Policy Dialogue on Migration, Peace and Security in North Africa and the Sahel

Summary and Introduction

The African Institute for Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation (AIPECT, Rabat), in partnership with the Social Science Research Council-Africa Peacebuilding Network (APN-SSRC, New York), and in colloboration with the Ministry in charge of Relations with Parliament and Civil Society of Morocco, plans to organize a Two-Day Policy Dialogue on “Migration, Peace and Security in North Africa and the Sahel” on 28th and 29th September 2018. This policy dialogue is part of a series of joint activities leading up to the United Nations 2018 International Migration Conference, which will take place on December 10-11, 2018 in Morocco, and will culminate in the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.


According to the International Migration Report of 2017, it is estimated that about 260 million people in the world today live outside their country of birth, with an estimated 3.4 per cent of the world’s population being made up of migrants. Given the high level of human mobility, particularly from low-income to high-income countries, a lot of attention is being focused on the connections between migration, development and security, particularly in relation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The relative ease and speed with which people, goods, capital, cultures, and information move across international borders in this era of globalization has far-reaching implications for regional and global development, peace, and security. Also, such migratory movements which, in terms of origin, transit and destination, connect virtually all regions and peoples of the world have implications for Africa. The drivers of migration, both voluntary, and involuntary include the search for better economic opportunities, the search for escape from war, violent conflict, persecution, or from natural disasters that displace, or push people to seek for safer and more inhabitable places. Also, involuntary migration may begin as voluntary movement by those that later fall victim to transnational human trafficking or criminal networks. More recently, increased attention has been focused on how climate change, violence, social inequality, extreme poverty and high levels of youth unemployment also largely drive irregular African migration. Although Africa has recorded one of the highest increases in global migration rates between 2000 and 2017, it still lags behind Asia and Europe as an area of origin for migrants. It should also be noted that Africa hosts the fourth largest population of migrants in the world, making it both a sending and receiving continent.

More recently, African migration has grabbed global media headlines, and preoccupied the  attention of politicians, policy makers, civil society activists, and scholars. At the heart of the ongoing conversations, and concerns is the attention to high levels of “irregular” African migration to Europe, usually involving perilous journeys through the Sahara desert and across the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. To better understand the flow of African migration and its policy, strategic and environmental dimensions the following questions are relevant: what factors drive irregular migration from Africa to Europe, what explains the resort to illegal means and why, what are the implications of irregular migration for the sending, transit and receiving countries? What are the options for managing the emerging opportunities, or threats linked to migration?

Given its history and strategic location, North Africa occupied a strategic place, and stands to play a key role in understanding the nature, impact and ramifications of being an origin, and transit region for people seeking to cross Europe’s borders. Located in close proximity to Europe, North Africa has a long history of migration flows, with its countries being places of origin, transit and destination for thousands of people longing for better economic opportunities or refuge. North Africa is part of three regional mobility systems: the Euro-Mediterranean, the inter-Arab and inter-African spaces. These three systems form migratory crossroads, for migrants coming from the neighboring regions, including the Sahel, West, Central and the Horn of Africa, and even beyond.

However, the influx of migrants seeking to transit, or settle in North Africa is drastically impacting demographic and socio-economic trends in the region. While this explosion of irregular migration may be driven by factors ranging from climate change to political crises, the search for better economic opportunities, and human trafficking, it is putting a lot of pressure on already fragile conditions in the region. Also, the unstable political situation and the high rates of unemployment and underemployment, in the aftermath of the mass uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, together with the security issues rising from the Sahel, have triggered, and sometimes even intensified the migration flows from the region itself.

Faced with internal challenges ranging from the proliferation of violent extremism, the threat of terrorist activities, arms trafficking and organized crime, and humanitarian crises in the aftermath of conflict in Libya, there is an urgent need to address the situation in North Africa and the Sahel within the larger contexts of regional and global security and development.

