International Migration Diploma is Consolidated in Peru's Pontificia Catholic University

Almost 10 per cent of Peru's population lives outside the country. These 2.5 million Peruvians migrated abroad in search of work and to forge a better life for their families.

And this migration trend continues today. In spite of five years of favorable economic performance, and a consistent annual growth rate above five per cent, in 2005 an unprecedented number of Peruvians migrated. That year, more that 300,000 persons left the country and have not returned, and polls confirm that seven of every ten Peruvians say they are ready to migrate, preferably to the United States or Spain.

Spain and Peru have signed a labour migration agreement which will allow more than 1,500 Peruvians to travel to the European country with a work permit.

It's no wonder that migration has become a priority item on the national agenda.

To provide support for their growing diaspora, in 2004 the government created the Secretary of Peruvians Abroad within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The office was tasked with monitoring and protecting the rights of migrants, encouraging return schemes for migrants wishing to return home, and promoting ideas to link remittances, which in 2006 totaled USD 1.8 billion or two per cent of the GNP, to development.

But the importance of the subject is in stark contrast with the paucity of spaces to conduct analysis and debate.

Hoping to overcome this weakness, in 2005 the International Migration, Globalization and Development Diploma got started. A Peruvian consul approached the Pontificia Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) to suggest the creation of a course to provide capacity building for diplomats. And so Professor Teófilo Altamirano, an expert on migration, got to work. "The Diploma took off in an experimental manner. It was meant to educate civil servants of the Foreign Ministry," explains Altamirano. Later on, the project matured and, according to Altamirano, "began shaping critical thinking and facilitating the design of effective migration policies in Peru."

From the beginning, the initiative has been supported by IOM's Regional Office for the Andean Region. "Research and discussion generates knowledge, and this is fundamental for decision-making," explains IOM's Regional Representative Pilar Norza.

"IOM's participation in the course adds a practical approach because it allows the students to get to know, first-hand, the work of a specialized international organization," explains Dolores Cortes, an IOM staff member and professor of the Diploma.

But the link between IOM and the University goes beyond the Diploma. In November 2006 IOM was instrumental in helping the University – with a student of body of 17,000 – make the decision to dedicate its most prestigious annual event to international migration. More than a dozen international experts attended the congress and a publication with their contributions was published, with support from IOM.

The Diploma includes classes on key subjects such as migration policy, employment and remittances, amongst others. It is part of the Post-graduate Department of Political Sciences and for Aldo Panfichi, Director of the Department, "It is an opportunity to link research with the local, national and international development policies."

In this international cooperation framework, the PUCP and the University of the Basque Country (UPV by its Spanish acronym) in Spain signed a cooperation agreement to build bridges between countries of origin and destination in an academic environment. This year Peruvian professors will travel to Bilbao to teach graduate-level courses on Migration and Management at the UPV.

The experts
The Diploma, created for diplomats, now attracts students and experts on diverse subjects and from all over the country.

Jorge Canales is a professor of the University of Huacho Province, an area with high levels of out migration. This is why he does not regret having to travel more than two hours to attend lectures in Lima. "It is very important to overcome the lack of knowledge on migration. We need to study migration in order to obtain greater benefits for the families of migrants and the society as a whole," Canales explains.

For Sara Todd, a US national who moved to Peru to take part in the course, "It is an opportunity to learn about a reality that seems so far but that is very important to us."

These students sit in the same classes as civil servants of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Antonio Miranda Sisniegas was the Peruvian Consul in San José, Costa Rica. He sees the value in this specialized forum for discussion and analysis and emphasizes the importance of its multidisciplinary approach which allows for deeper and more analytical discussions.

After two years and more than 20 students, the Diploma is now consolidated in Peru's Pontificia Catholic University. "It is important that the Diploma continue to receive support. After all, we are educating experts who are, or will be, in strategic positions drafting the country's migration policies," adds Panfichi.