Migration in an open society – a Dutch Christian-Democratic Perspective

Gerd Leers is the Dutch Minister for Immigration and Asylum, in a government coalition between the Christian Democratic Party (CDA) and the Liberal Party (VVD), supported by Geert Wilders’ party. Leers is a CDA Minister, and he acknowledges that it was hard for him to accept this post in this government, given his fundamental differences with the far right that dominates much of the public debate, with a language that constantly borders racism (according to the verdict of the Dutch court).

The political and ideological struggles with the migration debate are very well articulated the Autumn 2011 issue of Christen Democratische Verkenningen, the journal of the scientific institute of the CDA (co-edited by my former neighbor and good friend in The Hague, and in which my partner explains why she decided she wanted to leave the Netherlands). The challenges for Christian Democrats, who have been a cornerstone of both the Dutch consensual politics and multi-culturalism that are now so much under threat, are very evident, and this journal  is an invaluable contribution to a more balanced and open debate that is needed.

The journal also illustrates one of the key shortcomings in the debate, ever since 9/11 it seems, of the absence of perspectives of  immigrants and ‘allochtonen’. The right-wing populism continues to maintain that there is a need to be allowed to talk about the problems of immigrants and non-ethnic Dutch in the Netherlands. I suspect this conflicts completely with the  perspective of many of the immigrants. Research has shown that discrimination in labor markets  is common. Many people of non-Dutch origin face racism on a daily basis, including – I understand from conversations – in public institutions. My own experience with the integration bureaucracy also made me deeply aware of the different treatment that immigrants must be experiencing. While the Dutch majority continues to debate the need for integration, many of the immigrants I spoke to perceive that the majority does not really want them to integrate.

Aniek Smit and Wim Willems discuss in an interesting contribution to the journal the dilemmas posed by the Dutch policies targeted at knowledge migrants. They rightly wonder how immigrants perceive a policy that values their hands and brains, but not their culture, habits, and indeed as person.Smit and Willems stress that cities like the Hague have active policies that support ‘expats’ (who according to city communication ‘do not have to integrate). For us, and my partner in particular, there was no clearer demonstration of how she was treated as second-class citizen: where I, ironically happened to become classified as expat, for whom the city makes small symbolic gestures like discounts for activities in the city (displayed in the Stadhuis, for example), for the other immigrants like her (even if she has two children with a Dutch passport), she was not entitled to these benefits, and  the ‘services’ consisted of the deeply insulting bureaucracy called integration.


Financial crisis: cycles or structural change

‘The economic crisis and the developing countries’

Editors: Peter van Bergeijk, Arjan de Haan en Rolph van der Hoeven

On 13 October, 2011, Nico Schrijvers, member of the Dutch Upper House was  presented with the  the book The Financial Crisis and the Developing Countries. This book is the result of 17 studies carried out by the international Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, with leading researchers from China and India, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, as well as industrialised countries.

The book presents up-to-date  insight into the problems that have been caused by the crisis, and by industrialized countries’ lack of adequate response to the financial and economic crisis, by increasing protectionism, and by reductions in financial flows, including development assistance (and in the case of the Netherlands, aid now has the the explicit objective to support the Dutch economy, in a 180-degree reversal of its untied aid in which the Netherlands had led a progressive international community for three decades).
We argue in the book that the effects of the crisis will be structural, especially through a shift in power to emerging economies which are often regarded in the West as developing economies, such as China, India and Indonesia. The articles have analysed the implications of this continued crisis, particularly the potentials for an enhanced role of the G-20, the effectiveness of development cooperation and what this implies for a global underclass.

As I mentioned in my contribution to the launch, I believe that the financial crisis and the responses in old OECD countries are also linked, at least indirectly, to the political changes that have taken place across Europe over the last years. In the Netherlands, during the general election in 2010, I was struck by the fact that the financial crisis was almost absent in the political debate. Instead, much of the debate – and shifts in political power – was dominated by the so-called problems caused by migrants.  While the financial crisis illustrates and contributes to the phenomenal speed with which economic and political power is shifting from the old-OECD, it seems that countries like the Netherlands are becoming increasingly inward-looking, and look for scapegoats to blame for these inevitable changes.


What do we know about social development and inclusion?

Many studies have explored the relationships between social development  – social norms and practice, social trust, community engagement – and other development outcomes. But there have been few empirical studies  that tests these relationships at the international level. This is largely due to data limitations: few reliable, globally-representative data sources exist that can provide a basis for cross-country comparison.

The Institute of Social Studies (ISS) now hosts a large database of social development indicators compiled from a wide range of sources in a first attempt to overcome such data constraint. The Indices of Social Development (ISD) are based on over 200 measures from 25 reputable data sources for the years 1990 to 2010. These measures are aggregated into five composite indices: civic activism, interpersonal safety and trust, inter-group cohesion, clubs and associations, and gender equity/equality and non-discrimination against women.

In Working Paper No 3 for this project, we  presents this database, highlight the differences, similarities and complementarities with other measures of well-being, including around income poverty, multi-dimensional poverty, and human development. The paper illustrates the potential of this database in tracking social development trends, as well as their correlations with economic and political indicators. Do have a look at  http://www.indsocdev.org/resources.html, and I look forward to hear what you think.