Since the handover to the new team in January, The Knowledge Platform has been working hard to give shape to the new strategy and define our priorities and objectives for the coming years. On Monday 22 May, the Platform hosted the kickoff of its second iteration, bringing together our network members to explain what we have been up to, which opportunities are coming up on the horizon, and how we hope to work together with our network members to invigorate and innovate in the field of security and rule of law programming.
Debating and learning
Two of the key components of the Platform’s work are to address difficult, topical issues and to use innovative means of interaction to stimulate new thinking. Combining the two, the kickoff started with a debate – to which the audience members contributed the arguments. The two sides debated a challenging statement: “The Netherlands should make the prevention of irregular migration to Europe a top priority for development cooperation”. The audience was divided randomly for and against, with the aim to encourage participants to give genuine consideration to an idea or opinion they may not agree with.
Following the group work, Frerik Kampman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Dr. Mirjam van Reisen of Leiden University were assigned to defend and oppose the statement, respectively. Mr. Kampman took a pragmatic approach, noting that preventing irregular migration is really about preventing human suffering, as it is not only extremely dangerous, but also leaves migrants with few, if any, legal protections. Moreover, it is likely that development cooperation provides precisely the tools needed to address the reasons people are driven to risk migrating irregularly, namely access to good educational and economic opportunities in their home countries. Finally, it is incumbent upon the Government to use the tools at its disposal to answer the concerns and demands of its society. In this way, development cooperation may be seen as all the more relevant and necessary, if it can be shown to improve people’s lives in their home countries, and thereby lower there inclination to make a dangerous journey to Europe.
Dr. van Reisen took a moral and normative approach to the statement, arguing that the way the statement was framed encouraged more polarization and negativity between those with opposing views in society, which in turn made finding effective compromises more challenging. Furthermore, Dr. van Reisen argued, her work on human trafficking demonstrated that its victims, who can be grouped with irregular migrants, are often the most vulnerable members of society. Encouraging governments to clamp down on those that are already the most vulnerable in exchange for development cooperation will not ameliorate the situation, but rather force victims to search for alternative, and possibly violent, escape routes.
After the debate, Megan Price and Alies Rijper of the Platform presented some of the upcoming initiatives the Platform will undertake. Megan launched the Knowledge Management Fund, the mechanism with which the Platform will fund small-scale events, research projects and other innovative ideas in the coming years. Alies introduced the online consultation, which will allow network members to contribute to the development of the research agenda for 2018.
We hope to welcome our network members to join us for more interactive events and meetings in the following months and years and look forward to receiving applications for exciting projects!