This article serves as the introduction for this special issue of Global Governance on international migration. It presents some of the key facts, figures, concepts, and debates on international migration that appear in the articles that follow, and outlines their main arguments. Five arguments in support of greater international cooperation and more formal processes of global governance on international migration are presented here. First, contemporary international migration is now occurring at unprecedented levels and has a truly global reach. Second, international migration can no longer effectively be managed or controlled by national migration policies, and greater international cooperation is required to achieve national goals in international migration. Third, there are growing numbers of migrants around the world who are vulnerable and exploited, and insufficiently protected by either states or international institutions. Fourth, emerging structural features in the global economy, alongside the effects of climate change, are likely to significantly increase the scale of international migration worldwide, and present new management and protection challenges. Finally, momentum for change is slowly developing. KEYWORDS: international migration, global governance.
IN CONTRAST TO MANY OTHER CROSS-BORDER ISSUES OF OUR TIME, SUCH as trade, finance, or the environment, international migration lacks a coherent institutional framework at the global level. There is no UN migration organization; rather there is a network of intergovernmental organizations within and outside the UN that focus on specific aspects of international migration. States remain the principal actors in migration governance, and delegate responsibility to regional organizations or international institutions in only limited circumstances. The legal and normative framework affecting international migrants cannot be found in a single document, but is derived from customary law, a variety of binding global and regional legal instruments, nonbinding agreements, and policy understandings reached by states at the global and regional level. Many elements of this framework are not migration specific, but address broader questions of individual rights, state responsibility, and interstate relations. Only in the area of refugee movements, and more recently migrant smuggling and human trafficking, have a large number of governments agreed to binding international laws and norms, but even in these areas implementation remains a challenge. (1)
The reluctance of most states to yield national control over international migration is understandable. Sovereign states have the right--indeed, the responsibility--to determine who enters and remains on their territory. And international migration can also impact on other essential aspects of state sovereignty, including economic competitiveness, national and public security, and social cohesion. In addition, some of the challenges to more effective international cooperation on international migration at times can appear insurmountable. In particular, it pits developed economies that want to protect national labor markets and admit migrant workers on only a selective basis against developing countries with rapidly expanding and youthful populations that demand greater and more unrestricted access to those labor markets. At least some of the responsibility for slow progress in developing more global governance on international migration also lies with existing international institutions that are unable or unwilling to extend their mandates, often enter into competition with one another when they do, and fail to cooperate on even the most basic of issues such as common terminology or shared access to data on migration. What is more, even among advocates for reform, there is little consensus on how far-reaching the changes should be. Ambitions range from more effective regional cooperation, through more coherent global cooperation, to the development of a new legal and normative framework and new institutional arrangements to deliver the reforms. Even terminology varies; while some advocate for new forms of governance, others refer to new regimes.
Without therefore underestimating the challenges, in this article I present five arguments that are increasingly deployed in support both of greater international cooperation and, in some instances, more formal processes of global governance on international migration. First, contemporary international migration is now occurring at unprecedented levels and has a truly global reach. One in every thirty-five people in the world today is an international migrant, and far more are affected by migration. International migration has become an archetypal example of a global issue that is still largely governed at a national level. Second, international migration can no longer effectively be managed or controlled by national migration policies. Look no further for compelling evidence than the fact that about one-third of the world's irregular migrants currently reside in its wealthiest and most powerful nations. There is an increasingly convincing argument that greater international cooperation is required simply to achieve national goals with regard to international migration. Third, there are growing numbers of migrants around the world who are vulnerable and exploited, and insufficiently protected by either states or international institutions. For example, perhaps 1 million people (often women and children) are trafficked across international borders each year into situations of near-slavery. Fourth, emerging structural features in the global economy, alongside the effects of climate change, are likely to significantly increase the scale of international migration worldwide, and to present new management and protection challenges. Finally, momentum for change is slowly developing. More and more governments appear at least willing to talk with each other about international migration, and to consult in identifying effective policies and practices, while collaboration between global institutions with an interest in international migration has also accelerated in recent years.
In outlining these arguments, this article is also intended as an introduction for this issue of Global Governance focusing on international migration. I also present many of the key facts, figures, concepts, and debates pertaining to international migration that appear in the articles that follow. Toward the end of the article, I briefly explain the choice of articles selected for this issue and summarize their main arguments.
Contemporary International Migration
International migrants are normally defined as people living outside their home country for over one year. The concept of international migration therefore does not include people who move for shorter periods of time, for example, as students, people on professional secondment, or tourists (the term mobility is increasingly used to capture this wider range of cross-border movements). There are more international migrants in the world today than ever previously recorded. Their number has increased rapidly in the past few decades, although proportional to the global population it has remained at about 3 percent. There were 214 million international migrants in the world in 2008, representing an increase of almost 40 million in the first decade of the twenty-first century, and over double the number of international migrants in 1980. The global economic crisis appears to have slowed emigration in many parts of the world, although it has not stimulated substantial return migration. With economic recovery and job growth, most experts expect this slowdown to be temporary, and the scale of migration to quickly exceed prior levels because the underlying causes of migration have certainly not disappeared.
While the global reach of international migration had already begun to extend after 1945, it has expanded sharply only since the 1980s to include all regions of the world today. There will be an estimated 19 million international migrants in Africa in 2010, representing an increase of about 1.5 million since 2005, and an annual growth rate of 1.7 percent. The number of international migrants in the Americas has increased over the past two decades from around 35 million in 1990 to an estimate of over 57.5 million in 2010. In Asia, the number of international migrants also continues to increase, and it is estimated that in 2010 they will number 27.5 million. In the twenty-seven European Union (EU) member states, there will be some 51 million migrants in 2010, representing an increase of 5.6 million since 2005. The Middle East, including in most global migration statistics the Arab Mashreq, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, and Israel, will be host to 28.8 million migrants in 2010, an increase of over 4.5 million since 2005. Oceania (comprising Australia, New Zealand, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia) will be host to over 6 million migrants in 2010, representing an increase of over 1 million in a decade. (2)
One of the implications of this globalization of international migration is that it involves a wider diversity of ethnic and cultural groups than ever before, resulting in multicultural diversity that in many states is a largely...