Mapping private sector engagement along the migration cycle

“The private sector plays an important role in achieving development outcomes and its engagement can help strengthen the link between displacement, migration and sustainable development”, according to the Mapping private sector engagement along the migration cycle report.

The research, by Amanda Bisong and Anna Knoll, was conducted by The European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) is an independent ‘think and do tank’ working on international cooperation and development policy in Europe and Africa.

According to the report, “The migration cycle refers to the five possible stages of a migration process encompassing

  • pre-departure
  • transit
  • arrival
  • long-term options in the country of destination or a third country
  • return and reintegration in the country of origin.

Longer-term options for migrants may include moving to a further third country destination. The process of return and reintegration emphasises the potential circularity of the migration process, although return may be forced, coerced or voluntary.

International development agendas acknowledge this private sector role and advocate for joint solutions that involve the private sector in development – a sector traditionally dominated by public service actors.

The role of private sector engagement in migration and displacement has evolved beyond mobilising resources, to generating expertise, providing access and lobbying political leadership. However, the tendency of public-sector actors to engage with the private sector primarily as a funder or co-funder continues to prevail. In practice, there are numerous private actors operating at different levels. Consequently, their interests and the scope for collaboration with governments, donors and international organisations differs based on their assumed role in relation to migration and migrants. Public-sector actors therefore need to adopt different modalities and a variety of targeted approaches and tools to initiate and sustain partnerships with private sector actors.

This summary is based on a wider report which maps private-sector activities relevant to migrants and explores how private and public-sector actors can engage jointly with migrants at various stages of the migration cycle. It discusses entry points for donors and governments aiming to establish greater engagement by the private sector or support privately-owned initiatives in migration that can help to make migration processes safer, as well as strengthen the rights of migrants and improve the levels of service provided to them.

“Motivations and interests of the private sector are context specific and vary according to their role, characteristics, geographical location, the stage of the migrant cycle and the type of migrant target group”, says the report.

The ECDPM mapping study Mapping private-sector involvement in the migration cycle, on which this summary is based, provides further details on the roles of private actor in the migration cycle. It gives an overview across the breadth of private sector engagement on the topic of migration and includes further examples and entry points for possible joint activities between public and private actors in a number of sectors. Private-public engagement can only be successful if there are shared motivations that are fully understood and can be built upon.

Clearly, not all private-sector actors will have the same interests and their approaches may align or be in tension with those of governments and development actors (such as donors and implementing agencies). This mapping explored some of these. In each sector, further analysis, dialogue and engagement can be useful to share lessons, exchange and define common interests. This can build on the many on-going activities between public and private actors highlighted in the mapping study. More in-depth analysis that identifies dilemmas, unpacks interests and explores possibilities to overcome ‘policy-to-practice’ gaps in a particular migration-related engagement situation can help to identify concrete opportunities for public and private-sector actors to work jointly in support of the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees.


by Christian Elia