The Migrant Crisis in Europe Does Have a Long Term Solution

Every day, for more than two years now, the world's poorest people risk their lives to escape from horror and reach the "paradise" of Europe. Many of them die on the way, in Africa, in the Mediterranean, or in the Channel Tunnel where they are crushed by the wheels of trucks or electrocuted by railway cables. In Europe there has been a great deal of dispute and recrimination about who is to blame for the crisis and about how to handle it. Europe's political answer has been to mobilize police and armed forces to prevent this type of desperate immigration. But the discussion has demonstrated a typical malady of our era: short-termism. We should be asking one question over the rest: why do these men and women flee their countries? I believe one reason stands above others: a devastating extreme poverty which destroys all hope of a normal life. That is what we should be devoting ourselves to tackling.

We must create the conditions that will eradicate extreme poverty in areas not blessed with the rule of law. How? By assuring universal access to Global Public Goods: clean water, food, vaccinations and essential medicines provided through systems of primary health care, education and sanitation.

One of the essential factors often found at the origin of violent conflict is poverty and its consequences - malnutrition, infectious diseases, a lack of education, and no prospect of a better life. In some parts of the world, misery has also proven to be a fertile territory for extremist recruiters.

In turn, violent conflicts and civil wars can, in a matter of months, destroy all the achievements of years of patient effort in constructing schools, clinics, wells and so on, plunging millions into poverty. That is why we are seeing migrants from Iraq, Syria and South Sudan risking their lives to reach Europe.

Only by resolving to providing Global Public Goods we can we break this vicious cycle of poverty causing violence, civil war and conflict, and being a consequence of those calamities. Only that way can the poorest be given a chance to build a decent life.

It has been argued that aid dependence never solved anything. I do not regard handouts as the only answer. Only a flourishing private economy can provide the jobs to allow people to climb all the way out of poverty. But participation in the economic system is impossible if children die before the age of five, suffer brain damage due to chronic malnutrition or never learn to read.

There will be a unanimous surge of enthusiasm during next month's General Assembly of the United Nations, as the Sustainable Development Goals are launched, replacing the Millennium Development Goals.

But it must be emphasized that none of these splendid ambitions have any financing in place, which is a shame because when the money is provided, ambitious objectives can be achieved - remember that child mortality has been halved in the past 20 years.

With richer countries feeling the squeeze, new financing mechanisms must be created to fight against extreme poverty. Innovative financing for development will have a crucial role to play.

To give just one example: a levy of just €1 or $1 per plane ticket in 12 countries over the last eight years has raised over $2.2 billion, which has been used to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children suffering from infectious diseases. And this microscopic levy is totally painless for the countries and airlines involved. In the same way, a solidarity micro-contribution levied on those activities which benefit the most from globalization (financial transactions, Internet, extractive resources) could go a long way towards achieving our development goals. Soon several African countries will agree to set aside for development a fractional sum levied on hydro-carbon transactions.

This is the real challenge that faces us if Europe wants to avoid the chaotic influx of millions of the desperately poor.