Inclusive Data as a Strategic Tool for Building Back Better After the Pandemic.

29th August 2022 by Chandani Lopez Peralta

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to deepen inequalities around the globe and threaten the overall progress of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, this year’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF) brought together contributors from diverse backgrounds and geographies to highlight different impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic across all Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and reflect on the actions required to build back better from the pandemic. 

On July 12, the Centre co-hosted a virtual side event at the 2022 HLPF together with the German Development Agency (GIZ)with the support of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) to explore inclusive data practices in communities (which are mostly overlooked in high level policy discourses) as a strategic tool for building back better after the pandemic. 

The insights from the speakers and panellists not only reaffirmed the fact that there is a massive lack of high quality and relevant data on Persons with Disability (PWD) and other marginalised groups, but the discussions further highlighted the important role Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) and other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) can play in filling the existing data gaps, especially during emergency situations like COVID 19. Through Community Driven Data (CDDs) and other forms of inclusive data, CSOs and OPDs help bring innovative perspectives on certain population and their needs, issues and trends.  

Read reflections from the LNOB Partnership’s virtual side event at the 2022 HLPF 

Chandani Lopez Peralta

Project Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Chandani joined the Centre as a Project Manager in May 2022. She supports the Leave No One Behind Partnership that promotes the collection and use of community-driven data to give voice and agency to marginalised communities. Prior to joining the Centre, Chandani headed communications and outreach at TolaData. In addition, Chandani has coordinated many projects for local and international NGOs, working closely with refugees, individuals with disabilities and other marginalised groups in Nepal, Germany and the US. Chandani holds a master’s degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University, USA and a B.Sc. in Mass Communications with an emphasis on PR and Advertising from Minnesota State University Moorhead


Call for Applications: Evaluation Consultant

5th July 2022 by Adriana Sahagún Martínez

The Centre is looking for an experienced consultant or a team of consultants with expertise in Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) to conduct an independent evaluation of the Leave No One Behind (LNOB) Partnership and its Making Voices Heard and Count project. The consultant will be expected to review and evaluate the activities the LNOB Partnership has conducted on global, national and local levels since its inception in 2017.

The Centre is commissioning a consultant to:

  1. Review various work documents and outputs of the LNOB partnership from 2017 through 2022 to assess the partnership’s overall work and achievements. 
  2. Based on the review of relevant documents and outputs, sketch the overall scope of the evaluation, analysis framework and methodology. 
  3. Draft evaluation questions, design the methodology and develop the assessment and research tools, including surveys and interviews.  
  4. Conduct surveys or interviews with representatives from LNOB secretariat, country coalitions and other partners to support the evaluation. 
  5. Review the 2022 baseline impact assessment results from LNOB country coalitions and their partners. 
  6. Present results/findings and suggest recommendations for future programming and scaling up of the partnership, providing specifics for acting upon these recommendations, in a detailed 20-25 pages evaluation report.  

Find the full tender and how to apply here

The Centre invites qualified individuals, pairs or small teams to submit a proposal for the requested services. The application needs to be submitted by 18 July 2022.

If you meet the selection criteria, please send an email with your CV and a short proposal including a proposed timeline and detailed budget, including daily rate in Euros (EUR) to Chandani Lopez. The proposal must be in English and preferably in PDF format. The subject of the application should read Evaluation Consultant LNOB Partnership. Only shortlisted candidates who meet the criteria will be invited for interviews.

    Communications Manager

    International Civil Society Centre


    Call for Applications: Strategic Research Consultant

    29th June 2022 by Adriana Sahagún Martínez

    The Centre is looking for a strategic research consultant to conduct a mapping and support event content preparations during the initial phase of its new initiative “Anticipating Futures for Civil Society Operating Space”. The initiative’s overall aim is to strengthen anticipatory capacities and future readiness of civic space-focused professionals in international and national civil society organisations.

    The Centre is commissioning a consultant to:

    1. Draw out the potential connections between how governments frame and respond to crises, including complex, uncertain future events like climate disruptions, and the implications for civil society action and operating space. 
    2. Explore how states have pivoted to security framings in crises, the impact this has had on civic space and operating conditions, and the signals CSOs should increasingly become aware of. 
    3. Explore emergent opportunities for civil society from previous crises – such as COVID-19 – which served to change or influence state perceptions, narratives and framings of civil society.  
    4. Outline previous and current work in the field on “civic space futures” (e.g. International Center for Not-for-Profit Law’s (ICNL) Civic Space 2040 initiative of 2020).
    5. Identify gaps that require collective sector approaches and initiatives.  
    6. Prepare the results of this mapping in writing (report of ca. 15 pages) or as a visualisation/map.

      Find the full tender and how to apply here

      The Centre invites qualified individuals, pairs or small teams to submit a proposal for the requested services. The application needs to be submitted by 15 July 2022.

      If you meet the selection criteria, please submit your application to Eva Gondorová and Miriam Niehaus including:

      1. Cover letter (no more than 3 pages), including:
      • A brief description of your experience and expertise in the field that illustrates your overall qualifications and capabilities for this scope of work, including two examples of your previous comparable work;
      • A brief description of your understanding of the scope of services and proposed methodology for the work;
      • Your consultancy rate (amount in EUR/day) and amount of working days.

