Remittances and Development in Post-Conflict States

 

To download a PDF copy of the report, please click here.

About the Task Force

Migrant remittances play an increasingly central role in the post-conflict reconstruction and national development of conflict-affected states. Violent conflicts and prolonged ethnic and religious hostilities lead to population displacement; the livelihoods of those left behind vitally depend on remittance transfers. Economic and social remittances are of central importance for restoring stability and enhancing human security in post-conflict countries.

         The Boston University Task Force on Remittances and Post-Conflict Development constitutes one of the first longitudinal interdisciplinary research efforts to systematically analyze post-conflict remittance systems and the possibilities of leveraging remittance funds for post-conflict development. The Task Force involves participants from academic institutions in the U.S. as well as abroad, with diverse disciplinary affiliations that included economists, lawyers, anthropologists, geographers, political scientists and public health specialists. The resulting first collaborative Task Force Report “Remittance Flows to Post-Conflict States: Perspectives on Human Security and Development” (October 2013, 146 pp.) outlines the major findings of the project and suggests policy recommendations to enhance the economic and social role of migrant remittances in post-conflict reconstruction efforts. The Task Force was convened by Boston University development economist John R. Harris and international banking expert Donald F. Terry. Social anthropologist Daivi Rodima-Taylor was Lead Researcher and Editor for the Task Force report.

The Task Force Report established that remittances can act as a gateway to greater financial inclusion, while also providing crucial post-conflict stability. Financial inclusion emerged as an area of central importance to post-conflict institution building. Highlighting the increasing complexity of global remittance systems, the Task Force Report examined opportunities for greater formalization of remittance transfer channels and possibilities for enhanced collaboration with diverse institutions of varying degrees of formality. It explored the challenges to regulating international remittance transfers in the context of growing concerns about transparency, and investigated the increasing role of diaspora networks and migrant associations in post-conflict co-development initiatives.

Situating remittances within a broader framework of human security, it suggested attention to the growing connectedness of diverse aspects of human vulnerability. The main areas outlined for further research and development activities included the possibilities of facilitating post-conflict remittances as a tool of financial inclusion and the combinations of remittance services with diverse other financial services and products; attention on mobile remittances and other novel Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in facilitating remittance transfers in post-conflict areas; the challenges and opportunities of harmonizing informal and formal remittance transfer systems for post-conflict development; and the role of diaspora networks and co-development in post-conflict reconstruction.

 

PardeePoster

 

The findings of the Task Force Report have been presented and disseminated in diverse venues, and research is ongoing on the issues of African migrants’ individual and collective remitting patterns and diaspora co-development initiatives in the New England area. Preparations have also been made for a larger empirical research project focusing on selected African post-conflict remittance areas. The efforts to disseminate the knowledge gained through the Task Force research project include presentations at the World Bank Knowledge Sharing Session “Remittances for Reconstruction and Development,” (Washington DC, January 8th, 2014; Don Terry, John Harris, Daivi Rodima-Taylor) that provided a productive venue for sharing ideas about facilitating improved remittance transfer systems in post-conflict areas of Africa with diverse international development experts and practitioners. The Report launch event at Boston University on October 10, 2013, featured Governor of the Bangladesh Bank Dr. Atiur Rahman as a keynote speaker. The Report findings have also been presented and discussed at the African Studies Association 56th Annual Meeting (Baltimore, MD, Nov. 21-24, 2013) in the double panel “Rebuilding Post-Conflict Africa through Remittances: Challenges and Prospects,” co-organized by John Harris and Daivi Rodima-Taylor, as well as other venues that include the Myron Weiner Seminar Series on International Migration (MIT, February 4, 2014; John Harris and Daivi Rodima-Taylor); the Pardee House Seminar, Boston University (February 4, 2014; Don Terry, John Harris, Daivi Rodima-Taylor and Nikos Passas), the Rodney Seminar of the African Studies Center of Boston University (January 28, 2014), diaspora forum “African Diaspora and Development: What Partnership?” (Washington DC, April 12), and the conference “Pushing the Boundaries of Migration Studies” at the Weatherhead Center, Harvard University (May 5-6, 2014).

Media Coverage:

How CFPB Rule Will Impede Remittances to War-Torn Nations, by Raymond Natter, American Banker (October 21, 2013).
Study: CFPB remittance rule may hurt foreign aid, by National Association of Federal Credit Unions (October 10, 2013).
CFPB Regs May Cut Off Payments to Conflict-Torn Areas: Report, by Chris Cumming, American Banker (October 8, 2013).

