Promoting inclusion and a multi-stakeholder approach to policy-making
The project in brief
The project is implemented by the Federal Commission on Migration in Switzerland. The FCM is a permanent body, established by the law in 2008 (merging two pre-existing separate commissions focusing respectively on migration and asylum).
As a consultative extra-parliamentary commission, the Federal Commission on Migration FCM enjoys a unique position within the Swiss institutional set-up in charge of migration and asylum. Composed of 30 experts selected outside of the federal administration, it acts as an interface between the authorities and civil society. It constitutes a good practice for bringing additional – field-level – expertise into policy dialogue and for ensuring key actors, including migrants and refugees, have a say in shaping policies.
Overall mandate: The Federal Commission on Migration FCM is an extra parliamentary commission acting in an advisory capacity to the Swiss Federal Council and the Swiss administration. It is given the mandate to develop knowledge, advise on and address the social, economic, cultural, political, demographic and legal issues that arise for Switzerland and its population in the context of international migration. Its thematic field of work is therefore relatively large. Topics can range from refugee protection to labour migration, social cohesion in the national context, but also to transnational issues such as a migration partnerships with countries of origin. The FCM is free in setting its agenda and thematic priorities.
This overall mandate translates into several workstreams and the FCM intends to contribute at several complementary levels.
(Policy level) Contribute to shape migration and asylum policies:
- (reactive role) Provide expertise in policy-making: Established as a consultative body, “informing” and “guiding” policies lies at the core of the mandate of the FCM. The FCM is formally involved and consulted in any policy-making and law-making process relating to its thematic mandate.
- (proactive role) Generate and share new knowledge for policy needs: in order to be able to constructively contribute to policy-making but also identify policy gaps and/or needs, the FCM plays a very active role in deepening available knowledge. It has the capacity to launch studies and reflexion processes on topics of particular interest on the basis of which it can formulate recommendations addressed to the government and/or facilitates consultative processes to share the results of these works and their implications for policy change.
- (inclusive role) Promoting key stakeholders’ participation in national policy dialogue on migration and asylum: the FCM comprises 30 experts in the field of migration, including representatives of cantonal and communal administrations, labour unions, federation of the employers, churches, but also migrants and migrants’ associations representatives. It thereby ensures that a wide range of institutions, experiences and interests are represented, consulted and included in policy-making. The diversity of its membership consolidated over time and constitutes a key added value. The FCM therefore also plays a role of interface between the authorities and civil society, allowing field-level actors to share their experience on how policies impact on ground realities.
(Society level) Support social cohesion and harmonious cohabitation:
- (public information): The FCM is also engaged in sharing the results of its work beyond policy makers and to inform the public at large on current issues and the implications of migration as a sensitive, often emotional, but nevertheless central dynamic of society. Annual thematic publications and events are organised with the objective of supporting a fact-based understanding of migration and its realities within the Swiss society and abroad, including for raising awareness on some of the blind-spots of the current public debate.
- (innovating in the field of integration): The FCM also has the capacity to financially support initiatives that complement integration measures promoted by the federal government at its different levels (including the cantons and communes). It offers financial support to local projects, often initiated by local governments and/or civil society organisations. In this framework, the FCM lays the emphasis on innovative programs that allow to build bridges between nationals and migrants communities and rethink social and intercultural ties in the Swiss migration society. This contribution is also meant to fill possible gaps identified in existing programs and to better connect policy fields and existing initiatives with one another.
Lessons learned and best practices identified from the projects supported by the FCM are also expected to feed back into policy reflections and dialogue.
Main activities of the Good Practice
The activities of the FCM have developed and diversified over time. The FCM is not (only) a body regrouping experts ready “to share an opinion” and advise, “on-demand”, at the time of policy-making processes. The ambition of the FCM is not only to be able to react at the time of consultations on new laws or policies but also to be able to influence the agenda and, for this matter, to be able to generate new knowledge, before and after law- and policy-making. The studies it launches as well as the experience gathered through the support to small scale projects are meant to feed back into policy work.
While all activities are connected and designed to reinforce one another, they can be structured in different pillars / workstreams.
- Facilitate internal and external consultations: the secretariat of the FCM plays a critical role in supporting and organising the work of the Commission. It constitutes a permanent team able to plan thematic discussions, convene consultations and report on the FCM activities.