        2. Your CV.

          3. Two references that can be contacted should you be shortlisted.

          Communications Manager

          International Civil Society Centre


          Call for Applications: Research Consultant

          27th June 2022 by Adriana Sahagún Martínez

          The Centre is looking for a research consultant to support its Solidarity Action Network (SANE) by capturing three to five case studies looking at how international civil society organisations (ICSOs) and CSOs have dealt with cyberattacks and digital risks. This will be an extension of the Solidarity Playbook – a collection of case studies and best practices on strategies, resilience, and solidarity mechanisms – with a topical focus on cybersecurity.

          SANE focuses on strengthening resilience of and solidarity among civil society actors when faced with civic space restrictions or changing operating conditions. It connects organisations across all sub-sectors and brings them into discussions on civic space challenges and opportunities.

          The Solidarity Playbook is an integral part of SANE with a focus on collecting case studies and best practices to help other ICSOs respond to undue scrutiny and challenges, and to enable learning on how to act in solidarity with civil society actors, particularly local partners.

          The Centre is commissioning a consultant to:

          1. Review and adjust the existing framework of the Solidarity Playbook case studies to accommodate the topical focus on cybersecurity.
          2. Conduct desk review and analysis of any written documentation (either publicly available or made available by contributing organisations).
          3. Conduct interviews with case study partners.
          4. Produce drafts of three to five case studies in a written form, including executive summary.
          5. Refine the case studies based on feedback received from the case study partners, the Centre and the CyberPeace Institute.
          6. Submit final case studies.

          Find the full tender and how to apply here

          The Centre invites qualified individuals to submit a proposal for the requested services. The application needs to be submitted by 25 July 2022.

          If you meet the selection criteria, please submit your application to Eva Gondorová including:

          1. Cover letter (no more than 3 pages), including:
            • A brief description of your experience and expertise in the field that illustrates
            your overall qualifications and capabilities for this scope of work, including two
            examples of your previous comparable work
            • Your consultancy rate (amount in EUR/day) and amount of working days
          2. Your CV
          3. Two references that can be contacted should you be shortlisted.

          Communications Manager

          International Civil Society Centre


          Leading in TUNA times

          27th June 2022 by Wolfgang Jamann

          Six months into the year, you surely had your share of physical meetings and conferences yet. How did they feel? A combination of personal warmth, anxiety, confusion, and an irrational sense of ‘newness’? At least that’s how it felt when 17 of the Centre’s member CEOs met in person for their annual ‘Vision Works’ retreat in Switzerland, last month.

          There’s much to say about the re-discovery of informal conversations and building personal networks in such conferences. Besides the benefits of peer-to-peer exchanges for one’s mental health, one also wonders how today’s leadership challenges in a complex world have suffered from the two years of minimised personal meeting opportunities.

          The complexities of our environment have been described in more recent debates as characterised by Turbulence, Uncertainty, Novelty and Ambiguity (TUNA). And the difference to previous futures narratives being the acknowledgement that ‘we don’t know anymore, what we don’t know’.

          Leading in a ‘tuna world’ requires specific approaches and talents. The steering ‘on sight’, the prioritisation of values over outputs, the ability to use scenarios, increase diversity, the flexibility to embrace emergent change with a long-term view, change direction and unlearn if needed. And it also asks for personal credibility, empathy, approachability, and open discourse – all more difficult to maintain in virtual communication.

          So now that we have moved into a ‘new normal’ mode, trying to combine the best of virtual and personal, and being faced with a world that has changed again (and keeps changing), how do we talk to each other? And how do civil society leaders steer their organisations, support their staff, and provide confidence and direction, particularly as there is a continued struggle with overload, the pace of change, change fatigue, and exhaustion and tiredness of the workforce (not least because of the COVID impacts).

          And how do you lead a new generation of colleagues, and ensure new leadership takes up responsibilities? How do you intensify cross-cutting ethical ambitions, and focus on values, mandates and purpose when operational demands still dominate the work?

          Compare these challenges with the latest results of the Interaction survey of member CEOs, confirming the high pace and significant depth of changes in the environment, the business models, operating models and programme priorities. Many organisations shifting power to the global South, yet how do you ensure alignment by letting go of overly centralised management?

          Looking at the high relevance of megatrends like climate change, power shift and digitalisation (including the navigation of cybersecurity), we find that civil society organisations involved in development cooperation and humanitarian aid, even if they are urgently needed in the global discourse around those trends, are often still in reaction/crisis mode, partly constrained by restrictive donor policies, operational challenges, homegrown problems and colonial legacy.

          CSO leaders grapple with complexities and interconnectedness, and the scale of the crises is challenging established management and governance practices.

          When we met in Switzerland, some promising ideas were developed around authenticity in the non-profit world, increased ambition around our mandates, new forms of political communication, more focus on values and the tackling of double standards that are being seen around us – whether it is the special treatment of the crisis in and around Ukraine, or the need to accelerate decolonisation in the sector.

          The growing responsibilities (and opportunities) for civil society organisations became more evident in this space. We need more innovative and bold actions to take shape. It is no longer enough to set up intentions or keep our spirit. We must collaborate and implement these ideas to rise to the “tuna” challenge.

