Migration, Civil Society, and Global Governance, edited by Carl-Ulrik Schierup, Branka Likić-Brborić, Raúl Delgado Wise, and Gülay Toksöz, initially appeared as a series of open access articles in a special issue of the journal Globalizations, volume 15, issue 6 (October 2018). The authors aim to highlight the various strategies that can and have been employed by civil society organizations (CSOs) in order to create spaces for contestation and counterhegemonic movements within contemporary international migration negotiations. Specifically, the authors focus on the United Nations High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development (UNHLD), the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), the World Social Forum on Migration (WSFM), and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). Key to the examination presented are the concepts of ‘invited’ versus ‘invented’ spaces. Invited spaces ‘refer to civil society groups in their position as participants within intergovernmental and international for a for deliberation on migration management’ (p. 156), whereas invented spaces ‘refer to independent civil society platforms for the development of strategies and action aimed at inclusive social, labour, citizenship and human rights of migrants’ (p. 156).
Employing this conceptual framework to organize the strategies and options available to CSOs within different contexts is crucial to understanding their roles and actions in developing, advocating for, and reacting to changes in the structure of the international migration regime. This is particularly poignant in relation to the ongoing and increasingly contentious dialogue surrounding the governance of global migration since the adoption of the GCM as well as the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). While each of the chapters in some way addresses asymmetry between the global North and South, Raúl Delgado Wise (Chapter 2) and Branka Likić-Brborić (Chapter 3), in their respective analyses, address key elements of how international migration has been embedded within broader narratives. These narratives often prioritize ‘migration management’ over a ‘human rights comprehensive approach’ (p. 17), and streamline migration governance into a form that is increasingly palatable to business and the securitized agendas of states (p. 32). CSOs have played a central role in creating space for contestation and counterhegemonic movements against the increasingly managerial approach to migration at international fora. This is especially evident when one compares the consultative agenda of the WSFM to that of the GFMD and UNHLD. The WSFM’s focus on ‘addressing the root causes and consequences of as well as alternatives to currently dominant forms of, often forced migration and the precarious conditions of labour and livelihoods related to this’ (p. 162) constitutes a truly counterhegemonic effort that is intrinsically rooted in a rights-based approach.
Aleksandra Ålund and Carl-Ulrik Schierup, in their chapter (Chapter 6), discuss emergent civil society movements concerned with migrants’ rights within the context of ongoing neoliberal globalization. They highlight the problematic nature of the dominant reliance on ‘outside-inside’ strategies by CSOs such as the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development, and Human Rights (PGA). Relying on such strategies can emphasize the divergent agenda, tactics, and goals of various CSOs and potentially drive a wedge between them rather than bringing them together under the same counterhegemonic banner. This is evident when contrasted with CSOs employing exclusively ‘outside’ strategies and bottom-up alliances to achieve their goals. To bridge this gap, Ålund and Schierup point to Mark Purcell’s (2009) notion of ‘networks of equivalence’ as a strategy to explain how seemingly disparate and fragmented initiatives can cooperate and move towards a common counterhegemonic goal without becoming absorbed or subordinated by other struggles. Groups acting in this manner are able to construct ‘a shared common sense and a collective articulation of a new political will “without dissolving differences into a homogenous unity”’ (p. 83). As such, groups with common goals can successfully mobilize to achieve broad goals – in this case, advocating for a rights-based approach to international migration governance.
The rise of populism and populist rhetoric amongst states – particularly those that have signed onto the GCM is noted throughout the text as a significant challenge to the advancement of safe and orderly migration writ large. This has significant implications for the rights of migrants in particularly precarious positions, such as temporary foreign workers and those that may have crossed international borders through irregular measures. This is compounded by the notable absence of the international agreements guaranteeing international labour standards and workers’ rights from the final GCM negotiations despite the significant efforts of CSOs to address this gap. From these arguments, it is possible to extrapolate that the centrality of state interests and the politicization of migration domestically and internationally has made it difficult to reframe and reorient these high-level discussions towards a rights-based approach.
Throughout Migration, Civil Society, and Global Governance, a consistent theme that emerges is the integration of ‘migration and development’ in the descriptive and analytical language used to address the global governance of migration. Through the book’s wider goal of addressing asymmetry in this governance landscape, it is worthwhile to note that the default starting position of many international organizations is to integrate migration (in all forms) into discourses of international development. Doing so reinforces the assumption that such discussions are being driven by the global North, which treats migration as a problem to be solved. Furthermore, equating migration and development discourses in this way from the outset does little to provide either analytical or political clarity to the diverse forms of migration that are encapsulated within such broad attempts at international governance. Treating migration, especially that from the global South to the North, as an issue to be solved through development as opposed to treating it as an omnipresent dimension of human existence inherently limits the potential outcomes of such discussions. It also predisposes ‘outside-inside’ strategies to not only fall-short of their counter hegemonic ambitions but also come to rely on those employing ‘outside’ strategies to advance advocacy agendas in a meaningful way.
Migration, Civil Society, and Global Governance is a valuable contribution to the literature on international migration governance; particularly in the innovative application of invited versus invented spaces. CSOs employing ‘outside’ strategies are increasingly integral in developing the invented spaces that are crucial to push policy agendas beyond the business-friendly and increasingly securitized agendas of state-actors to better account for migrant rights and the needs of marginalized communities within the broader migration discourse. Furthermore, the authors should be commended on ensuring that their work is available in an open access format. Doing so ensures that the ideas advanced are wholly accessible, not only to the academic community, but also to those CSOs and migrant-led organizations that serve to benefit from increased participation in these ongoing discussions.
The author has no competing interests to declare.
Purcell, M. 2009. Hegemony and difference in political movements: Articulating networks of equivalence. New Political Science, 31(3): 291–317. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07393140903105959