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Migration has become, since the nineties, the subject of growing international discussion and cooperation. By critically analyzing the reports produced by international organisations on migration, this book sheds light on the way these actors frame migration and develop their recommendations on how it should be governed.



1. Introduction

‘International migration has risen to the top of the global policy agenda’ This is the first sentence of the report by the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM, 2005: vii). It also serves, in slightly different versions, as an introductory sentence to countless publications of both research and policy nature — and could also serve as the inaugural sentence of this book. Such a statement has today become so common that one almost feels embarrassed to formulate it once again. It is not that this sentence is wrong, but rather that it corresponds to one of these common sense claims that pervade much of one can read on international migration and makes this scholarship, at times, somewhat repetitive.
Antoine Pécoud


This chapter provides a brief description of the author’s professional experience as an international migration specialist at UNESCO. It explains the relevance of this experience for the author’s interest in international migration narratives.
Antoine Pécoud

3. ‘Global Migration Governance’ and the Need for Shared Narratives

This chapter presents the context in which international migration narratives (IMN) have developed. It discusses the internationalisation, since the 1990s, of political debates on migration and the international initiatives that have been launched to foster cooperation between states and improve global migration governance. It is argued that this internationalisation needs to produce a shared vision of migration to overcome the divergences in states’ views and interests. The function of IMN is therefore to provide the knowledge and ideas that make international cooperation possible.
Antoine Pécoud

4. Introducing International Migration Narratives

This chapter describes the reports that compose international migration narratives (IMN), and which serve as the corpus for the analysis developed in this book. It explains the criteria upon which they were selected, and makes a number of observations on these publications, in terms of context, audience, language of publication, etc. The reports are the following: The Programme of Action of the United Nations Conference on Population and Development; the Declaration of the Hague on the Future of Refugee and Migration Policy; the International Agenda for Migration Management; the GCIM report; the seven World Migration Reports published by IOM since 2000; the World Economic and Social Survey 2004; the report of the UN Secretary General on Migration and Development; the ILO Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration. Non-binding principles and guidelines for a rights-based approach to labour migration; and the UNDP Human Development Report 2009.
Antoine Pécoud

5. Why Read IMN?

This chapter provides the theoretical background for the analysis of international migration narratives (IMN) and discusses the role of discourses and narratives in politics. It outlines five possible answers to the question of why IMN exist, which in turn determine five different ways of conceptualising them as a research topic: (1) narratives and research as a tool to inform governments and inspire policymaking, (2) the realist argument about the lack of influence of discourses on politics and power relations, (3) the social function of ideas as supporting coalitions and networks, (4) the role of narratives in constructing reality, and (5) the anthropological approach to political discourses as modern myths.
Antoine Pécoud

6. Constructing a Federating Discourse

This chapter examines how international migration narratives (IMN) construct a federating representation of their topic. Their core arguments are the following: (1) migration is a normal phenomenon in a globalising world, as well as a central process in the functioning of the global economy; (2) states currently fail to properly address the challenges raised by migration; (3) given that migration is a global reality that concerns all countries, state cooperation is a condition for the success of immigration policy; (4) this is all the more the case because migration plays a key role in achieving global objectives, such as development and the respect for human rights.
Antoine Pécoud

7. Ordering Migration

This chapter argues that a core objective of international migration narratives (IMN) is to order migration. Faced with what they perceive as a chaotic reality, they aim at disciplining migration and at transforming it into an orderly process. This ordering effort is twofold: on a discursive or cognitive level, IMN provide a comprehensive analysis of migration that supports a global and orderly picture of what migration is all about and of how it should be governed; then, on an operational level, IMN aim at influencing states’ behaviours to translate this ‘paper order’ into reality.
Antoine Pécoud

8. Depoliticising Migration

This chapter argues that international migration narratives (IMN) depoliticise their topic and examine the strategies through which this is achieved. These include: (1) the reliance on ambiguous terms and notions that support different and sometimes contradictory interpretations; (2) the consequent development of arguments that remain at an abstract level and avoid taking clear positions in the key debates raised by international migration; (3) the technocratic reliance on expertise and empirical evidence to avoid political controversies; and (4) a naturalisation of the global socioeconomic and political context in which migration takes place, which is taken for granted and therefore unchallenged.
Antoine Pécoud

9. Conclusion

By definition, IMN call for change. They would be pointless if they were to approve existing patterns of migration governance. They therefore need to criticise current political orientations and to propose alternatives. There are many reasons for which this is difficult: the legitimacy of IOs and other international entities is low; migration is a sensitive issue closely associated with sovereignty, and it is delicate to openly criticise states in an intergovernmental setting. The strategy of IMN is to present their recommendations as the result of technical and neutral expertise. On the other hand, IMN also ground their message in far-reaching values and ambitious objectives (like freedom or human rights) — hence the contrast between the potentially radical criticism of current migration realities and the modesty of IMN’s tone.
Antoine Pécoud


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