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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development

Regional Governance of Migration and Socio-Political Rights: Institutions, Actors and Processes

Date: 14 - 15 Jan 2013

This academic conference brought together international experts to discuss policy-relevant issues related to the governance of migration in developing regions. The key normative question that guided the discussions was how legal and social protection for migrants and their families might be improved, how their participation (political, socio-economic) in sending and host countries can be enhanced, and how the migration-development nexus might be optimized (in both sending and receiving countries).

Against a backdrop of regional economic integration, labour market restructuring and emerging international norms pertaining to labour rights as human rights, the overall purpose of this interdisciplinary and international conference was to explore the role of the institutions, actors and processes involved in the regional governance of migration in developing regions. Regionalization of the global political economy is a dynamic area of structural change, and intra-regional labour migration constitutes an integral part of these transitions.

The expanding literature on migration governance has so far mostly considered the global level, highlighting global trends of migration and policy responses. In doing so, significant regional differences in migration patterns, institutional developments and policy responses are glossed over. The few existing studies of the implications of regional integration for migration governance largely focus on the experience of the European Union. This is surprising, because the bulk of international migration is actually South-South migration between developing countries, mostly in a regional context. What is generally missing from the literature are detailed insights into the actual workings of migration governance at the (non-EU) regional levels; the implications of migration governance and policies for labour market access, social protection, redistribution and political participation of migrants, in particular irregular or undocumented migrants; the decision making processes involved; and the extent to which the regional level of governance provides channels for engagement with civil society actors.

This conference, alongside ongoing UNRISD research, sought to plug some of the research gaps and identify potential avenues for policy development. Conference outputs will contribute to enhancing understanding of the regional governance of migration.

Conference objectives

The objectives of the conference were:

  • to discuss research papers prepared by participants and bring together new evidence and approaches to migration governance in different regions;
  • to examine the role of governments, international organizations and regional organizations – including civil society organizations – in the regional governance of migration;
  • to contribute to theoretical and conceptual frameworks in the field of migration governance at the regional level;
  • to discuss policy implications with representatives from UN agencies, other international organizations, civil society organizations and academics; and
  • to strengthen the connections between international researchers and members of the policy community working on issues of migration governance and development.
  • Research papers prepared for the meeting represent innovative contributions to understandings of the linkages between regional integration, migration and governance, with a specific focus on social policies and political participation.

Conference structure

  1. Intra-regional perspectives on migration governance and rights
  2. Inter-regional perspectives on migration governance and rights
  3. Regional approaches to migrant workers‘ rights
  4. Migration governance and civil society activism


One background paper and eleven conference papers

Research Papers

UNRISD is interested in opening the discussion to the wider public and therefore hosted, with partners, a public policy forum: A Rights-Based, Gender-Equitable Approach to the Regional Governance of Migration: An Elusive or Achievable Prospect?, on 15 January. Click to find out more about this event.