- Knowledge development and studies: the diverse membership of the FCM allows to mobilise a broad range of experts, on different dimensions of migration and asylum, for knowledge development. External expertise can be mobilised to conduct particular studies.
- Programme management and project support: the co-financing of small-scale projects at local level allows to innovate and complement existing policies and practices.
- Public information: the FCM ensures that the knowledge developed is made accessible and shared with the public at large. This includes public events but also thematic publications and recommendations that are shared through various channels.
Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice
Legal basis: the Federal Commission on Migration is established in the law, which stipulates its mandate(s) and role of interface between state and non-state actors active on migration and asylum policies.
Institutional anchorage: its legal basis further positions the FCM within the institutional landscape in charge of migration and asylum and secures its participation in policy-making.
Resources are secured: as the FCM is established by the law as a permanent committee, this implies that the financial resources for its functioning are secured. This is a way to ensure its thematic independence.
To sum up, the fact that the mandate of the FCM is established in the law offers different advantages. It formalizes its space to contribute with its expertise to policy-making, while safeguarding its specificities and in particular its thematic independence and capacity to involve additional voices into policy dialogue. This confirms the unique positioning of the Commission: it can advise on any topic it deems relevant in relation to its mandate, while its access to policy-makers is (formally) guaranteed. In a sense, it must (at least) be listened to by government authorities.
Through its membership, the FCM already gathers a wide spectrum of actors, from different fields and representing different interests, with the objective of supporting a “whole-of-society” approach to migration. As explained above, its membership comprises representatives of cantonal and communal administrations, labour unions, federation of the employers, churches, but also representatives of refugees and migrants’ interests.
Thanks to its specific institutional anchorage, the FCM is well networked with both governmental and non-governmental actors at federal, cantonal (regional) and communal levels.
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
The institutional positioning of the FCM can be described as both an advantage and a challenge. “Being part of the system” ensures access to and participation in policy-making processes. It also requires to find and preserve a right balance between the authorities, from which the FCM emanates, and non-state actors, which form its constituency and which experiences and interests should find their way into policy dialogue. One the one hand, the FCM needs to maintain a “proximity” and a regular dialogue with the administration to be able to usefully contribute in policy discussions. On the other hand, it is critical for the FCM to protect its specificities and independence in order to preserve the confidence of its members and ensure it can contribute with a different voice to policy-making processes.
How they were overcome
- Transparency in all processes for trust to be preserved.
- Inclusive and diverse membership to ensure that all interests are represented within the Commission.
- Constant “pedagogy” on the mandate and room of manoeuvre towards the administration and constituency.
Results of the Good Practice
Two examples of the contributions of the FCM:
(Policy dialogue) Recommendations on “protection”: considering the gradual discrepancy between the available protection framework and causes of forced migration, the FCM recently published recommendations that advocate for the introduction of a complementary protection status. The document calls for intensified international cooperation for better protection of people on the run. It recommends guaranteeing safe access routes, promoting early integration and better involving civil society. The FCM further insists on the principle that all persons accessing protection should be granted the same rights.
(Changing practices and approaches) Participation of migrants in local politics: supported by the FCM, the project “Migrants’ Sessions” created an innovative platform in the area of Basel to enable people without voting rights to participate in policy dialogue. On the occasion of the sessions, migrants’ representatives exchange and formulate proposals that are then shared with local politicians. This does not only allow migrants to learn and “practice” political participation but also generates a constructive dialogue between authorities and segments of the populations without voting rights. Such sessions have taken place on an annual basis since their piloting in 2018. This forum is a first in Switzerland.
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
As explained above, the objective of the FCM is to provide complementary expertise to Swiss policy-making on migration and asylum. Its diverse membership brings additional experiences and perspectives into policy dialogue. The FCM furthermore conducts studies and support pilot project to deepen available knowledge on migration, asylum and integration. These results are shared not only with policy-makers but also a broader public to feed into the public debate.
The thematic objectives of the GCR are thus integrated into the discussions, reflections and recommendations of the FCM (see for instance the recommendations on protection presented above).
Furthermore, the mandate, composition and contributions of the FCM fully integrate within the frame of the GCR has it promotes a mechanism for multi-stakeholders’ participation in migration and asylum policy-making. The FCM constitutes a concrete example of a mechanism allowing not only academics or representatives of the economy to take part in policy dialogue, but also migrants and refugees’ representatives to contribute with their experience and realities.