          Wolfgang Jamann

          Executive Director

          International Civil Society Centre

          Dr. Wolfgang Jamann is Executive Director of the International Civil Society Centre. Until January 2018 he was Secretary General and CEO of CARE International (Geneva). Before that he led NGO Deutsche Welthungerhilfe and the Alliance 2015, a partnership of 7 European aid organisations. From 2004-2009 he was CEO & Board member of CARE Deutschland-Luxemburg and President of the CARE Foundation. Previously, he worked for World Vision International as a regional representative in East Africa (Kenya) & Head of Humanitarian Assistance at WV Germany. After his Ph.D. dissertation in 1990 he started his career in development work at the German Foundation for International Development, later for the UNDP in Zambia. As a researcher and academic, he has published books and articles on East & Southeast Asia contributing to international studies on complex humanitarian emergencies and conflict management.


          Community-Driven Data as a Tool to Foster Equal Rights and Non-Discrimination

          16th June 2022 by Chandani Lopez Peralta

          The global pandemic has further exacerbated the long-standing structural inequalities and governance weaknesses around the world. As a result, an increasing number of communities are falling further behind the ambitious plan of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to “leave no one behind.” From 30 May to 3 June 2022, this year’s World Justice Forum brought together hundreds of leaders and experts from a broad spectrum of disciplines and geographies in the Hague to talk about these challenges and find effective measures to build fairer and healthier communities 

          Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN echoed:

          Justice means equality. Justice means fairness. Justice means accountability, fighting impunity and offering redress. It also means leaving no one behind and leaving no one behind means involving marginalised groups in decision making. 

          Read reflections from the LNOB Partnership’s working session at WJF

          Chandani Lopez Peralta

          Project Manager

          International Civil Society Centre

          Chandani joined the Centre as a Project Manager in May 2022. She supports the Leave No One Behind Partnership that promotes the collection and use of community-driven data to give voice and agency to marginalised communities. Prior to joining the Centre, Chandani headed communications and outreach at TolaData. In addition, Chandani has coordinated many projects for local and international NGOs, working closely with refugees, individuals with disabilities and other marginalised groups in Nepal, Germany and the US. Chandani holds a master’s degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University, USA and a B.Sc. in Mass Communications with an emphasis on PR and Advertising from Minnesota State University Moorhead


          Podcast: Leading Strategy as a Journey of Not Knowing

          17th May 2022 by Adriana Sahagún Martínez

          In this episode, we speak with Philip Goodwin, Chief Executive Officer of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), the leading global international development organisation working through volunteers to empower communities in some of the world’s poorest and most overlooked regions.

          Philip talks with Vicky Tongue, the Centre’s Head of Futures and Innovation, sharing insights and organisational experiences of uncertainty, strategy, leadership and narrative. We learn how VSO operates in framing strategy and action, using the principles of dispersed leadership, connecting logic, emotion and action as a way of aligning people, and above all being reflective in practice – constantly assessing what VSO is doing and how that might require the organisation to change. In this way, they have achieved a space where interactions, particularly across the wider global leadership group, maintain momentum and generate opportunity in meeting the organisation’s mission.

          picking up on themes from two publications:

          This conversation shared some exciting food for thought on leadership, which the Centre will be picking up on in our sector leadership convenings in 2022. We think it will inspire you as much as it has us, so please listen and enjoy!

          Click on the button to load the content from open.spotify.com.

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          Communications Manager

          International Civil Society Centre


          Navigating cybersecurity: Guidance for (I)CSO professionals

          11th May 2022 by Eva Gondor

          Within the framework of the Solidarity Action Network (SANE), a guidance “Navigating cybersecurity: Guidance for (I)CSO professionals” has been developed to help civil society actors better respond to cybersecurity challenges and digital threats.  

          The guidance shares lessons learned and best practices from a series of SANE curated conversations on the topics of data protection and security, prevention and mitigation of cyberattacks, and sustainable cybersecurity support for local civil society. It provides steps to better protect organisations online and highlights further relevant resources and initiatives. This guidance addresses (I)CSO professionals across different departments as cybersecurity needs to be everyone’s responsibility.  

          Download Cybersecurity guidance

           

          Eva Gondor

          Project Manager

          International Civil Society Centre

          Eva coordinates the project Solidarity Action Network (SANE) which aims at strengthening resilience of and solidarity among civil society actors. Prior to joining the Centre she worked at the Robert Bosch Stiftung (Foundation) in Stuttgart where she managed the foundation’s projects focusing on civil society and governance in Turkey, the Western Balkans, and North Africa.


          Meaningfully connected: Inclusivity requires a lot more than just access

          14th April 2022 by Nkosinathi Mcetywa

          What does it mean to be truly inclusive in a highly digitised world? Is it time to refine what we mean by ‘access’?

          In an increasingly digitised society, access to digital tools does not always equal participation, and as such, access to digital technology is not enough as a measure of inclusion. Oftentimes, the digital divide persists even when people have access to technological tools, because their knowledge may be limited, thus limiting their ability to fully participate on the internet. This redefines the concept of digital inclusion significantly; requiring more introspective questions about what real inclusion means and looks like in relation to digital participation.

