality between countries
This paper first reviews African migration by region and
then traces frameworks for understanding migration,
particularly the links between migration and global
inequalities. This sets the context for exploring the
specific issues of migration and development and
migration and human rights. The paper concludes with
examples of migrants' rights organizing, observations on
framing advocacy agendas, and an annex suggesting the
implications of migration for expanding development goals
In North Africa, the majority of migrants go to Europe or
the Middle East. In Africa's other regions, most migrants
move to countries within the African continent, with
smaller proportions moving to Europe, North America, the
Middle East, or other regions. In West Africa, the
movement is largely within the region, from inland to the
coast. In Southern Africa, migrants flow predominantly to
South Africa. In Central and East Africa, the flows vary
markedly by country, depending on geography and on the
history of colonial and linguistic ties.
In considering migration and development, the dominant
themes of research and debate have been remittances and
the flow of skilled labour (brain drain/ gain). There has
been more attention in recent years to the broader roles
of the diaspora population, but the complexity of
diaspora relationships remains one of the major areas
that needs further attention.
In practice, protection of the rights of migrants,
including both refugees and other migrants, falls far
short of that already agreed in international law.
Although the 1990 Convention on the Rights of Migrant
Workers has been ratified by only 44 states, including no
major destination country, multiple international human
rights agreements require respect for the rights of all
people, regardless of migrant status. The failure to
respect these universal human rights, and particularly
the rights of irregular migrants, is reinforced by
anti-immigrant public opinion, by right-wing political
mobilisation, and by the practices of governments in
their management of migration systems.
Any effective defence of migrants' human rights will
require greater organization by migrants themselves, as
well as coalitions with other allies committed to justice
and human rights.
As illustration, the essay includes brief mentions of
four cases of migration-related activism in different contexts: the Sans-Papiers
in France, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration in
California, the Congress of South African Trade Unions
(COSATU), and the Migrants' Rights Network in the United
A final section lays out summary observations about
advocacy related to migrants' rights in destination and
transit countries, to immigration "reform" and
"managed migration," and to migration and
global human development.
An annex proposes possible additions to measures of
progress based on the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs), stressing (1) measures of global inequality and
inequality between countries involved in migration
systems, (2) measures that might make the MDG goal 8 of
"partnership" less vague, and
(3) measures for countries of origin on policies
related to emigration and relationships with their