Blog Political Science and Public Administration

Eva Østergaard-Nielsen (UAB)


Migrants’ transnational participation in their country of origin challenges a definition of citizenship as related to one state only. This is reflected in the granting of external citizenship and voting rights in an increasing number of emigration countries. But which new forms of citizenship policies that try to incorporate the transnational dimension of migrant civic and political engagement are emerging in receiving countries?


This paper argues that the emerging policy field of codevelopment in Spain provides an interesting case of the nexus between especially policies on local citizenship and migrant transnational practices. Over the last decade national and local actors in Spain have picked up on international trends encouraging a policy framework that promotes processes of migration and the migrants themselves in development of their countries of origin. The case of codevelopment and citizenship in Spain contributes to two of the central outstanding issues within the wider field of study on state-migrant relations in a transnational optic. On the one hand it highlights how migrant transnationalism intersects with public policies on citizenship not just in the country of origin but in the country of residence. On the other hand it focuses on the important role of sub-national governments as midwives for migrant transnational practices, a level of government largely missing in the wider literature.


The empirical part of the paper draws on the Catalan component of a multi-sited qualitative research project on migration, development and democratization which has been financed by the Ramon y Cajal Programme of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. The analysis of the policies, perceptions and practices of codevelopment and local citizenship falls in two main parts:


First, an analysis of policy plans on both migration and citizenship and international development cooperation highlights the growing inclusion of ideas of citizenship in codevelopment policies. The first policy plans mainly linked codevelopment with migration management, return migration and remittances, while later plans also include a growing emphasis on a potentially positive relationship between codevelopment and local processes of political participation and incorporation of migrants. Among the key ideas in policy plans in Catalunya is that migrants and their associations may strengthen their local Catalan networks with governments and NGOs through their participation in projects of development in their countries of origin.


Second, the paper critically examines the emphasis on local citizenship in a selection of ongoing or recently completed codevelopment projects where migrant associations solicit funding from local governments in order to undertake largely small scale development projects in their countries of origin. This part of the paper is based on in-depth interviews with representatives of local governments, migrant associations and development NGOs as well as a database of codevelopment projects compiled by the Fons Català de desenvolupament. It is important to emphasize that codevelopment is a new policy field and at the time of research the number of projects and level of public funding was limited. Also, there is a great discrepancy between both local governments and migrant collectives in terms of their involvement in codevelopment. Still, a growing number of local governments (and development NGOs) have formulated and financed codevelopment projects with migrants.


The paper concludes that codevelopment and citizenship in Catalunya are intrinsically linked both at the level of policies and practices among local governments and the migrants themselves. The kind of citizenship implied in codevelopment policies and initiatives has three main components: it is local, it is participatory and it is transnational. It is local because it is tied in with the policies of mainly local governments and enacted at the local level. It is participatory, and mostly on a collective level, because it encourages the capacity building of migrant associations and representatives and their active participation in local affairs and networking with other local actors. Finally, the citizenship encouraged within codevelopment practices is transnational because migrant transnational interests, contacts and engagement are seen as part of their local incorporation


In a wider European optic, the Spanish and Catalan codevelopment idea of ‘integration here, development there’ covers new ground compared to both local and national debates on neo assimilatory or civic models of migrant incorporation in other EU-member states with a longer immigration trajectory. Through codevelopment policies and practices a transnational dimension is added to the European project of institutionalizing a multi-layered participatory citizenship. Yet, further comparative research is needed in order to better understand why certain local governments or societies, as in the case of Catalunya, are more ready to promote migrant transnational ties and engagement through codevelopment projects than others.


This paper is forthcoming in Ethnic and Racial Studies, and has just been released on their Ifirst publication system (DOI: 10.1080/01419871003777791)