06/2010: Prof. B. Ghosh And Ambassador S. Marchi


(February-June 2010)

Building on Eurasylum’s existing monthly policy interviews, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Eurasylum have launched a special series on ”The Future of Migration: Building Capacities for Change”. This monthly interview series will run from February to June 2010 and will aim to feed into the World Migration Report 2010, which will be dedicated fully to this policy theme. This special monthly interview series is designed to collect the views of senior public officials, social partners and reputable academics worldwide about the needs for new capacity building measures in five major policy areas:

– Climate change (February 2010);
– Integration and Rights (March 2010);
– Labour Migration (April 2010);
– Migration and Development (May 2010); and
– Migration Governance (June 2010).

These interviews will be published in full on Eurasylum’s website and excerpts will appear, as text boxes, in the next World Migration Report (September 2010)


JUNE 2010

Prof. Bimal Ghosh
Emeritus Professor at the Columbia Graduate School
of Public Administration; former Senior UN Director


Ambassador Sergio Marchi
Senior Fellow at the International Centre for Trade and
Sustainable Development (ICTSD); former Minister of
Citizenship and Immigration of Canada


“Migration governance: towards a global integrated migration regime?”


Ü IOM/Eurasylum: According to the Final Report of the Global Commission on International Migration, migration governance can assume a variety of forms, including the migration policies and programmes of individual countries, interstate discussions and agreements, multilateral fora and consultative processes, the activities of international organizations, and the international legal and normative framework. However, a key contemporary feature of migration governance is the way in which both source and receiving countries choose to engage in regional and global cooperation mechanisms. Against this background, how would you characterise the current state of cross-national coordination of states’ responses to different aspects of migration and in what particular areas, and through which mechanisms, would you see the need for new capacity building measures to facilitate the gradual emergence of an international integrated migration regime ?

Ü Prof. Bimal Ghosh: Given that you have raised the issue of a global integrated migration regime in the context of migration governance, I believe it is useful to clarify the concept of governance itself as a point of departure. This is because governance has become an over-used, catch-all phrase — a phrase that is amorphous and innocuous enough to be conveniently used to mean many different things for many different purposes. And yet, loosely used and shorn of specificity, the phrase often remains elusive in articulating what it really stands for.

The Commission on Global Governance (1993-94), in the work of which I participated, was perhaps the first international body to delve deeply into the concept of governance. It defined global governance as a broad, dynamic, complex process of inter-active decision making that constantly evolves to changing circumstances. It is bound to respond, the Commission added, to the specific requirements of different issue areas, but it must take an integrated approach to questions of human survival and prosperity.

In other words, although governance refers to a “process”, it does not exist or operate in a vacuum. The process is closely related to a “product” or a specific goal or objective, even if the latter may change over time and vary according to the issue area.

In the migration area, I would agree that interstate cooperation constitutes a key feature of migration governance. But both are means of action; and so is the global integrated migration regime to which you refer. Their effectiveness can be truly judged only against the objectives they are expected to serve. In my writings and through the NIROMP (New International Regime for Orderly Movement of People) global project I have tried to define these objectives. Briefly stated, an integrated regime should aim at making movement of people more orderly and predictable as well as productive and humane, based on commonalty and reciprocity of interests of both origin and destination countries.

A related and immediate objective, also a stepping stone towards the wider, longer-term objective, is to redress the asymmetry or mismatch between the rising emigration pressure in sending countries and the dwindling opportunities for legal entry, especially of low skilled workers, into destination countries.

Although not incongruent with these objectives, most of the proposals for migration regime building are vocal about the importance of interstate cooperation but they are less articulate about (a) the specific objectives of such cooperation — the question of WHY? and (b) the ways in which interstate cooperation can attain these objectives — the question of HOW?

The operational implications of the twin objectives mentioned above are important. They bring out both the existing institutional inadequacy and the skill gaps that inhibit the emergence of a truly integrated global migration regime. At the global level, different international agencies dealing with migration pursue their respective policy concerns in their specific areas, more or less independently of each other. Many of the issue areas are of course closely interconnected or even interdependent. They call for a common focus under some common, over-all objectives as indicated above to bind them together within an integrated framework or regime.

