Talking the talk and walking the walk: international management, human rights, and domestic politics.

Author:Bhabha, Jacqueline

Migration is a growing topic of international attention. Gone are the days when there were only regional groupings--the Schengen Group in Europe, the Puebla Process in America--which brought together behind closed doors national officials from Justice and Home Affairs ministries intent on coordinating their domestic immigration control agendas. International migration is now unmistakably a multi-stakeholder concern, with much talk of the need for "global governance of migration." Senior UN officials talk publicly about the human right to mobility; global meetings link migration to the imperative of development; the close connection between access to migration and the justified aspirations for youth empowerment and agency are stressed (particularly post-Arab Spring) by international financial organizations working with regional bodies; and, more generally, international migration is described as a positive phenomenon closely linked to the goals of prosperity and freedom. What impact does this change have on migration today? Has the new architecture of international migration accelerated convergence around a set of basic standards and norms, or has it enabled quicker dissemination of exclusionary tactics? Does the opportunity for regular international exchanges improve inter-state coordination in managing migration flows, or does it exacerbate competition over recruitment of skilled workers? Has the web of international activity strengthened the capacity of migrants to secure their human rights, or has it made little difference to the overarching power and influence of domestic political priorities governing migration? I suggest that, at this relatively early stage of the process, the internationalization of migration as a sphere of public concern appears to have produced a range of uneven results.

First, the absence of effective international enforcement mechanisms directed at concretizing public undertakings related to migration continues to stymie vigorous enforcement of basic obligations, while at the same time driving these issues onto the interstate international agenda. "In contrast to trade, labour, environment and health," as Irena Omelaniuk notes, "there are not even any regular discussion fora for Ministers responsible for migration." (1) Nevertheless, there is some evidence of convergence (in the nationality and forced migration area particularly).

There are more opportunities for states interested in promoting attention to migration issues to "talk the talk," but they still do not translate into vigorous tools to ensure that those states "walk the walk." I recently witnessed this at close quarters. On February 9...

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