Suggested Reading:

Beyond Small Change: Making Migrant Remittances Count.
Migration, Unemployment and Development: A Two-Sector Analysis.

 

Related Video: Remittance Task Force launch event, November 2013

 

Related Video: Task Force Member Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda Discusses  Remittances and Technology:

Watch this video on YouTube

ASA

Report Presented at African Studies Association Annual Meeting

In late November, members of the Task Force for Remittances in Post-Conflict States presented their work at the African Studies Association 56th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, “Mobility, Migration and Flows”. The double panel “Rebuilding Post-Conflict Africa through Remittances: Challenges and Prospects” investigated a wide range of topics central to conflict-induced remittance systems and the possibilities of leveraging remittance funds for post-conflict development.

Three main sets of issues were examined. First, the panel concentrated on the challenges of harmonizing the regulatory environments for a more efficient channeling of post-conflict remittances. Contemporary remittance systems are part of increasingly complex global networks, characterized by high degrees of fragmentation and anonymity. The papers focused on the ways of improving regulatory structures and making them conducive to transparent and efficient transnational remittance transfers. Suggestions were outlined to adjust recent requirements of certain disclosures that may render remittance transactions problematic in post-conflict contexts (in particular regarding the Dodd-Frank Act amendments to the Electronic Funds Transfer Act). It was proposed that regulatory efforts should consider contextually differentiated and culturally sensitive approaches to existing remittance systems in post-conflict areas. As the majority of remittances in those contexts are transferred through informal channels that are embedded in existing social institutions and networks, the panel discussed opportunities for greater formalization of remittance transfer channels and possibilities for enhanced collaboration with diverse institutions of varying degrees of formality.

Secondly, the panel examined the increasing role of diaspora networks and migrant associations in post-conflict co-development initiatives, as well as the growing importance of social remittances in the form of skills, knowledge, and expertise. Case studies examined institutionally mediated remittances from diverse African diasporas and their role in infrastructural and environmental development projects in different areas of the continent. Measures to encourage return migration among skilled and culturally competent specialists in post-conflict countries through various sectoral and financial reforms were also the center of attention. And lastly, the papers discussed the increasing connectedness of diverse aspects of human vulnerability that may disrupt peace and development. Connecting factors such as environmental change and violent conflict, ‘migration-for-adaptation’ strategies were explored that utilize the new opportunities, resources and networks of the diaspora for diversifying local livelihoods, supporting climate adaptation and building social resilience in migrant sending countries.

Panel presentations examined case studies from Somalia, Liberia, Senegal, Mali, and Mauritania. The double panel was co-organized by John Harris and Daivi Rodima-Taylor, and the Task Force members who authored papers also included Raymond Natter, Susan Foster, Frank Feeley, Chantel Pheiffer, Neal Estey, and Juergen Scheffran.

Panels

FIRST PANEL:

8:00 AM
Location: Dover A, Baltimore Marriott
Rebuilding Post-Conflict Africa through Remittances: Challenges and Prospects I
Organized by Daivi Rodima-Taylor and John Harris, Boston University
Social Remittances and Brain Drain in Africa: Encouraging the Return of Expatriate Health Professionals
Frank Feeley, Boston University
Susan Foster, Boston University – School of Public Health
Remittances and Diaspora in Post-Conflict States: The Case of Liberia
Chantel Pheiffer, Boston University
Regulating Remittances to Post-Conflict Africa: The Dodd-Frank Act and the Law of Unintended Consequences
Raymond Natter, Barnett Sivon & Natter PC
Discussants:
Daivi Rodima-Taylor , Boston University

SECOND PANEL:

2:45 PM
Location: Dover A, Baltimore Marriott
XI-D-3 Rebuilding Post-Conflict Africa through Remittances: Challenges and Prospects II
Organized by Daivi Rodima-Taylor and John Harris, Boston University
Formalizing the Informal or Informalizing the Formal? Integrating Remittance Systems for Post-Conflict Development
John R. Harris, Boston University
Daivi Rodima-Taylor, Boston University
The Impact of Regulatory Structures on African Remittance Flows
Neal Estey, Boston University
The Role of Remittances in Building Climate-Resilient Communities: Migration-for-Adaptation in Western Sahel
Jürgen Scheffran, University of Hamburg
Giovanna Gioli, University of Hamburg
Discussants:
Neal Estey , Boston University