But this does not happen due to the regrettable absence of a really effective focal point and the institutional vacuum that persists. At the international level, the existing inter-agency coordination mechanisms are too weak for this purpose. The Global Forum for Migration and Development, however useful as a platform for exchange of information and ideas, does not have the formal mandate or the organisational structure needed for this purpose. And the pursuit of a common goal, an essential requirement of a durable regime, falls by the wayside.

This also explains why to date interstate cooperation in different migration areas has progressed at such a variable speed. In a paper, ( 2005), prepared for the Bern Initiative, I have shown that, despite many continuing difficulties, interstate cooperation is now relatively well advanced in the areas of (a) protection of migrants rights and welfare and (b) preventive and punitive measures against unauthorized migration including trafficking and smuggling. However, a few exceptions aside, interstate cooperation has made little progress in (c) a third major area of migration management at the global level — namely, movement of people in terms of opportunities for legal entry.

Greater awareness of the interrelationship between different areas of migration management will help matters. No less important is the need to remedy the institutional deficiency that precludes systematic efforts to encourage nations to agree on a set of common goals and pursue them with vigour. Progress in this area, starting with a common commitment by origin and destination countries to redress the migration mismatch mentioned above is critically important for the emergence of a truly integrated migration regime. Also important are systematic efforts to pull together, within a coherent framework, interstate cooperation in all three major migration policy areas I have just mentioned.

The operational requirements of a meaningful migration regime as outlined above also reveal existing skill deficiencies. If migrant sending and receiving countries share some common interests that constitute the common goods to underpin a global regime, it is equally true that individual states also have differing and even conflicting interests on many specific migration issues. Some analysts consider these differences as impediments to regime building. In reality however the diversity of interests could well be used to build a web of reciprocities between origin and destination countries. This can be done by working out trade-offs between their specific interests, as practiced in trade negotiation, making each negotiating country a net gainer at the end of the deal.

The interlocking of reciprocity need not be confined within the limits of the migration area alone but can also take place across areas, and including trade and investment flows — for example origin countries can negotiate their migrants’ access to destination countries’ labour markets in exchange of liberalization of their specific product markets, as was discussed during the Doha Round of trade talks. A meaningful migration regime can open up such avenues of action and efforts in this direction can greatly help the regime building process.

Reciprocity of interests has driven some of the existing bilateral or plurilateral agreements on migration related matters like readmission, remittances and planned recruitment. But these isolated initiatives have not taken place within a common global framework or regime; and in the absence of a previously agreed set of guiding principles they have not always been equitable. Nor have these deals been part of a continuing process that a regime can ensure.

In fact, attempts at building a migration regime have given scant attention to this line of inter-state action. A major reason for this is that the international and national agencies (in both host and home countries) responsible for migration do not have the skills and resources that are needed to set such a process in motion. Skills and innovativeness are required to systematically explore and identify the various potential areas of reciprocity and analyze their wider economic and social implications. Also needed are some knowledge of negotiation techniques and bargaining skills to work out the final agreements.

Unlike in the case of trade, there is no international forum to foster and facilitate negotiation, including working out trade-offs, on migration related issues. This constitutes another layer of institutional inadequacy to grapple with the building of a global migration regime.

Ü Ambassador Sergio Marchi: Migration is an issue that is most reflective of the times in which we live. With globalization bringing new technologies and deepening international integration and dependency, the movement of goods, services, capital and people has been greatly increased and facilitated. Indeed, the number of migrants has doubled since 1980 alone, reaching more than 200 million people.

Furthermore, we no longer live in a world composed strictly of “sending” and “receiving” countries. Today, all nations have migrants leaving from, arriving to and transiting through, their territories — South to North, North to North, and increasingly, South to South.

In theory, this should facilitate a more coherent form of migration policy and decision‐making, given that all states have an appreciation of the migration pressures and a longing for better, more manageable approaches and solutions.

Yet, the governance model remains almost entirely national.

Advancing an international agenda on migration requires political will and commitment. It also calls for appropriate institutional capacity and architecture.