At another level, the issue of irregular migration through, and from North Africa and the Sahel has moved to the front of Europe’s internal politics, and border security agenda. The securitization of African migration is directly related to the reinforcement of European border controls and the readmission agreements signed with the European Union (EU) by those countries on the southern shore that have become “Europe’s border guards”. These agreements have also intensified the challenges that migration engender in the region. The European Union, particularly the European Border and Coastguard Agency (FRONTEX), has continued to take a strong stand against irregular migrants transiting through North African countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Libya, even as individual European governments continue to deploy both bilateral and multilateral means to check the flow of African migrants into European countries.

The Policy Dialogue:

The AIPECT-APN/SSRC policy dialogue brings together top experts and high-level policy makers drawn from government agencies, institutions, universities, NGOs, and regional and multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, African Union, European Union, Arab Maghreb Union, Economic Community of West African States, Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), etc.; to brainstorm about the challenges posed by irregular migration in North Africa and the Sahel. The policy dialogue provides a platform for discussing the ramifications of the use of the region as a transit migratory route northwards towards Europe. Drawing from experiences and studies of the trends and patterns of migration, and the challenges it poses to development and security in North Africa and the Sahel participants will be exposed to different perspectives and learn from each other. Such a platform for frank exchanges on the costs, sustainability and effectiveness of migration management policies and practices, including borders controls, laws, and regional initiatives provide a rare opportunity for stakeholders to evaluate existing approaches, and explore new options.

Apart from this, the dialogue provides an opportunity for advocacy, based on greater awareness, and broader notions of regional security (and participatory development) that recognize the demographic, humanitarian and socio-economic dimensions of migration in North Africa. This will challenge presenters and participants to look into opportunities for building new alliances and partnerships between governments, organizations, experts and activists in ways that strengthen national and regional capacities to think through, and implement policies that can address identified problems. The policy dialogue will also engage existing migration policies in the region; identify best practices for protecting the rights of migrants in compliance with the New York 2016 UN Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, and work towards strengthening similar mechanisms at the national and regional levels. The forum will also lead to useful insights as well as outcomes that can also inform, and feed into the deliberations at the UN International Migration conference holding later in the year. The policy dialogue will also produce a set of deliverables including an outcome document, a set of publications and outreach materials.


This high level policy dialogue will bring together about 60 participants. It draws participation from the following categories:

  • Ministers
  • Parliaments
  • Senior government officials
  • Development Agencies
  • Research Institutions and centers
  • Politicians
  • Academics
  • UN and AU agencies and African RECs


African Peacebuilding Network of the Social Science Research Council, New York, USA): Launched in March 2012, the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) supports independent African research on conflict-affected countries and neighboring regions of the continent, as well as the integration of African knowledge into global policy communities.

The APN promotes the visibility of African peacebuilding knowledge among global and regional centers of scholarly analysis and practical action and makes it accessible to key policymakers at the United Nations and other multilateral, regional, and national policymaking institutions. The APN accomplishes this by facilitating the transformation of the quality and scale of African research and consolidating the contributions of African researchers, and analysts, thereby connecting them with other African scholars, policy analysts, practitioners, and networks focusing on issues of peacebuilding, as well as with other policymaking communities around the world.

African Institute for Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation (AIPECT, Morocco): AIPECT, a promising experience in peacebuilding and the promotion of human rights, looks to the new prospects opened by Morocco, after rejoining the African Union. In line with this new institutional outlook, we put enough emphasis on the enhancement of the south-south nongovernmental cooperation. By consolidating the state’s endeavors in reinforcing peace and democracy in African countries, AIPECT will be at the vanguard of all initiatives that aim at pushing forward further exchange with other organizations that share the same objectives and fields of interest.

AIPECT responds to the need to create a locus for scholarly thinking about questions related to security, peacebuilding, and development in Morocco in particular, our regional entourage  and Africa in general. We aim at developing an exchange platform between Moroccan governmental and nongovernmental bodies and their counterparts in Africa and at the international level.

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