          The Civic Tech Innovation Network (CTIN) and the International Civil Society Centre (ICsCentre) partnered up for a Digital Dialogue Series and the first dialogue of this series focused on ‘building inclusive civic tech communities’. Onica Makwakwa and Astha Kapoor made up the panel of speakers while malebo sephodi facilitated this dialogue.

          Makwakwa opened the discussion by stating that the drive for access to digital technologies is not enough; that those with access to digital tools and the internet needed to be meaningfully connected in order to truly participate in the digital world and economy. According to Makwakwa, to be meaningfully connected means that users are not just merely consumers of content but also active participants who contribute to the internet.

          Those who are meaningfully connected…are able to use the internet for more essential activities, such as accessing healthcare information, taking classes, [and] engaging in dialogues like this one. So 30 to 33% of those who are meaningfully connected, are able to use this access to digital technologies in a way that’s empowering, and also enables them to do good in their communities

          Speaking from a civic tech perspective, Kapoor criticised the singular lens of access from which civic tech initiatives work. She proposed an additional lens from which to work which involved interrogating digital technologies from the perspective of negotiation. Kapoor encouraged the audience to think about their ability to negotiate with technology and what the next step to access might be.

          What happens once you engage with technology? And what happens as we’re generating all of this data? How do we use the data meaningfully [and] resist the sort of extraction of data that we’re all sort of going through? How do we meaningfully engage with both the state and the private sector using technology? And again,…how do we negotiate on questions of our rights? asked Kapoor.

          Kapoor continued to say that while access and inclusion are important and should be rigorously pursued, there are questions about how digital technologies affect how governance happens, and how we can interact with the State. Kapoor shared that people’s ability to negotiate with the State diminishes when services are digitised and so does their ability to organise. This is because they lack the language and understanding of how these tools work in the first place, and as such are unaware of when these tools are being used to exploit and abuse their rights.

          This lack of awareness creates new challenges, and it has the power to alienate citizens who feel that their struggles are individual and not part of the collective. This is because the dominant narrative around technology is that it is a private experience and not a collective one. This assertion weakens the ability of citizens to collectively challenge the State.

          Advocates for inclusion thus need to interrogate what access to digital tools means for how citizens are able to interact meaningfully with their world and with the State; not simply operate from the stance that basic access eliminates the challenges of the digital divide.

          Access to digital tools does not automatically eliminate other challenges associated with the digital divide. The aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic gave us many examples of this. Makwakwa recalls governments employing what she calls ‘uncoordinated digital development strategies’ in South Africa and other developing countries as a response to the necessary lockdowns at the time. The government’s deployment of digital platforms for service delivery and learning was done with the assumption that citizens were educated about how to utilise these tools and that they had access to high-speed internet connection to connect them to the platforms they need. She recounts the story of school children in South Africa who needed to learn remotely during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

          … the assumption was that parents are digitally literate, that homes are connected, and that teachers are also digitally literate, to be able to conduct instruction over the internet. So there were a lot of assumptions that we made that just really did not match with the reality of what we were actually dealing with. said Makwakwa

          Kapoor mentions that civil society organisations offline efforts played an important role in closing the knowledge gap and ensured that citizens could use these tools and access their civil entitlements. Their efforts ensured that citizens would be well informed and skilled enough to use these tools in the first place.

          Inclusive communities should therefore not just be about giving access to communities without digital tools but should also be about these communities being able to engage meaningfully with tech tools without harming them in the process. Inclusive civic tech communities should be made up of not only tech innovators but also those that experience and get to use these innovations. These communities should have a say in what and how they would like to experience civic tech tools in their lives.

          Makwakwa is Head of Africa at the Alliance for Affordable Internet; a global coalition working to drive down the cost of internet access in low and middle-income countries through policy and regulatory reform.

          Kapoor is the director and founder of the Aapti Institute; a research institution that generates public, policy-relevant, actionable, and accessible knowledge from the frontiers of tech and society, about our networked lives, to support the creation of a fair, free, and equitable society.

          Nkosinathi Mcetywa

          Communications Lead

          Civic Tech Innovation Network

          Nkosinathi is an Urban Planning graduate and a Wits alumni. While studying planning he took a lot of interest in issues surrounding urban governance and the ability of the State to be transparent and accountable to its constituents. He recently completed a postgraduate qualification in Business Administration at the Wits Business School. Nkosinathi has worked in the education space, as part of the Student Equity and Talent Management Unit which facilitates a number of pre-university and university programmes including the Targeting Talent Programme. He played a significant part in his 2 years there as part of the projects team that brought these projects to life. He currently writes as part of a collective of bloggers writing about youth issues.


          The Future of Global Mobility

          14th April 2022 by Karl Steinacker and Dr Steffen Angenendt

          Our Digital Advisor Karl Steinacker has jointly published with Steffen Angenendt of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs an article addressing the structural bias travellers from the Global South are facing. The article was first published at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in German. (English version of SWP‑Aktuell 10/2022) Translation by Tom Genrich

          Why We Need a Debate about Multilateral and Digital Solutions to Prevent the Global South from Being Excluded from International Travel

          The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly reduced international travel. The economic, social and human consequences of border closures and travel restrictions cannot be fully estimated yet, but they are dramatic. The gap is widening between countries of the Global North, which want to control travel and prevent unregulated mobility, and those of the Global South, which are demanding more legal mobility for their citizens. The freedom to travel is a desirable good that all should be able to access, and is also the object of political negotiations. Unilateral decisions should be complemented or superseded by international agreements between countries about common rules and procedures for a trust-based system. In the meantime, countries should modernise their visa processes and build digital identification systems that create trust. This applies to Germany as well, especially since the coalition government has decided to speed up the issuing of visas.

