Report on participation in PAFOM 5 and next PAFOM in Senegal

Until the official final report of PAFOM 5 is published on the African Union website, here is a quick feedback on our participation. First of all, there was a great mobilization of African Union member States and international organizations. Around 40 countries were represented and ministers in charge of migration took part for the last day of the PAFOM. This reflects the high level of political involvement at this fifth edition.

Inclusion of civil society in PAFOM

This was the point on which we were most involved during PAFOM. The African Union Commission presented at the meeting a draft Terms of Reference (ToR) aimed at institutionalizing the PAFOM. This project was the subject of discussion between the Member States for its adoption by the ministers. In the draft ToR, civil society was cited as non-state actors to be present at PAFOM Senior officials meetings. This did not seem satisfactory to us. As part of the institutionalization of PAFOM, we requested that a specific space be created for civil society prior to the Senior Officials meeting as is done in the GFMD. This space could thus facilitate greater participation of civil society in PAFOM meetings. We explained the need to broaden the participation of civil society in more organizations because the West African Observatory on Migrations was not alone enough representative of all civil society organizations working on a daily basis on the continent to help migrants. Our request was unfortunately not totally satisfied. The reformulation of the section on civil society in the ToR has been noted but we have not been able to convince the states to create a specific space for civil society. We have negotiated behind the scenes the support of the States but it was difficult to have their support for two reasons:

Reason 1: Some states want to have a say in the civil society organizations that participate in PAFOM. The Commission of the African Union, in its desire to include civil society in Senior officials PAFOM meetings, must take into account the views of States.

Reason 2: It is about the PAFOM funding. Much of the debate during the adoption of the Terms of Reference was focus on the financing of the event. The major question was who should bear the deficit related to the organization of the PAFOM if it happened during its organization that there is a lack of mobilization of sufficient financial resources? It should be noted that for the moment the PAFOM is financed from the AU budget, thanks to the contributions of the international organizations and also by the host country of the activity. The concern about the deficit is quite significant already at the level of the organization of the Senior Oficial PAFOM meeting and to add a space of the civil society would be according to some States to reinforce this risk.

Finally, we had some discussions with some officials of the Department of Social Affairs of the AU Commission, a department that deals with migration. They expressed great support for wider inclusion of civil society in the PAFOM but could not go against the will of the States. They therefore asked to accept the current compromise of having some members of civil society nominated by the AU for the Senior Officials meeting as this ensures representativeness of CSOs within the PAFOM. However one of the officials made us a very nice suggestion. In fact, according to this official, nothing prevents civil society from organizing a Side-Event before PAFOM by mobilizing a large number of CSOs on the continent. So he suggests we organize ourselves so that at the next PAFOM we can organize a Side-Event one or two days before the official meeting. We found this idea quite interesting, but we remain attentive to all suggestions to continue to advocate for wider inclusion of civil society in the next PAFOM.

Civil Society Participation in Regional Consultative Processes

We also spoke in plenary about the lack of inclusion of a large part of civil society in regional consultative processes, particularly MIDWA. We have noted the responsibility of international organizations, particularly IOM, for the lack of transparency in the process of organizing these meetings. After discussion with some IOM officials present at PAFOM on this situation, it appears that it is at the level of the countries and the Regional Economic Communities that we should act so that the civil society is largely associated with the organization of the regional consultative processes.

Free movement on the continent

This topic has been the focus of debate since the first panel of PAFOM 5. I quote a question asked by one of the officials present: ” Can we achieve a free movement of people in a context of instability and insecurity? ”. The question brought a lot of interventions. We personally liked the intervention of one of the representatives of a Regional Economic Community who said that at the level of the African Union the debate on insecurity and free movement must be overcome to focus on the great contribution that represents free movement for the continent. In response to this debate, we reproduced an argumentative document of the campaign for the free movement of Africans, initiated by the Observatory, which we distributed to the different States. This document repeats in five points the arguments for which the States must ratify the protocol for the free movement of the African Union. Following the circulation of this document, we exchanged behind-the-scenes with the high officials of the different countries. Our conclusion as a result of these discussions is that it will not be easy to overcome the fears of States on the free movement of people in Africa. States concerns are not only about insecurity, but also about the protection of their labor market, the pressure on their resources that free movement would lead to. Although they recognize the link between the Continental Free Trade Agreement and the Free Movement of Persons Protocol, they do not show much motivation to ratify the Protocol quickly. That is an important issue to follow up.


There has been very little talk of xenophobic attacks during plenaries. Respect between States and reciprocal interests led them to carefully avoid addressing this issue even though this was mentioned in a few interventions. Behind the scenes, however, we did not miss it. Most of our interlocutors regretted the xenophobic attacks on migrants, but all recognized that this could happen in their own country as well. Many spoke of poverty as the source of this violence against African migrants and not, strictly speaking, hatred from abroad. The most interesting discussion we had on this subject was with officials from the African Union Commission. They challenged me by asking what African civil society has done about the xenophobic attacks on the continent. We told them that we have repeatedly denounced this through statements and interventions in the media. They told me that it was not enough and that we had to go to more concrete actions. They gave me the example of an initiative they will soon launch at the level of the commission to make Nigerian and South African artists work together on songs that can strengthen the understanding between the populations. We found this initiative great. So we thought to propose to African CSOs to work on a mapping of our concrete actions to fight Xenophobia in our respective countries and regions. What do you think ?

Migration data research and other points

The PAFOM 5 theme on researching migration data was extensively discussed during the plenary sessions. So as not to go back over all the interventions and recommendations, I invite you to read the complete PAFOM 5 report which will be on the AU website.

Next PAFOM in Senegal

Rwanda and Senegal were in the running to host the next PAFOM. Finally, the choice fell on Senegal, which had expressed its wish since PAFOM 4 in Djibouti. See you in West Africa for PAFOM 6.

Samir ABI

Permanent Secretary

West African Observatory on Migrations

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