In tackling international problems, leaders increasingly recognize that they can neither talk about the forces of international trade and investment, nor on the challenges of world hunger, disease and terrorism, the dangers posed by climate change, nor indeed, about global migration and development — and then proceed to deal with them in an isolated fashion.

The need to act in much broader and interrelated terms has become evident, if we wish to provide remedies that work and better connect the many dots.

The global coordination and response to the current global financial and economic crisis — including the establishment of the G‐20, and its requests and support to such bodies as the WTO, World Bank, and the IMF — perhaps best typifies this understanding, and the paradigm shift that is taking place in political governance.

As we try to apply this thinking to global mobility, there are many critical issues to be addressed. We must approach them thoughtfully and reasonably, and avoid divisive, antagonistic debate. We should attempt to define the different pieces of the global migration puzzle and how to help make them fit better and more coherently with one another.

A few considerations and questions before us:

i) Much work has been done by a number of leading intergovernmental organizations in their respective domains, including UNHCR, IOM and the ILO. Similarly, many other intergovernmental efforts have proven to be of great value in defining new perspectives and in facilitating new procedural approaches. Unlike other social and economic issues of international magnitude, however, a single, overarching intergovernmental agency responsible for global migration policy, either inside or outside the UN system, currently does not exist. Is this not the right moment to focus on those institutional and policy reforms that would be required for a truly global response to migration?

ii) Why do Ministers responsible for migration have no regular meetings in their calendar where they could come together at the global level to agree on collective action towards issues of shared concern? By rather stark contrast, for instance, Ministers of Finance meet at least twice a year at the IMF and World Bank; Ministers of Trade meet every second year at the WTO; Ministers of Health meet annually at the WHO; Ministers of Labor are invited to meet every year at the ILO; Ministers of the Environment seem to be meeting constantly in different configurations, to deal with climate change.

iii) And in such a process, how would the respective international agencies, each responsible for a piece of the global migration pie, fit in?

iv) After three years of annual sessions, is it possible to imagine the Global Forum on Migration and Development moving from a discourse mode to a more action‐oriented trajectory? If so, which issues and actions would the Forum need to initially focus on for action, and how would it best be able to implement a pragmatic, best practice approach?

v) What should the role of the UN SG’s Special Representative on Migration be in the overall objective of facilitating a more active form of global leadership and coordination?

vi) How and where could civil society provide its inputs and contributions? Currently, many issues related to migration, from processing to integration, enjoy an intense collaboration with civil society, both on the ground and in policy building. How can this continue and even improve, with the eventual elaboration of a new global architecture?

A number of people believe that “global governance” could be interpreted as a “loaded” term: “frightening” and “intimidating” for some governments and agencies, as well as sometimes being negatively associated with “big government” or “unwieldy” bureaucracies. As well, a good part of the “fear” associated with the term stems from the assumption that it either immediately involves or inexorably leads to the creation of a new, supranational agency.

The other part of the “fear” equation is the reluctance on the part of most governments to cede sovereignty over migration matters. Given that migration is about the movement of people and labour, and all that this implies, state authorities have largely preferred to maintain as much national control as possible.

However, what if governments took the time to calculate their net benefits if migration were to be subjected to global cooperation and collaboration?

Ü IOM/Eurasylum: Migration governance also entails the integration, into policy making, of a range of distinct but interdependent policy areas such as border management and the prevention of unlawful immigration, including human smuggling and trafficking ; the facilitation of selective legal immigration ; the integration of lawful immigrants; a fair implementation of international refugee and human rights instruments; and the development of a constructive dialogue and partnership framework between host and source countries. To what extent do you consider that such a holistic approach to migration management is currently being implemented by major host countries and what are the key capacity building measures that could help states strike a more effective balance when (re)designing and implementing major migration policies?

Ü Prof. Bimal Ghosh: My reply to your previous question dealing with the global aspects of migration governance also largely applies, mutatis mutandis, to your second question that refers to governance at the national level, with a focus on host countries. Although as already mentioned, most of the migration issues are intertwined, one hardly finds a truly holistic or integrated approach to deal with them.