          Many European Union (EU) citizens now to have to show their vaccination certificate to board a plane or cross a border. Proof of vaccination status as a requirement for entry is nothing new: travel to tropical countries, for example, has long been con­ditional on being vaccinated against yellow fever, which had to be proved by a paper document. However, electronic documen­tation, for instance in the form of smart­phone apps, is gaining in importance now – and not just for vaccinations. Travellers to North America are familiar with such sys­tems, which were introduced after the attacks of 11 September 2001 as part of the Smart Borders Initiative.

          International Efforts to Create “Smart” Borders

          These US security measures contain new security standards for travel documents, the systematic recording of flight passenger data (PNR), the introduction of an electronic entry permit (ESTA), an entry and exit regis­ter (EES) with biometric visa and a screen­ing system to prevent the boarding and arri­val of terrorism suspects. Nevertheless, to fa­cilitate travel, the US has initiated the Trus­ted Traveller programmes. These include among others the Global Entry programme, under which pre-approved travellers who are considered a low security risk by the authorities can have their interview after ar­ri­val instead. Participants in the programme can also use – like US nationals or green card holders – the PreCheck programme, which speeds up security checks at US air­ports.

          The US is undoubtedly a pioneer in “intelligent” border efforts; however, since 2008 the EU commission has been driving forwards its own visa information system, which works with biometric data, as well as an entry and exit register and a system for flight passenger data. The European Travel Information and Authorisation Sys­tem (ETIAS) is expected to be operational in 2022. Similar to the US’s ESTA, it is in­tended for conducting security checks on trav­ellers from currently over 60 countries that do not need a visa for the Schengen area. The electronic Entry Exit System (EES) should also be put into service soon, and automatically monitor the travel move­ments of third state nationals at the exter­nal borders of the Schengen area. This IT system is intended to match those entering with those exiting and thus catch potential visa overstayers. Therefore, data sets includ­ing biometrics will be established for first-time arrivals in the Schengen area.

          For decades, public health played only a minor role in international mobility management. The Covid-19 pandemic and associated containment measures, such as the designation of high risk areas and virus variant areas, have changed this for an un­foreseeable duration. Over the course of the Covid pandemic, international mobility has collapsed: in 2019, the year before the pan­demic, the global aviation industry carried more than 4.5 billion passengers. In the first year of the pandemic, over 108,000 travel restrictions linked to Covid-19 were imposed across the world. The number of flight pas­sengers fell by 60 percent. Numbers of new international migrants also remained well below previous estimates until mid-2020, and worldwide the pandemic is believed to have reduced their total by 2 million.

          Such travel restrictions risk generating new distortions and a further widening of the gap between the Global North and the Global South. The (legitimate) wish to pro­tect populations in industrialised countries against the risk of infection can lead to a blanket disadvantaging of and discrimination against people from countries which do not have the means to vaccinate their popu­lations as successfully as the countries of the Global North, despite all the difficulties, have done. Moreover, the governments of developing nations also want to protect their populations against the risk of infection. But they have fewer options – especially because of their inadequate access to vaccines.

          In the context of the pandemic, questions over the legitimacy of mobility con­trols are particularly pressing. The most recent reform proposals to the Schengen rules, which the EU intends to apply in the event of a pandemic to impose common entry bans, can therefore appear ambigu­ous. The planned formalisation could reinforce entry bans but also force the authorities to justify them.

          The Issuing of Visas as the Key to International Mobility

          At the heart of international mobility is the issuing of visas. This primarily serves to regulate tourism and business travel, as well as justifications for stays (such as labour migration, family reunification and asylum). To pre-empt undesired immigration, EU members and many other desti­nation countries pursue a parallel strategy. They resort to unilateral measures and tech­nologies to control numbers, and they use political pressure to induce countries of origin to cooperate on reducing irregular migra­tion. However, many countries of ori­gin now make their cooperation in migra­tion regulation conditional on destination countries taking seriously their demands for easier international mobility (for in­stance through free-of-charge visas or a generalised visa waiver for their citizens). This is the case with Turkey, for example, which has long been pressing the EU for a visa exemption and has repeatedly linked its demand to the threat of suspending its collaboration on migration control.

          In 2020 EU member embassies and con­sulates received around 3.5 million visa applications for stays of up to three months in the Schengen area, a marked Covid-linked drop compared to 2019, when there were approximately 17 million applications. Of the applications submitted in 2020, around 85 percent were granted, slightly fewer than in 2019 (88 percent). However, rejection rates for certain regions of origin, especially sub-Saharan Africa, were far higher. And these numbers only offer a par­tial picture of the mobility blockages since they only take into account processed appli­cations; the many visa appli­cations that were abandoned or not even submitted for reasons of hopelessness are not included in the statistics.

