International organizations as global migration governors: The World Bank in Central Asia.

Author:Korneev, Oleg
Position:Report
 
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Numerous international organizations play a key role in generating and sustaining migration governance across the world in the absence of a global migration regime. However, global governance scholarship lacks grounded understanding of their role, which is often rejected or simply left unnoticed. In rare cases when IOs do get academic attention, light is shed on two referent "migration" IOs--the International Organization for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees--while other IOs remain in their shadow. Drawing on the case of the post-Soviet Central Asia, which is characterized by both significant migration dynamics and multilayered governance but has so far escaped attention of migration governance scholars, this article takes two steps for establishing a new research agenda. First, it deploys and applies to IOs the concept of global migration governors defined as authorities who exercise power across borders for the purpose of affecting migration policy. Second, it moves discussion beyond the referent IOs and demonstrates the role of often overlooked nonreferent IOs, such as the World Bank, active in the field of migration governance. This analysis is based on fieldwork in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia conducted in 2011-2015. Keywords: migration governance, global migration governors, international organizations, the World Bank, Central Asia.

SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE 1990S, WE HAVE BEEN WITNESSING THE EMERgence and development of generic approaches to and schemes for migration governance in various corners of the world. Scarce existing empirical research seems to suggest that this is not just a matter of coincidence or independent policy learning on the part of states. Many of such popularized ways to "manage" migration have to do with growing involvement of international organizations (IOs) in the global migration politics. (1) Apart from some exceptions, (2) however, there is a clear lack of systematic studies of the role played by IOs in global migration governance. Instead, discussions of global migration governance focus on the lack of global consensus among states and mostly disregard global-local interactions related to the activities of IOs on the ground. There is clearly a need to account for the role of IOs in migration governance in the absence of a global migration regime (3) when states are considered to be the key locations for the regulation of migration. (4)

Unfortunately, emerging scholarship on the role of IOs in the field of migration governance tends to focus on the two referent IOs. (5) Analyses of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have flourished, ranging from case studies to comparative works and even critical theoretical endeavors. (6) The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also often comes under academic scrutiny; it is undoubtedly the object of special attention of legal scholars and political scientists studying refugee issues. (7) However, there are other nonreferent IOs, such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank, the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRCS), that are involved in migration governance across the world and whose role is mostly left unnoticed. Even if the role of some nonreferent IOs in various global fora on international migration has been recognized, (8) we are still far from fully capturing their role on the ground.

This article aims to contribute to filling these gaps in the literature by looking beyond the usual suspects in the field of migration governance. It recognizes the key role of states in shaping migration dynamics, on which I have written elsewhere, (9) but here I focus on IOs and, in particular, on nonreferent IOs. More precisely, I explore the role that nonreferent IOs play in the local context. In this endeavor, I build on two closely related strands of literature: on the role of IOs in world politics and global governance, (10) and on different kinds of authorities in global governance and relations between them. (11)

Drawing on theoretical insights from these works, I develop the concept of global migration governors in relation to IOs and shift the focus from discussions of global migration governance as a constantly changing structure to global migration governors as sources of agency and, consequently, to the outcomes that flow from their interactions. Instead of assessing what IOs do in the upper layers of multilayered global migration governance, (12) I examine what they do in the field where they operate in constant interaction with one another and local stakeholders. The article demonstrates, in particular, how IOs bring global ideas about migration governance into communication with local conditions to affect governance outcomes.

To account for such dynamics empirically, I explore the role of the World Bank--a nonreferent IO in migration governance--in the post-Soviet Central Asia. This region has not been a major focus for migration governance scholars, despite evidence of both significant migration and multilayered governance. The Eurasian Migration System (13) composed of the post-Soviet states is the world's second-largest migration region, whereas Russia--its major destination country--is said to host from 4 to 5 million irregular labor migrants (14) mostly coming from Central Asia. Central Asia is particularly relevant for this study because only one country in this region--Kazakhstan--is predominantly a country of destination whereas the others are countries of origin. Apart from shedding light on this largely unexplored case, I also attempt to fill another lacuna in the current scholarship, which overwhelmingly focuses on migration governance issues in countries of destination and disregards countries of origin. (15) The empirical analysis in the article builds mostly on my fieldwork in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia from 2011-2015. Data collection and analysis rely on theory-guided process tracing (16) to: (1) trace the origins of the involvement of various IOs in the migration governance field in Central Asia; and (2) analyze interactions between these various global migration governors as well as between them and local stakeholders.

I start the article by reviewing existing views on global migration governance and the role of IOs in the absence of a global migration regime. Then I reflect on an appropriate theoretical framework for analysis of the role of IOs in generating and sustaining migration governance across the world. I outline the concept of global migration governors, apply it to IOs, and explain the importance of expert knowledge for IOs' influence. I also emphasize that the absence of a global migration regime is a favorable condition for IOs' role of global migration governors. Next, I briefly characterize the field of migration in the post-Soviet Central Asia and explain the particular relevance of IOs for this region. Finally, I focus on activities of one nonreferent IO--the World Bank--which through its knowledge production and dissemination activities, and through relations with other global governors and local stakeholders, has gradually carved its own niche in the Central Asian migration governance field. To conclude, I summarize the main arguments of the article and elaborate on the need to study both referent and nonreferent IOs as well as various constellations of global migration governors that contribute to proliferation of "a multitude of international norms and cooperation arrangements" around the world. (17)

Global Migration Governors in the Absence of a Global Migration Regime

Recent studies have shown with substantial ethnographic evidence that IOs involved in migration management provide ostensibly technocratic, neutral, apolitical, and expertise-based inputs that are actually highly political and sensitive. (18) Importantly, such concepts and paradigms as migration management, migration and development, and environmental refugees (or environmental migrants) have been brought to life--and, consequently, to the attention of states that have often willingly embraced them--by IOs. (19) Both referent and nonreferent IOs have played their roles in these processes. Emerging research addressing the impact of IOs has also provided robust evidence that they play a significant role in the current fragmentation and regionalization of migration governance (20) where "international" norms and standards vary significantly depending on those IOs that introduce them to recipient governments. (21) Several major volumes on global migration governance have been produced by leading specialists in the past fifteen years. Academic interest in the issue of global migration governance has reflected a proliferation of global governance initiatives in this field. (22) It has been emphasized that a nascent global migration governance is "based on a range of different formal and informal institutions, operating at different levels of governance." (23) Similarly, others have argued that "islands of migration governance have evolved... trans-regionally between regions of immigration and regions of emigration and transit." (24)

Despite these new voices, policy and academic discussions on global migration governance are still dominated by sceptical views of those who see states in the driving seat and question the possibility of global migration governance of any kind. Such a state-centered perspective is reinforced by the absence of a global migration regime. Alexander Aleinikoff has famously claimed that, while there are disparate norms and rules, there is no international migration architecture. (25) In the same vein, Kathleen Newland argues that "it is difficult to see what would compel states to create a supranational authority...

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