A true holistic approach goes far beyond exchange of information or consultation between and among the various actors involved. It warrants substantive policy coherence across the various migration agencies. And policy coherence is achievable only when there is a commitment by all actors to a set of over- arching common goals. It would of course be normal for different national agencies concerned with different issues of migration to pursue their distinctive agendas, but these must all be congruent with the over-all policy objectives. This has not been happening.

An inward-looking culture is often found deeply embedded in each migration agency. This encourages an insular approach to migration as opposed to a holistic one. Enhancing each agency’s awareness of the inter-relationship between different migration areas and sensitizing them about how this can be a source of mutual support or, alternatively, act as a serious hindrance would be of some help in fighting the insular approach.

For example, if, in the face of unmet labour demand in the host country, stringent entry restrictions are imposed by immigration authorities, the pressure for irregular migration, including human trafficking, is likely to rise; and this will make the tasks of border control more onerous and expensive. Likewise, failure to implement commitments under refugee and human rights instruments may have the perverse effect of driving them to the channel for labour immigration, even when it is unwanted, and clog that channel. To illustrate further, when border control is lax and there are large numbers of irregular migrants, the situation becomes more difficult for the agencies responsible for migrant integration and for enforcement of labour standards.

However, a holistic approach to migration management demands more than staff training or some minor institutional adjustments. It is not just a matter of building technical or institutional capacities. If a host country is serious about it, it must clearly define a set of common policy objectives for the migration area as a whole and ensure rigourous adherence to it by all migration agencies. As an essentially policy issue, it remains a matter of political will. Absent the political will, a holistic approach will make little headway. Building the necessary political consensus will be easier when the process combines top- down initiatives with bottom-up pressures.

Ü Ambassador Sergio Marchi: As mentioned above in my first answer, the response to global migration has largely remained at the national level (with some regional processes). Yet, only a handful of countries have comprehensive, progressive national policies on migration. Much of the actions are ad hoc, and most of the initiatives are aimed at ‘control’, and not in facilitating entry of migrants under a transparent regime. In the whole, therefore, it is anything but holistic.

There first must be a rational discourse by political leaders and policy makers of the migration issues, rather than an emotional dialouge, which is tied to many misconceptions and fears. As long as the discussion is emotional and regressive, the system will be slow in changing. The leaders must recognize the potential positive sides of migration to the nation, while also addressing the challenges that are part of any human phenomenon.

Second, governments need to implement a transparent regime, by which people know how the decisions are made for accepting migrants, their number, and their geographical targets (if there are such, preferably not). At the same time, it should also spell out how and why migrants/applicants can also be removed/deported. A balanced response in other words. And not a ‘one-size-fits-all’, otherwise many applicants will be rejected on narrow criteria and lead to a spike in ‘illegal’ migrants.

Third, governments should be coherent about migration across all their relevant Ministries and agencies. Migration touches on so many policy areas, that it cannot be the exclusive pervue of just one single department or agency.

Fourth, governments must also focus on properly integrating migrants into the heart of their societies. Allowing migrants in is just one side of the coin. The other is to ensure that the migrants are well settled, adapting, and progressing in their new environments. Thus, issues of citizenship, services, rights, and obligations are paramount, if the society is to avoid two different ‘classes’ of people, which then can create untold hardships and tensions in the country.

Ü IOM/Eurasylum: Migration governance further requires an active coordination, at national, regional and international levels, of different policy areas and government departments, including trade, public security, employment, health, education and the environment. To what extent do you consider that in major host countries worldwide sufficient linkages are being made between the above policy areas when devising new migration policies, regulations and programmes? And through which means, both institutional and informal, could a more integrated approach to migration policy making be facilitated?

Ü Prof. Bimal Ghosh: Your third question, also closely related to the two previous ones, raises the issue of migration governance in terms of policy coordination, both functional and spatial, but again the focus is on the host countries. As indicated under question 2, policy coordination among the various national migration agencies is not as close as it could or should be. This inhibits truly interactive decision making. The same is even more true of the relationship between the agencies working in the migration area and those engaged in other, related policy areas. This is because these latter policy areas fall within the competence of different ministries or departments while most (though not necessarily all) of the national migration agencies at least work within a single organizational unit. Even in a few host countries which have set up inter-ministerial committees or similar mechanisms, a fully coordinated approach is yet to emerge.

There are however some notable exceptions, though at the fringe of policy formulation. At the national level, in many host countries immigration visas for labor migrants are issued at the behest of the labour ministry. In countries that have adopted the “points system” or similar schemes immigration authorities work in collaboration with other outside agencies, including expert bodies. In most countries health ministry issues guidance, especially in times of epidemics and pandemics, to the immigration authorities on health hazards associated with inward and outward movements.

Overall, however, the coordination gaps remain serious between migration and related policy areas in most host (and home) countries. The point is often made that migration should be factored into the process of policy making in other areas related to it. In reality, this hardly happens. For example, the same countries that are anxious to reduce their immigration may at the same time follow trade and investment policies toward origin countries that are likely to add to the pressure for emigration in them. Or, more frequently, due to the absence of policy coordination the potential that trade and investment may hold in meeting the countries’ immigration concerns remains untapped (the reference under question 1 to the discussion in the Doha Round on trade-migration reciprocity concerns an isolated case, not a policy trend). The links between gross violation of human rights and the likely outflows of refugees and unwanted migrants are often forgotten in host (as well as origin) countries.

The same kind of co-ordination gap is often discernible in relation to other cognate policy areas, including international security, and it is not limited to individual host countries. As the past experiences in Bosnia and Iraq showed, in planning collective military interventions for peace and security countries tend to ignore the fall-out effects on migration; they tend to remain on the back burner of strategy planning. To illustrate, there is no clear evidence that the migration effects had received any serious attention when the 1991 multilateral intervention of Iraq was being planned. And yet, significantly, the Security Council resolution (no.687) cited the massive refugee flows out of Iraq and their destabilizing effects in the region as the main justification of the military intervention under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. It thus recognized, but only post facto, the links between human rights, migration/refugee flows and regional stability and peace. Surprisingly, in normal times there is seldom any consideration of these links.

Clearly, host countries’ prior commitment to a set of common migration objectives under a global migration regime could have helped matters. It could have served as a useful rallying point, thereby helping coordination between different policy areas. The inter-ministerial committees, where they exist, would also have had some specific bench marks to fall back upon. But such a regime does not exist today.

This notwithstanding, there is some considerable scope for improving the situation by strengthening the capacity of the ministry (or department) handling migration. This requires that those responsible in the ministry for policy making should have a clear understanding of the global dimensions of contemporary migration and of the dynamics of the interrelationship between migration and other policy areas. If needed, they should have the possibility of drawing on the support of a small policy research group. In addition, they should have communication skills and the capacity to carry out interactive dialogue and harmonize divergent issues and concerns and shape the resultant inputs into policy measures. Since tradition dies hard, a truly integrated approach cannot be produced simply by administrative dictate or regulatory requirement. It is a process that needs to be fostered over time and with sustained care and patience.

Ü Ambassador Sergio Marchi: I believe I have touched on this facet already. While good governance begins at home, one of the most glaring and obvious contradictions in the governance of migration is that most States do not have comprehensive national migration policies. It is rare to find migration policies that incorporate all of the critical, inter‐related disciplines such as human rights, economic, trade, security, environmental, integration and developmental considerations.

And without a critical mass of national migration policies, a commitment to global policies and approaches is even more difficult to envision.

Complicating the matter, the responsibility for migration policy within most governments is shared among a number of different ministries, which are not always on the same page. Countries must be encouraged to establish and implement transparent and coherent migration policies at the domestic level, in an effort to build a “national mindset” for migration.

Perhaps it would be desirable, and in many cases more effective, to broaden governance on regional levels and build it outwards. However, is it correct to assume that the different regional processes can be brought together like a puzzle, and that a global, or even regional‐plus framework would emerge? That is, if the differences between the regional pieces — like the different agencies comprising the GMG — would instead delay or make a coherent outcome extremely difficult.

In a similar vein, can bilateral arrangements between States on migration be brought together to give shape and guidance to other States? Clearly, greater discussion would be welcome and worthwhile on whether — and how — the bilateral and regional fronts could provide for a more international application, and lift the national ‘game’ on migration policy-making.