          Mobility for Germans looks entirely dif­ferent. German travellers are at the very top of global passport rankings; they have out­standing travel opportunities and access to almost all countries without needing to go through visa procedures. The Henley Pass­port Index currently has Germany in joint second place with South Korea; their citi­zens can enter 190 states without a visa. Only the passports of Singapore and Japan had higher rankings (192 states). Citizens of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian countries have a noticeably experience. African passports generally permit visa-free travel to only 20 to 25 percent of countries, mostly to neighbouring African nations.

          In her thesis on the birthright lottery, Ayelet Shachar, the former director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Reli­gious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, points to the privileges and disadvantages that result from acquiring citizenship. She argues that the acquisition of such politi­cal membership today corresponds to the acqui­sition of private property in times past.

          Public Order or Structural Discrimination?

          The EU’s 2001 Regulation on visas stipulates that the visa requirement is the stand­ard mechanism of its mobility system and that any potential exemption is merely a uni­laterally granted exception and a privi­lege. The Regulation, last revised in sum­mer 2021, also explains that all abuse of visa exemptions by nationals of a third coun­try must be combated “where they [the nationals] pose a threat to the public policy (ordre public) and the internal security of the Member State concerned”. In the event of inadequate cooperation by countries of origin, visa exemptions can be suspended. Thresholds have been set for this, for in­stance where a country of origin rejects over half of the EU’s readmission applications, or where fewer than four percent of asylum applications from the country are approved.

          The Regulation indicates that greater migratory pressure is to be avoided, and it is obvious that EU members consider the European mobility regime as an instrument to regulate migration. The Regulation, which entered into force in 2009 and was last revised in 2019, also allows the issuing of visas to be used as an instrument to reward good cooperation on readmissions, or to sanction inadequate cooperation.

          Nanjala Nyabola, a Kenyan commentator on current affairs and politics who gave one of the opening speeches at the May 2019 Future Affairs Forum on the digital revo­lution organised by the German Foreign Office in Berlin, considers the visa regime of developed countries to be structural racism, aiming to exclude the populations of the Global South from global mobility. The issuing of visas, she argues, reflects neo-colonial structures. It would seem that large swathes of the elites in Africa, the Arab world and South Asia share Nyabola’s position. The local press – and travel blogs – criticise not only the visa policies of the Global North but also the procedures em­ployed in embassies and at borders. These commentators raise accusations of institu­tional racism and racial profiling. Many complain about the humiliating nature of the procedures that applicants and those wishing to travel have to undergo. Such perceptions are counterproductive for win­ning over the Global South to the essential cooperation needed to meet the challenges of migration and forced displacement.

          Elements of an International Framework

          Discriminating mobility regulations are used to control migration not least because countries mistrust the identity documents and visa decisions of other governments. The Israeli historian and political analyst Yuval Noah Harari speaks of trust being the most important capital of any human society, referring to small communities as well as countries and international politics as a whole. To build trust, we need to strength­en multilateralism.

          Two elements are required for a set of rules that shape international mobility: multilaterally negotiated objectives, strat­egies and procedures; and digital technol­ogies that facilitate mobility – as long as they are not an end in themselves but pur­sue political objectives. This need for a set of political rules derives inter alia from the risk that technologies might be used as sub­stitutes for such rules – for instance, when important actors such as the US rely on spe­cific techniques, these are subsequently adopted by international bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and other countries then have to fol­low suit to avoid being left behind.

          Building Block 1: The Political Definition of Goals

          Cross-border mobility is still a policy area in which – except for zones with internal freedom of movement, such as the Schen­gen area – national sovereignty is given greater importance than multilateral efforts for joint regulations that are beneficial to all. At the centre of current mobility regu­lations is unilateralism – which also falls short of the goal of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, adopted by Germany in 2018, to improve international cooperation on migration.

          Lessons on changes in mobility systems can be learned from history, especially from the political transformation in Europe from the Cold War to German reunification in 1989. This transformation was also inspired by a political declaration of intent. In 1975 the representatives of 35 countries from West and East signed the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Helsinki, which stipulated many simplifications of cross-border mobil­ity, especially for family contact. It also wanted to enable travel applications for per­sonal or professional reasons, and pro­mote conferences, youth exchanges and tourism.

          Of course, this specific historical con­stellation cannot simply be transferred to today’s circumstances: the Warsaw Pact coun­tries did not want to grant their citi­zens freedom of movement, whereas the West saw free movement in particular as the leverage for change, chiefly for inter-system contact. This change in turn was meant to lead to détente and the disman­tling of threat perceptions. Indeed, when the Iron Curtain fell, the result was not total freedom of travel; the latter remained linked to visas and (transitional) rules for work permits.

          Nevertheless, a process similar to the Hel­sinki Conference – which would ideally result in a Global Compact for International Mobility – could be a useful complement to existing international law and political agreements on migration and displacement. The process could be based on the idea of a modernised and rule-based international mobility that is a win-win for all participat­ing countries – and thus counter the accu­sation that the North is only interested in reducing irregular immigration.

          In such a mobility regime, signatory coun­tries would, as in the Helsinki Final Act, commit to facilitating international mobility for nationals of all countries, in­clud­ing those of the Global South, and in the process exclude discrimination. Coun­tries would also politically commit them­selves to developing and applying technological innovations – particularly digital identity and trust systems – so as to create the technical conditions for a global mobil­ity that is both legal and in accordance with the rules.

          Building Block 2: Digital Technologies

          This kind of rule-supported international mobility system could only be implemented using digitalisation. Currently 19th and 20th century tools continue to determine inter­national travel control – with a great deal of effort, uncertainty, vulnerability to forg­ery and corruption: passports and visas; stamps and stickers; personal interviews and paper pushing. The experiences from the Covid pandemic could be helpful in modernising the system. For example, the rapid introduction of a digital vaccine cer­tificate (although not forgery-proof) in the EU member states showed that digitali­sa­tion can contribute to upholding freedom of movement.

          However, the pandemic has also revealed that current instruments are too unwieldy to react to rapidly changing framework con­ditions, and that trust in traditional regu­latory instruments is low. Any new mobility system must therefore modernise certifica­tion and identification instruments.

          Such modernisation is necessary in Germany as well, as the National Regulatory Control Council (NKR) regularly makes clear, inter alia in its annual monitoring reports on the state of digitalisation in Ger­many, published since 2016. The NKR also illustrates how this could be achieved at the national level: by the Council calling on the administration to make data-based deci­sions and treating it as a service provider, which responds to needs and allows the state’s performance to be measured quali­tatively from the perspective of those con­cerned.

          Of course, the NKR has a domestic man­date and its recommendations refer to Ger­many. Nevertheless, if its key concern – namely to attend to the interests of those affected – is transferred to international mobility rules, it becomes clear that the current fixation on nationality as the deci­sive criterion for the issuing of visas is prob­lematic. If visa decisions were instead pri­marily founded on other characteristics – such as profession, qualifications, age, integ­rity and health – then the international mobility regime would be more efficient as well as fairer.

          The mobility regime of the future must be based on digital trust systems which can certify the identity of persons and attributes in a forgery-proof manner. An example is the EU’s digital vaccination pass, despite the concerns we have raised above: it con­firms the identity of the vaccinated person, that the vaccine has been approved, that the vaccination was carried out by author­ised medical staff and that the issuer of the certificate is competent to do so.

          The German government is already pro­moting such “trust systems” through its research policy. They are intended as the future foundation for trustworthy digital interactions and to secure the access to digital services, such as telemedicine and digital prescriptions, the gig economy, online banking and e-government. These intentions primarily concern German citi­zens, but the federal government should also pursue this approach for travellers from third countries.

          The Role of Private Service Providers

          Private companies have already taken on im­portant functions in international mobil­ity management. This does not have to be a contradiction of the state’s sovereignty and control. On the contrary, states have brought in the private sector for support in pro­viding their consular services but also in securing their borders. This concerns air­lines in particular: under threat of substan­tial fines for omission, they carry out the relevant mobility control tasks for states at whose airports they land. Commercial migration services providers, such as CIBT (from the US) and the market leader VFS Global (founded in India, domiciled in Dubai), are now established, and are com­missioned by states to assume parts of visa processing or delivery functions. Technol­ogy companies offer the requisite hardware, software and data analysis.

          In all cases, these companies act as data brokers, which means that they possess large amounts of data on rejected and ap­prov­ed visa applications, regular travellers and irregular migrants. This can lead to controversy since it is unclear under what jurisdiction these service providers might fall, and what legal avenues might be avail­able for complaints. However, the EU has at least pointed out that its General Data Pro­tection Regulation (GDPR) also applies to companies that carry out visa services for nationals of third countries, and that these companies have to ensure an appropriate level of protection for personal data.

          The Canadian and Dutch governments along with the technology company Accenture and the World Economic Forum (WEF) are currently testing the Known Trav­eller Digital Identity system (KTDI) for flight passengers. Travellers using this system register biometric and cryptographic data about themselves, for instance on their mobile phones. On request and at their own discretion, these travellers then grant the authorities access to their verified per­sonal biometric, biographical and historical travel data to enable them to conduct risk assessments and pre-screening. KTDI allows journeys to be depicted and traced, with travellers interacting with authorities and private companies via mobile devices by mak­ing available historical and real-time data (“identity attributes”).

          The project for a hotel check‑in for busi­ness travellers – which the German gov­ern­ment is using to test the construction of an infrastructure for the secure exchange of identity attributes, not just for the digital identities of humans but equally of institu­tions and objects (Internet of Things) – pur­sues similar objectives. Pilot projects would clarify if this approach can also be applied to nationals of third countries.

          It will be indispensable to integrate the private sector into any international mobil­ity regime. Airlines, hotel chains, banks and financial service providers as well as insur­ances should act jointly with consulates and registry offices on a platform that not only offers travellers from third countries services under internationally agreed rules and processes them, but that can also issue verified identity attributes.

          Ethical Issues

          The most pressing ethical issue that con­cerns all “wallet” applications in which indi­viduals save information on their iden­tity derives from the imbalance in power between the representatives of state bodies and the owners of the data, in this case the travellers. It is debatable whether the latter ultimately retain control over their own per­sonal data and whether they will be allowed to pass on the data exclusively of their own free will and at their own dis­cretion – given immigration and control practices that demand personal data and at times empower agents to ask for passwords or even download the contents of mobile phones, computers or other devices.

          This imbalance of power undoubtedly exists. It must be countered through bind­ing and actionable rules. This also applies to the data of travellers stored by author­ities and private service providers. Today they are inaccessible for those concerned (the data subjects): biometric data are stored at the consulate or by the company to which this service has been outsourced. The trav­eller’s digital self is controlled by others.

          In the United Kingdom civil society or­ga­ni­sations have sued the Home Office, accus­ing the algorithms of the artificial intelligence employed by this ministry of being racist and discriminatory. Such risks must not be underestimated. It is also true, how­ever, that digital processes, when correctly conceived, can reduce the influence of dis­criminatory prejudices in decision-making.

          An ethical debate about the details of the mobility system becomes necessary precisely when digital technologies are to be em­ployed. One criticism will be that a digital identity and trust system based on the im­balance of power between poorer and richer nations will not facilitate the mobil­ity of people from the poorer countries. Objections such as this must be taken seri­ously since people wishing to travel will probably continue to be rejected – and the suspicion of discriminatory prejudices, whether by natural persons or by algo­rithms, cannot be eliminated.

          Beyond this, further fundamental issues will have to be clarified. How to deal with the tension between the travellers’ agency over their data and the requirement that a trust system, to be effective, must contain enough data? When has anyone attained “sufficient trust” – or will the expansion of certification and identification create a “spiral of distrust”, in other words an un­capped need for ever more, even better verified but never sufficient data? How to define a “key area” in which no data are collected, such as bank accounts? How to prevent an accountable person’s control being transferred to a machine when arti­ficial intelligence is used and the decision-making process is automated? Are the guarantees contained in Article 22 GDPR sufficient? And how to design effective objection and appeal processes?

          The fundamental ethical issues also in­clude the objection that millions of people in the Global South will probably not attain a sufficiently high degree of trust due to their inadequate socioeconomic resources and limited access to digital resources, and will therefore continue to be excluded from travel to Germany and the EU. A counter-argument is the fact that in Germany and other OECD countries the unequal dis­tri­bution of resources also constrains citizens’ mobility: a high passport ranking is of little use for those who cannot afford to travel. Ultimately the objective is to develop tech­nical solutions that correspond to the politi­cal modernisation targets; safeguard individ­ual rights from an ethical perspective; priori­tise data protection; coincide with Chapter 3 of the GDPR; and endow everyone with rights, such as the right to transparent deci­sions, appeal, correction and compensation.

          Political Objections

          There needs to be a debate about political issues as well as ethical ones. They include the argument that governments tend to view decisions about access to the national territory as central to their activity and do not want to give up any competency in this regard. The counter-argument runs as fol­lows: a modernised travel system would not make decisions about longer stays, for instance for work purposes; such decisions would remain the countries’ “domaine réservé”. At least the debate would address the problem that a travel regime which is frustrating for the Global South would be counterproductive since it would thwart co­operation on other topics as well. In con­trast, a transparent process aiming to facili­tate global mobility for everyone would put co­operation before unilateralism and create new opportunities for cooperation so as to better manage irregular migration and the un­justified onward migration of asylum-seekers.

          An international mobility policy would also be generally economically advanta­geous for all participating actors; we could therefore expect enough countries to join in such a project. Germany has the political leeway and technical competence to con­tribute to modernising international mobil­ity. It also has the will, as the December 2021 coalition agreement has shown in ref­er­ence to the issuing of visas.

          Recommended Actions

          • The German government should launch a national strategy to digitally modernise international mobility with its partners from business, technology and civil society.

          • The government should also verify whether a trust system with a digital plat­form can be established as a public-private partnership and as a public body.

          • Moreover, the German government should initiate an international policy dialogue that could result in negotiations on a Global Compact for International Mobil­ity, and one that enumerates the weaknesses of technical processes such as Trusted Traveller.

          • Industry, service providers and social partners should participate: first, in the strategy dialogue; second, in building a digital platform to support mobility policy through the provision of services (e.g. insurance, monetary transactions, travel and tourism, consumer advice); and third, in the supervisory bodies of a trust system with a digital platform.

          • Finally, it is important to include civil society, both in this dialogue and in the supervisory bodies of the trust system. There could, for example, be a digital platform that offers civil society services in information, advice and cooperation. Not least, this platform could serve as a means of exchanging with foreign civil society actors on issues of international mobility.

          © Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 2022

           

          Karl Steinacker

          Digital Advisor

          International Civil Society Centre

          Karl Steinacker is currently the Digital Advisor of the International Civil Society Centre. He studied political science at the Free University of Berlin and international law at Cambridge University. He then spent three decades working for the United Nations (UNDP, UNRWA, DPKO, UNHCR) in the fields of development, peacekeeping and refugee protection. At the UN Refugee Agency, he held positions in Africa and at its Headquarters and was responsible for Registration, Statistics, and Data and Identity Management as well as for Camp Coordination/Camp Management.

          Dr Steffen Angenendt

          Senior Fellow in the Gobal Issues Research Division

          Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik